Hodgson’s selection dilemma not getting easier

The Rio Report

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Wednesday night's 1-0 win over Denmark saw the sort of performance with which England fans have become familiar of late. Whilst keeping the ball well enough there was a significant lack of sparkle, particularly in the first half, with Daniel Sturridge's late strike perhaps just about warranted on the balance of play.

England were solid enough despite a couple of defensive lapses that would have been punished by better opponents, with encouraging cameos from the likes of Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw making the exercise more worthwhile. If we were to imagine that Roy Hodgson had a list of 'definitelys' and 'maybes' the former may well come in the first while the latter is certainly still not certain of a place in the final squad.

With just 20 outfield spots up for grabs there may well realistically be only five that are undecided, assuming the rest stay injury free. WhoScored.com looks at the decisions that may well have to be made by Hodgson as he looks to whittle down his options to a definitive 23.

We start at left-back, with two of three set to make the cut. With Shaw getting the nod over Kieran Gibbs this week it seems the Arsenal man has little chance of making it to Brazil, while Ashley Cole's lack of action at club level leaves his position under fire. It seems then that Baines is a cert to be on the plane despite not featuring at Wembley in midweek, but who should join him?

Cole vs Shaw

The fact that Baines is predominantly better from an attacking point of view is important here. Luke Shaw is another who does his best work going forward, completing 1.3 dribbles and 0.8 accurate crosses per game in the league this season compared to Cole's respective figures of just 0.3 and 0.2.

The Chelsea man is undoubtedly the more solid defensively though, winning 2.5 tackles and making 1.2 interceptions per game compared to Shaw's modest averages of 1.8 and 0.9 respectively. With games with Italy and Uruguay to contend with before even thinking about the latter stages, to the disappointment of many this tournament may come too soon for the teenager.

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Lampard vs Carrick

With neither featuring against Denmark the likelihood of both Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick, if either, receiving the call seems unlikely at present. Gerrard and Wilshere seem to be likely starters – despite injury to the latter in midweek - and may well be joined by Jordan Henderson and the versatile Phil Jones as four central midfield options. Available spots are thin then, so one or the other of the experienced duo may well miss out.

The two are very different players, with Carrick offering a no-frills approach and reading of the game that is perhaps unrivalled elsewhere in the squad. Lampard is a dependable goal threat but at 35 his ability to deal with the conditions may come under the microscope. The fact that Gerrard now plays a similar role under Hodgson to Carrick in breaking up play, with only Mile Jedinak averaging more interceptions per game in the league this season than the United man's 3.3, means the United man may well be surplus to requirements.

Tom Cleverley vs James Milner

Elsewhere in midfield there may well be a competition between the two players that are perhaps most maligned in the squad. Both James Milner and Tom Cleverley have been mainstays in qualifying, with Hodgson confirming that he would remain loyal to those that helped in England progress in the most part.

Nevertheless it seems unlikely that both will make the cut so the fact that James Milner can cover a number of roles makes him the favourite. The City man has started in four different positions this season and offers more of a creative threat than Cleverley, who has failed to pick up a single assist all season having averaged a key pass every 145 minutes in the league, compared to Milner's 46.

Raheem Sterling vs Andros Townsend

As mentioned, Adam Lallana's displays for England in the most recent friendlies should be evidence enough that he has something to offer that is a little different. Oxlade-Chamberlain is another versatile option, while both Welbeck and Sturridge have been deployed out wide. That leaves the places on the wings limited, with Raheem Sterling and Andros Townsend potentially vying for one spot.

Going by their stats at club level it's somewhat of a no brainer. Townsend has scored just once from an average of 3 shots per game and is the more one-dimensional of the two. He has the ability to beat a man with his direct style, completing 3.2 dribbles per game, while Sterling's link play is superior. He's picked up three assists and six goals this season and, while his finishing leaves a little to be desired, he has trickery and offers greater defensive work rate, averaging 1.5 tackles per game.

Rickie Lambert vs Andy Carroll

The final decision is likely to be made between two strikers that offer a different threat than those that seem to have nailed down a place. Rickie Lambert will hope to keep his place under Roy Hodgson but must stave off competition from Andy Carroll to do so.

The West Ham man is often ridiculed but he's unquestionably a player that opposing defences won't fancy coming up against. Lambert is certainly the more gifted technically, but Carroll offers a significant aerial threat, winning just 18 aerial duels fewer than the Saints forward this season (30) from 22 appearances less. If it comes down to the dreaded penalty shoot-out, however, than Rickie Lambert is without doubt your man.

Predicted England squad: Hart, Forster, Foster; Johnson, Walker, Baines, Cole, Cahill, Jagielka, Smalling, Jones; Gerrard, Wilshere, Henderson, Lampard, Lallana, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling; Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge, Carroll

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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