Who is going to Brazil? How the ‘possibles’ fared against Denmark

The Rio Report

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While England’s team in the 1-0 win over Denmark was not exactly experimental, several players were given a chance to shine ahead of the World Cup.

The pre-match talk was all about which of Luke Shaw and Ashley Cole would go to Brazil as Leighton Baines’ deputy, but afterwards it was the other left-sided position that hogged the headlines…

Below I analyse the performances of the ‘possibles’ – if a player is not mentioned, assume I feel he is going to Brazil unless he gets injured.

1. Ashley Cole v Luke Shaw

Roy Hodgson was as fair as he could be with the out-of-favour Chelsea veteran and the exciting teenager from Southampton, with both getting 45 minutes.

Cole started the match a bit hesitantly – as you may expect of someone who has not been getting into the Chelsea team – but soon grew into it and, by the end, had created England’s best chance of the half with a fizzing low cross that Raheem Sterling and Peter Ankersen combined to put on the post.

Shaw didn’t put a foot wrong, starting his debut with a fine tackle and composed play out of defence. Around the hour mark he also went on a strong, driving run before offloading the ball. He is reminiscent of a young Gareth Bale – with less attack and more defence – and, if he plays his cards right, could become one of the best left-backs in the world.

Who’s going to Brazil? For me, Cole - in the end you have to remember that he rarely, if ever, lets England down, and is often their best player at tournaments. He also showed that, despite being out of the Chelsea XI, he is still match sharp. But there would be no controversy in taking Shaw, who has the head and feet for international football. 50-50 right now.

2. Jordan Henderson v Tom Cleverley

An unfussy, straightforward performance by Henderson, if not particularly inspiring. He seems to have been briefed to act as minder to Steven Gerrard, who was hugely impressive, not least because of the time and space Henderson’s unselfish runs gave him. However, it was disappointing not to see any of the adventure Henderson has recently been showing for Liverpool: he kept it simple, took few risks and, ultimately, was a 6/10. But in that water-carrying role, he is currently superior to Cleverley – it would just be nice to see him try the flicks and through-balls that Liverpool fans have enjoyed this season.

Poor Cleverley’s name was roundly booed when it was announced before the match and, regardless of your opinions of the player, it is ludicrous to jeer your own when he hasn’t actually done anything wrong (blame his coaches for picking him). It is unsurprising that Hodgson declined to use Cleverley in such an atmosphere, and it looks like the fans will get their way. Ultimately, it is unlikely he would have been picked on merit anyway, but to humiliate an honest young professional in this manner does not bode well for England’s support in the future.

Who’s going to Brazil? Henderson, with Ross Barkley – who made a late cameo – seemingly now ahead of Cleverley in the pecking order.

3. Raheem Sterling v Andros Townsend

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Sterling played 86 minutes and was named man-of-the-match by, among others, the incomparable Andy Townsend. The Liverpool youngster has been in fine form, and was totally unfazed by the occasion, running at defenders, trying tricks and stepovers and always looking for the ball. His final product, however, left a bit to be desired – he was not helped by Wayne Rooney’s sluggish running, but quite a few of his crosses were under or overhit. You don’t always have to cross the ball – Sterling, hopefully, will learn this in time.

It is incredible to think that, just a few months ago, Andros Townsend was a sensation sweeping English football. Yet he only made a five-minute cameo tonight. When he burst on to the scene he single-handedly got England to the finals, and it also looked as if he would take the Premier League by storm. It hasn’t worked out that way, and a loss of club form – remember, Spurs have no shortage of attacking midfielders and wingers – means he could well miss out on the very tournament he was responsible for England reaching. But that is often the way with mercurial wingers, who blow hot and cold (unless they’re Cristiano Ronaldo). Indeed, Sterling suffers from similar drops in form and was nowhere near the Liverpool team – let alone England – earlier this season.

Verdict? The next two months will be key. Unless he suffers a dramatic loss of form – which is not outside the realms of possibility, particularly given his chaotic private life – Sterling will go to Brazil, although he is far from the finished article and better suits Liverpool’s more dynamic style of play. Townsend, however, is on the brink of missing out. Will Hodgson show loyalty to the man who did the business when it mattered, when many of his team-mates seemed to freeze? Much will come down to his club form in the last few months of the season – and, therefore, Tim Sherwood. Over to you, Timbo.

4. WILD CARD – Adam Lallana

The Southampton man was the biggest winner for me tonight. Most thought of him as a fringe prospect for Brazil, but his impact off the bench changed the game. Aside from his qualities as a catalyst, the manner in which he eased into the play was quite impressive. He left defenders for dead with wonderful first touches and turns, looked composed on the ball and – of course – played the delightful cross for the winning goal. The clue is in the name – Lallana has Spanish-style technique, and is a graceful, natural footballer. England’s strength going forward is in its pace and movement, but Lallana did more for the game in his half-hour than Sterling – for all his ambition – managed all match. Take him, Roy, and use him.

5. Jermain Defoe, it seems, has been told that his move to the MLS will not count against him. Hodgson appears to rate him as the best – if not only – natural finisher in the English game, and as such he will probably be used as an impact substitute in Brazil.

6. Frank Lampard is also expected to be taken to Brazil, for his experience and calm under pressure, and his overall positive influence around the squad. Ultimately he offers more than Cleverley, and is more reliable than Barkley, so is expected to travel.

The unlikely lads

The following four did not feature, and will probably not be on the plane this summer, unless England suffer injuries or illness. With Townsend, Cleverley and one of Cole or Shaw, that will make seven who miss out.

Ben Foster, Steven Caulker, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez

Who do you think should be on the plane to Brazil? Let me know on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

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