Should Danny Welbeck start against Uruguay?

The Rio Report

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While England's back four virtually picks itself due to a distinct lack of options available to Roy Hodgson, the other end of the team has proven to be problematic.

Choosing the quartet of front men to charge with the task of firing the Three Lions out of a difficult Group D in Brazil, is by no means a straight forward task.

Calls for Manchester United's Wayne Rooney to be dropped from the team were growing loudly even before he produced an indifferent display during England's the 2-1 defeat to the Azzurri in humid conditions in Manaus.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of pundits and members of the public that did not believe his Red Devils team-mate Danny Welbeck deserved to be included from the start either.

However, the 23-year-old justified Hodgson's decision and should retain his place in the side for Thursday's must win encounter against Uruguay in São Paulo.

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Welbeck's heatmap v Italy

Against the four time winners, Welbeck was deployed on the right flank, which was a somewhat unfamiliar role given that he is more often found on the opposite side of the pitch for United. But with Rooney shunted out onto the left hand side, Welbeck was likely to have been handed such a role for his defensive work rate as much as his attacking threat.

Welbeck was faced with the formidable physical presence that is Giorgio Chiellini, arguably the most accomplished Italian defender on the pitch. Welbeck was not fazed by the Juventus man, however, and performed his defensive duties when England were not in possession admirably, with two successful tackles and a clear tenacity in his attitude towards stifling his opponents.

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Welbeck's tackles v Italy

While detractors might add that a forward player should not be fielded for his defensive ability, against the Azzurri England's compact shape and positional discipline was paramount yet Welbeck also offered glimpses of his ability when in possession. He got in behind on a number of times producing threatening runs towards the by-line, kept the ball well and crucially, linked with central striker Daniel Sturridge.

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Welbeck passes v Italy

While many of England's brightest talents have shuddered with fear and closed ranks on the international stage, Welbeck has thrived in the national side and often reserves his best performances for his country in a manner more associate with his German counterparts.

On the big occasion Welbeck often gets the nod due to his tireless effort and positional ability. The tournament defining fixture against the South American side later this week could be a much more open affair than the encounter against Italy.

However, even though Hodgson has a wealth of options in wide areas, Welbeck does not deserve to be dropped from the team. England's attack is geared to hurt La Celeste's back line and Welbeck, with his electric pace, is well equipped to do so.

With full-back Maxi Pereira set to be suspended following his foolishly petulant lunge on Costa Rica's talisman Joel Campbell, the Uruguayan right-flank is waiting to be exposed. The Benfica defender is likely to be replaced by Porto's Jorge Fucile and whoever is chosen to face the 29-year-old has to make sure he is not allowed to settle.

Welbeck is able to harass and hurry a defender yet also test him with blistering pace. He is less likely to provide an impact from the bench as Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain due to his reduced skill and flair on the ball, so should be given an opportunity from the off.

The formation Hodgson chooses will remain the same but the combination of personnel is once again up for debate. But Welbeck deserves to be included, whichever scenario is decided upon. If Rooney returns to a central berth, Welbeck should be fielded on the left. If Rooney is dropped then the 23-year-old should start on either flank.

Such versatility can often work in your favour, just ask James Milner, yet while describing Welbeck as the jack of all trades but master of none may be harsh he has the skills at his disposal to cause Uruguay problems.

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