Why England can be a force at Brazil 2014 and prove Charlton wrong

So England’s record goalscorer and national treasure Sir Bobby Charlton believes there is no chance of England’s current side winning or even competing for trophies in the near future and certainly not at the next World Cup in Brazil. His assertion that England “havent got a lot of top-quality players” meaning that “you cannot see it happening in Brazil at the next World Cup” has caused quite a reaction, with many leaping to back up the 1966 World Cup winners’ claims.

On the face of it, Charlton is spot on. England have only reached the semi finals of a major tournament away from home soil once, in 1990, and by common consensus had one of the worst squads the Three Lions have ever taken to a major tournament at Euro 2012. Indeed, Roy Hodgson has been praised for getting that squad of players to the top of their group before narrowly going out on penalties to the eventual finalists.

But is it that simple? Yes, England’s squad does not compete talent wise with say the Spanish, the Brazilians, the Germans or even the Dutch. However, if utilised correctly, England have as good a chance as any of success in the next World Cup. This may sound outlandish but bear with me. For years, the complaint about England has been their inability to keep possession at the highest level against the best teams; Italy through their Andrea Pirlo masterclass at the Euros highlighted this perfectly. Thus we have seen the fast-tracking of the likes of Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverly into the first team squad, as well as bringing Michael Carrick back into the international fold in the wake of Wilshere’s continued absence through injury.

Such moves can only be positive for the future. Yes, Wilshere and Cleverly are no Iniesta and Xavi but they are potential first regulars for two of England’s biggest clubs and importantly, possession and their ability to retain it is key to their game. But away from possession and technical ability, England have the weapons in their armoury to hurt teams. In a way, the blueprint I’m suggesting comes from England’s victory over Spain at Wembley in November 2011, where the visitors enjoyed 71% of possession and yet ended up defeated. Yes, Spain’s record in friendlies compared to their all conquering competitive matches are far apart, but the point is that England will never be able to compete with the likes of Spain and Italy on technical skill and mastery of possession, certainly not in Brazil 2014.

Instead, England should play as they did against the Spanish in that friendly – to their strengths. What are the English good at? Defending (hopefully), hard work, pace and power. Rather than discarding such qualities, surely if England are to have success in Brazil they should play to them. Let the higher quality opposition have the ball. Let them come onto you. Have the belief that a back four that contains three of Chelsea’s Champions League winning defence as well as Tottenham’s impressive Kyle Walker will be good enough to contain any prolonged onslaught.

Then, have in your midfield the likes of Wilshere and Cleverly; industrious players who are not afraid of the physical aspect and yet when they get the ball, are able to use it wisely. Up front, not only do you hopefully have a fit and firing Wayne Rooney, a player capable of mixing it with the best in the world, but you have the power of Andy Carroll. Carroll may have his critics but he has proven that he has the ability to frighten the life out of and completely dominate some of the best defenders in the Premier League. This is not to say that England should just hump the ball long to him, rather that there are clever ways of using Carroll. Have him stand on the full backs for example, who are often diminutive and can be dominated in the air by target men. Without getting too jingoistic, it is hard to imagine the likes of Jordi Alba or Phillip Lahm having the best of games against Carroll’s aerial strength. On the wings England can call upon raw genuine pace in the likes of Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. We have already seen what the pace of Walcott has done to the likes of Barcelona in the past, while the Milan back four had no answer to Oxlade-Chamberlain’s speed of body and thought in last season’s Champions League.

This is not suggesting that England are guaranteed to win the next World Cup nor is this suggesting that with basic power play, “the foreign softies won’t be able to hack it”. It is simply suggesting that if England focused on shrewdly utilising the abilities of players they have at their disposal, there is nothing to suggest that England cannot be a major force in Brazil.

Potential England XI for Brazil 2014

               Hart

Walker   Terry   Cahill   Cole

  Cleverly  Jones  Wilshere

Walcott/  Carroll  Rooney

Oxlade-Chamberlain

Adam Mazrani

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