England’s starting XI for Brazil 2014

It may seem a long way away, but before we all know it; the 2014 World Cup would’ve snuck up on us. What feels like eons ago, Euro 2012 took centre stage before the Olympics and Paralympics grasped the imagination of sports fans across the world.

However, with qualifying now underway, it has given all those involved with the beautiful game the opportunity to think ahead to Brazil in a little over 18 months times. Will Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have a role to play? Who is going to replace them in defence in midfield? Will those tipped for future success be on Roy Hodgson’s plane to a quarter final exit?

These questions don’t need answering, yet, but it is a conundrum that will get fans thinking as the darker nights turn brighter, then darker, then brighter once again. So, without further adieu, below is my England starting XI for Brazil 2014, should, ya know, we get there.

Joe Hart – Goalkeeper (Manchester City)

Firmly established as England’s number one, and despite the form of Jack Butland, it is highly unlikely the Birmingham City startlet will usurp Joe Hart in between the sticks between now and 2014, barring (touch wood) a major injury to the youngster. Still needs to improve, but will head into the tournament confident in the knowledge he will be keeping goal for Hodgson’s side, potentially as captain ala Hugo Lloris and France.

Kyle Walker – Right-Back (Tottenham Hotspur)

His performances this season may not have lived up to his exciting displays of last year, but Kyle Walker is still the most likely candidate to leapfrog Glen Johnson as England’s starting right-back. Young and still a lot to learn, but 18 months is a long time in football and the Tottenham Hotspur ace is likely to continue his impressive upturn in form under Andre Villas-Boas.

Gary Cahill – Centre-Back (Chelsea)

If ever there was a replacement for John Terry, it’s his teammate Gary Cahill. The former Bolton Wanderers defender possesses similar attributes to the Blues stalwart and will only improve with game time for club and country. Another who has the makings of a future captain.

Steven Caulker – Centre-Back (Tottenham Hotspur)

Highly rated by fans at White Hart Lane, many have touted Steven Caulker as Ledley King’s long-term successor at Tottenham Hotspur. The young defender is yet to win his first cap for the senior side, but is a regular with the U-21’s. Established himself as a starter for Spurs following injuries to Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

 Leighton Baines – Left-Back (Everton)

A toss-up between the Everton star, Chelsea duo Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand and Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs, but Leighton Baines just edges it. More experienced than the latter pairing, while the former will be 33 and lost a lot his pace that makes him an asset to the Blues. Baines may look lost at international level, but is likely to improve with age and game time.

Jack Wilshere – Centre-Midfield (Arsenal)

Made his long awaited return from an ankle injury during Arsenal’s 1-0 win over QPR, Jack Wilshere looked as though he had never been out of the game for 17 months. If he can remain injury free, will be one of the first names on the team sheet, due to his ability to control the game from the middle of the park – a facet England lacked during the summer.

Tom Cleverley – Centre-Midfield (Manchester United)

Tom Cleverley would support Wilshere in attacking from deep, much as he has done under Hodgson during his stint as England manager. Now a regular for Manchester United, it will only improve the midfielder, who has come under criticism in recent months.

Jordan Henderson – Centre-Midfield (Liverpool)

Don’t all laugh at once, but if England played a three man midfield, they’ll need someone to hold back and provide support to the back four. Jordan Henderson can provide that defensive shield that would allow Wilshere and Cleverley to support the attack.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Right-Wing (Arsenal)

The surprise call-up to Hodgson’s Euro 2012 23-man squad, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be expected to provide the width in the three-man attack. Capable of stretching the opposition defence, will be only 20-years-old by the time Brazil 2014 rolls around.

Daniel Sturridge – Left-Wing (Chelsea)

Prefers to play as a striker, but Daniel Sturridge has proven effective on the wing when called upon. Not fully utilised by Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo, with the Italian preferred Eden Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres as his attacking quartet, the 23-year-old will be the other player to cause havoc on the wing, along with ‘The Ox’.

Wayne Rooney – Striker (Manchester United)

His goalscoring record may not be impressive for the national team, but it’s hard to overlook Wayne Rooney as the man to lead the front-line in Brazil. Capable of creating something out of nothing, it will be vital to replicate the form of Euro 2004 if England are to enjoy success in 2014.