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England: After last nights 1-0 win over Denmark, Hodgson should look to Liverpool and Southampton players for the World Cup


After a solid, if uninspiring, 1-0 win over Denmark last night, it was the contingents in the England squad from Southampton and Liverpool who made the biggest impact.

From now until the end of the season the speculation will continue to grow as to who will make the plane to Rio, and last night's performance certainly gave Roy Hodgson a lot to consider.

Whilst there were some positives from the game, one of the more negative aspects was the performance of Wayne Rooney, who continues to pose a conundrum in and England shirt.

Rooney contributed little to what was admittedly a tame attacking performance from England, with several speculative efforts from outside the box  all he had to offer, hinting perhaps at his own frustration whilst simultaneously  increasing the fan's own frustrations.

At 28, this has to be the World Cup where Rooney delivers if he truly wants to be remembered as one of England's greats, as despite being one of the top England goal scorers, he has yet to make a big impact at a major tournament.

Rooney inclusion posed another dilemma last night as well, where to play Daniel Sturridge. He bagged the winner with a fine header, meaning he has scored 20 goals in his last 28 games for club and country. Yet with Rooney supposedly playing in the middle, Sturridge was forced to play out on the left, and whilst he wasn't ineffective, he was decidedly less effective than when he plays through the middle.

Playing Rooney down the middle as part of a 4-3-3 isn't necessarily wrong, but he will always drop deep to look for the ball in the middle of the pitch, and as the focal point of the attack, when he does this it leaves no one ahead of him to play the ball to.

Furthermore, watch Sturridge play with Luis Suarez for Liverpool, and notice how it will be Suarez mainly who moves out wide or come deep to create space and get the ball, allowing Sturridge to get behind the defenders through the middle.

Sturridge is England's top scoring player this season by some margin, and therefore should be played in the position that allows him to be at his best, even if that means dropping Rooney in behind him, or perhaps dropping him altogether.

Sturridge was one of five Liverpool players who started last night, alongside captain Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Glen Johnson and Raheem Sterling.

Sterling's performance will have done his chances of making the plane no harm, winning man of the match, he was lively, energetic and worked hard on the flank for the side. Johnson is looking likely to be starting right back after winning his 50th cap last night, with Kyle Walker his main competition for the right berth.

And playing in a midfield 3, Henderson and Gerrard were solid alongside Jack Wilshere, though they perhaps didn't get forward as much as they should have. Gerrard is obviously guaranteed to be in Brazil, but his influence should not be dismissed, and his seniority over his teammates last night was notable compared to the likes of Sterling and Wilshere, and England will need his leadership to inspire them this summer.

Liverpool have the best core of English players in the Premier League at present, which was reflected in the starting line up last night. With these players playing so well together for their club, Hodgson would do well to try and accommodate them as a group rather than one individual in Wayne Rooney.

One club who give Liverpool a run for their money in terms of English talent are Southampton, with two of their players making a big impact after coming off the bench last night.

Adam Lallana's introduction injected some creativity and attacking intent to England's game, something which had been lacking before. He worked the ball very well to get his cross away for Sturridge to head home the goal, and his World Cup credentials are on the up.

Whilst he lacks the blistering pace of Sterling or Townsend, he's still no slouch, and offers  ingenuity and spontaneity to England's attack. He far from disgraced himself when he made his debut in the final two qualifiers last autumn and conducted himself well again last night. The main question surrounding him is whether he will be deployed out wide or through the middle, where he plays most of his football at Southampton.

His club teammate Luke Shaw's international debut was hotly anticipated. Seen as one of England's brightest prospects, he looked as comfortable getting his first cap in the second half as Ashley Cole, who has over 100 caps, did in the first.

Hodgson can't afford, and would not expect to need, three left backs, and with Leighton Baines, who played no part last night, probably in the best form of the three, and Shaw asserting himself so well last night, the most likely victim looks to be Ashley Cole, who has barely kicked a ball for Chelsea this year.

So another England performance, another load of questions for us all to mull over, but should England's 23 man party for Brazil not have a significant presence from Liverpool and Southampton, then the questions will surely be directed solely at Roy Hodgson.



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