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A look ahead to England’s WC Qualifiers


After another quarter-final exit at a major tournament, England, under the supervision of Roy Hodgson, begin their 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign next week.

Hodgson’s men travel to Moldova next Friday (September 7th) before hosting fellow Euro 2012 Group D opponents Ukraine four days later.

Will Ridgard overlooks the situation and gives his view on the expected squad for the double-header and what changes from the European Championship’s squad Hodgson is expected to make.


Hodgson is expected to pick Joe Hart, John Ruddy and Jack Butland as his goalkeepers. All three are their clubs respective number ones and I don’t think anyone can argue of their inclusions, particularly Hart, who has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

It has been quite a hectic yet enjoyable couple of months for 19-year-old Birmingham keeper Butland. His only experience in professional football before June was in League 2, where he spent two equally impressive loan spells at Cheltenham Town.

His performances didn’t go unnoticed though and soon enough found himself a surprise addition to Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad; where he replaced the injured Ruddy. Just a month later, Butland represented Team GB in the Olympics, drawing so much recognition and praise that new Birmingham manager Lee Clark decided to name the youngster as his number one for the forthcoming season.

Add to this his debut for the Three Lions in a friendly against Italy in August, where Ruddy also made his debut, and you can see just how far he has come in such a short space of time.


All the talk has been about whether the controversial John Terry should be included in the squad. Surrounded by racism allegations and under severe scrutiny, many have pondered whether Terry should ever play England ever again.

However, this much debated debacle looks like it will unfold in a new chapter as the twice-appointed England captain is a major doubt for the qualifiers with a neck injury.

Despite this, Hodgson has stuck by Terry and openly admitted he would be selecting him days before the Chelsea skipper got injured. Hodgson has obviously overlooked the situation regarding Anton Ferdinand, seen that he was cleared of racially abuse and if he can select one of his best defenders, he will.

If he remains unfit, maybe this will be a good break for the Chelsea defender, it will give him a much needed break from the limelight and allow him to concentrate on his club career for now.

Besides, Phil Jagielka is a more than able deputy and has been very unfortunate not to represent the Three Lions on a more regular occurrence over the years. I can’t see many changes being made by Hodgson in the defensive department considering they were England’s star performers in Poland and Ukraine. Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Joleon Lescott and Leighton Baines will all receive call-ups while Kyle Walker and Gary Cahill, who had to withdraw from the initial Euro squad through injury, should also be welcomed back to the fold.

Phil Jones and Micah Richards are unavailable through injury so this opens the door for Tottenham’s Steven Caulker or maybe Liverpool’s Martin Kelly to gain some more experience on the international scene if Terry isn’t included.


I think this is the area where Hodgson will mix his selections up the most. Adam Johnson has just moved to Sunderland where he should get a lot more first-team football, only increasing his chances on the international scene. He has obvious talents and was wasted as a bit-part player at Manchester City, hopefully now that he will be playing week-in, week-out he will really show his potential for England.

Michael Carrick is another who is in line for an England recall. Despite his pre-Euro stance of not wanting a call-up if he was to be used as a substitute, Hodgson has since held talks with the Manchester United midfielder and it seems differences have been put aside as Carrick played, and even captained the England side which beat Italy 2-1 in a friendly earlier this month.

Fellow United midfielder Tom Cleverley also looks set to be included. Despite showing glimpses of his talents 12 months ago, Cleverley’s impact last season was hampered by injuries. But after playing and impressing for Team GB in the Olympics, making his senior debut for England versus Italy in August and becoming a first-choice regular for the Red Devils so far this term, things are looking promising for the young midfielder.

In fact, Hodgson gave us some indication of who he was looking at for these qualifiers with the friendly against Italy. A. Johnson, Carrick, and Cleverley, (as well as Cahill and Walker) were the only ones that completed 90 minutes that night and must have played knowing that they were in very strong contention for the qualifiers.

Carrick’s inclusion is  near enough a certainty considering the absence of the injured Scott Parker while although Gareth Barry has just returned to fitness, this set of fixtures has surely come just too soon for him considering the length and seriousness of his abdominal injury he suffered in May.

Frank Lampard also looks set to be back in the equation following his injury that kept him out of the Euro’s. Steven Gerrard, who was named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament, should also be in the squad. Whether these two will play together in the middle is another question though, much has been debated about the need for a new generation – and with young players such as Jake Livermore and Jack Rodwell both sniffing around the international scene, there have been calls for out with the old, in with the new. But both Lampard and Gerrard have started this season well, and fully deserve their place in this squad, and although they are ageing it is clear to see that they will be integral to England’s plans in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup at least. They both might not play at this World Cup but they will be very important in reaching it.

Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and James Milner all represented England in Poland and Ukraine and will no doubt be in the squad again and rightly so. Liverpool duo Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson look likely to be overlooked on this occasion while Aaron Lennon also looks likely to be frozen out again. Meanwhile, Chelsea’s impressive youngster Ryan Bertrand appears to be an outside bet of creeping into the squad following his staggering development under Roberto Di Matteo.


Like the Terry debacle, the main story relating to England’s strikers has been the injury suffered to Wayne Rooney. Rooney suffered a gashed leg for Manchester United in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Fulham and is out of action for around a month.

Thus far in his England career, Hodgson has decided to mix and match his striker partnership. Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll and Jermaine Defoe are the main three (excluding Rooney) to undergo Hodgson’s experimental tactics so far.

All three will surely be in the squad but despite being selected for their country, they are not first-choice for their respective clubs. Carroll certainly seems out of favour at Liverpool, who are reportedly looking to offload him while Welbeck is under a rotation regime at Manchester United. Meanwhile, Jermaine Defoe’s Tottenham future looms with uncertainty despite Spurs’ lack of attacking depth and the fact that he is starting games and looking sharp.

Hodgson has indeed though came out and said – “If they are not playing for their club team that will be a disadvantage but it won’t necessarily preclude them from playing.”

I think all three will draw confidence from this as well as Daniel Sturridge, who may also be considered for a call-up despite dropping down the pecking order at Chelsea.

However, I believe that the fresh of breathe air that is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be used in some form of attacking vicinity. ‘The Ox’ would be very unfortunate to miss out on the squad considering his involvement at Euro 2012, despite only just returning from injury.


Despite the core of the team remaining the same from Euro 2012, I believe there will be six, maybe seven different faces from that of Poland and Ukraine.

Over 90 minutes, Hodgson has not lost a game in charge of England and this squad certainly should get the optimum results needed.

Thus far, Hodgson has overseen victories against Norway, Belgium, Sweden and Ukraine – and no disrespect to them but sides England should be beating. And to be fair to him, he has got the results required in these matches (despite a hint of lady luck on more than one occasion) but you only have to look as far as the quarter-final performance and defeat to Italy to ask whether this defensive approach is good enough when it comes down to big matches or international tournaments.

Hodgson has been looking at ways to vary England’s style and despite it only being a friendly, the 2-1 win over the Italians was very encouraging with Hodgson switching from a 4-4-2 to a more versatile 4-2-3-1, which we could certainly see implemented further not only in these games but in the more distant future.

Considering we are ranked the third best team in the world, you’d like to think we’ve got a couple of different tricks up our sleeves wouldn’t you?

Will Ridgard

Expected England Squad: Hart, Butland, Ruddy; G. Johnson, Walker, A. Cole, Baines, Cahill, Jagielka, Lescott, Terry/Caulker; Milner, Walcott, A. Young, A. Johnson, Carrick, Lampard, Gerrard, Cleverley; Defoe, Carroll, Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain.


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