Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Final Audition for Brazil Has a Host of Intriguing Endings; Tomorrow's Match with Danes Should Help Hodgson Decide Who Should Be in His Squad for World Cup. by James Olley

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Final Audition for Brazil Has a Host of Intriguing Endings; Tomorrow's Match with Danes Should Help Hodgson Decide Who Should Be in His Squad for World Cup. by James Olley

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

BY the time the costumes arrive, the identity of the players is usually known. England's hotel base at the Grove has this week doubled up as a fitting room for World Cup suits but seven players will be all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Roy Hodgson has one final chance to whittle down 30 into 23 and there are three areas in the starting XI and three more in the wider composition of his squad that will command his attention in tomorrow's friendly against Denmark.

If we assume Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Jack Wilshere, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge are all probable starters in a 4-2-3-1 system, then that leaves the following uncertainties.

TEAM LEFT-BACK Leighton Baines must sometimes wonder if he did something rotten in a past life. Having spent years in the shadow of Ashley Cole, the Chelsea man's demotion at Stamford Bridge seemed to finally afford Baines the opportunity to stamp his authority on the leftback slot.

Baines has enjoyed another fine season at Everton -- albeit interrupted for more than a month by a toe injury -- and yet Luke Shaw's elevation to the England squad following his emergence at Southampton was the headline decision in Hodgson's latest selection.

Shaw is just 18 but has impressed with his maturity in defence and end product in attack. Only two from three will travel to Brazil and if all three continue at their present trajectory, then it may be Cole has the most to fear. The selection of Shaw's potential over Cole's experience for Brazil would be bold but the Chelsea man has started just 12 Premier League games all season and none since a 2-0 win at Hull on January 11.

TEAM LEFT-WING Danny Welbeck is listed as a centreforward when the Football Association publish England squads these days but Hodgson's preference has been to deploy the Manchester United player on the left flank. Welbeck's athleticism and discipline enables him to perform adequately there but Hodgson has a number of alternatives and will want game-changers in wide areas.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has played centrally and on the right for Arsenal but prior to that he was regularly used on the left wing; the improvement in his form since returning from injury is timely with Brazil just 100 days away.

James Milner's abilities as a utility man extend to a wide-left position -- his defensive qualities could prove useful should Hodgson look to shore up in that area. Andros Townsend is more regularly deployed on the right but can switch wings, as can Raheem Sterling.

TEAM RIGHT-WING Theo Walcott's injury has opened up an opportunity for others on the right. Townsend's preferred move of cutting inside on his left foot and shooting from distance offers an intriguing contrast to the raw pace and touchline-hugging wide play of Sterling. …

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