Leading up to England’s midweek clash with noisy neighbours Scotland, questions were being raised. Could this game potentially turn out to be a disastrous upset? How does the England squad now fair compared to the one a year ago? But most importantly, a year from now, will the England squad be going to Rio de Janeiro next year, as one of the front runners for the competition? There are fears that England may not even make it at all. They sit behind Montenegro in the group stages and need nothing less than a win against them to go top. Even worse for England, they have slumped to 14th in the World Rankings, there lowest position in at least 5 years since they didn’t reach the Euro 2008 finals. So now they are not even seen as a top 10 international side in the World and cannot even oust teams such as Belgium, Greece and Bosnia. But with England, the nation is always filled with a feel of optimism despite the odds of winning the World Cup. We all can’t help but be swept away by the excitement at the possibility of possibly winning a World Cup. With England’s golden generation all but seemingly at an end, which will be the most likely starting 11 to spearhead the nation to World Cup glory?
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Fresh from a trophyless season with City peppered with a few howlers, Hart will be out to prove his point in the 2013/2014 and maintain his stature as England’s number one keeper. After his blinding season in which Man City claimed there first trophy in over 44 years, questions were called over his ability as the odd mistake had crept into his game and it was costing City points. However, no one doubts that he is capable of producing world class saves and he is one of the best keepers in the Premier League. No doubt in my mind that he will be between the sticks at Rio 2014.
Right-back: Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
England’s mainstay full back for around 4 years now, Glen Johnson has proved to be a great replacement for Gary Neville in the England set-up. Involved in both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, he has proved to be one of the few positives to take from both tournaments and still shows his prowess going forward as well as his qualities as a defender. Time and time again he is up the flank for Liverpool causing problems for the opposition. He has some slight competition for his place in the shape of Kyle Walker as they both have similar attributes. However, Johnson is more of an experienced head in the side and Walker still has a lot to learn.
Centre-back: Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
An impressive 18 months have gone by since Cahill’s £7 million move to Stamford Bridge and its been more than eventful for him tasting his first pieces of silverware in his career, the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League. Question marks were raised over whether he would be able to handle the pressure of playing for a top 4 team but he has certainly proved his worth appearing in both finals of there European competition winning campaigns. Under Mourinho, he will look certain to form a formidable partnership with old guard John Terry and if he continues to play well, he will cement his place in the England line-up next year. The man has come on leaps and bounds.
Centre-back: Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Looks like the famous centre-back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are being replaced by the less illustrious Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka. Jagielka has seemingly earned his place in the England side after year upon year of being the stalwart of Everton’s steely team and has led by example. Now into his 30’s, this World Cup could be his last chance to prove he can compete with some of the best players in the world. Both him and Cahill will face tough competition from the likes of Joleon Lescott, Phil Jones and Michael Dawson. The most likely candidate would be Phil Jones but he would have to have an incredible season playing regularly at centre back. With Ferdinand and Vidic at the heart of the United defence, it looks like Jagielka will keep his place in the national side.
Left-back: Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Having had the toughest competition for his place he has had in his whole England career, some people tip Leighton Baines to be ousting Cole to the England side. However, I maintain that Cole is still one of the best full backs on the planet and it would take either an incredible season or a big money move to a top four team to see him leapfrog his competition. Cole has performed consistently well for at least a decade and has recently been written into the history books of the England team as a member of the 100 club. There looks like there may be some good replacements for Cole in Baines, Keiran Gibbs and Danny Rose. However, it would take something incredible to oust Cole.
Right-midfield: Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
It must be frustrating knowing that he wants to play through the middle for both club and country and being constantly in that position. However, he proves just as effective in that position as he is a constant goal threat, has frightening pace and can create chances for others. He even managed to bag 21 goals in all competitions last year for Arsenal which is some achievement for a winger. He has competition for his place through Aaron Lennon and the new arrival on the scene, Wilfried Zaha but Walcott has experience in his young career and can still set an example for others.
Holding-midfield: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Now at the age of 33, Gerrard’s role has slightly changed from attacking goalscorer to holding midfielder and he proves just as valuable in both positions. He has the best vision in the England side and has been the greatest asset to the side in the last decade. This will probably be his last major tournament with England and has certainly made his mark on English history in his time. He needs to have a solid season with Liverpool and to maintain his fitness throughout the year to be at the top of his game come the time of Rio 2014. Maybe we will see him lifting the trophy?
Centre-midfield: Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Anyone who has doubted this man’s abilities, especially last year when he looked to be without a club this summer, should be considered a fool. Frank Lampard is still part of the English golden generation and has consistently scored 20 goals or more a season at domestic level, a quality you will struggle to find elsewhere. Competition for places comes in the shape of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverly but Lampard is on a different class to them both when he is in the mood. I have no doubt he will be on the plane to Rio.
Centre-midfield: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Hailed as the future captain of England, Jack Wilshere looks set to become a global star in the next few years. One of Wenger’s greatest crops of talent, Wilshere is energetic, strong, intelligent and has great vision and would link well with the likes of Lampard and Gerrard. He would be the missing link in the England midfield and with a passing trio of himself, Lampard and Gerrard, we could turn ourselves into a team where we make teams work for the ball and tire the opposition. Wilshere’s biggest problem is he is very injury prone, he needs to have a complete season with Arsenal to be ready for next summer.
Left-midefield: Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
Question marks have been raised over Danny Welbeck’s goalscoring abilities having only scored one goal in the Premier League all season last year. However, he’s been in the mood lately to perk some heads and he showed excellent prowess scoring twice against Swansea in the fist game of the season, one of them a sublime chip from a tight angle. If he has a good season with United, he could be the link to the forward and can be both the supply and the attacking threat. He has proven himself as a regular for United and his next goal should be to solidfy his place in the England side with an impressive season with the Red Devils.
Centre-forward: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest English strikers in the history of the national side having scored 36 goals, 13 behind all time top scorer Bobby Charlton. However, his form has fluctuated over the years and with recent speculation over his future, he needs to sort out which club he will be at come the end of August. Rooney was once considered the second best player on the planet behind Lionel Messi and when he is on form, he is a world beater. However, the mental side of his game needs to be put right and he won’t perform at his best if he is playing for a team he doesn’t want to play for. Rooney faces competition from Jermain Defoe, Daniel Sturridge and new to the scene, Ricky Lambert so he needs to be on top form. I have no doubt he has the ability to get his head right and get in and amongst the goals again.