Can England bring football home?
England’s win against Brazil extended the winning streak against top international opposition (albeit in friendly’s), but can Hodgson translate this winning formula into a victorious World Cup campaign? Well firstly he must get the team through the tricky qualifiers against Ukraine and Montenegro next month. He can take confidence from the performance against Brazil, where the team played a positive passing game, even though it was against a mediocre Brazilian team.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Jack Wilshere, who outshone the disappointing Neymar and fading Ronaldinho. His ability to win the ball and run it into the oppositions half at pace then produce the perfect pinpoint pass is only possessed by a handful of players around the world. He must now consistently produce this style of football for club and country in order to fulfil his huge potential. However, the one worrying factor for Hodgson and England is the young man’s injury record which is not great. Hodgson may not want to shape a team around a player who may not be fit for Brazil, even though it is surely a risk worth taking.
Wilshere’s midfield partners on the day were Steven Gerrard, playing in a deep lying role, and Tom Cleverly who also impressed playing as the most advanced midfielder. This trio played well enough to hold down starting places in future England games, and also has the potential to grow even stronger by the time the World Cup comes around. Add this to the match winning ability of Wayne Rooney up front and England have a relatively strong attacking core. Additionally, the amount of wingers Hodgson has to choose from should give him a selection headache in a positive sense.
This is not the case when it comes to the centre of defence though. Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling both made mistakes on the night and neither looked particularly ready for the challenge of international football. With the retirement of John Terry and the reluctance to recall Rio Ferdinand (which is understandable considering his age) England have a lack of centre backs with European experience. This will be Hodgson’s main concern on the back of a game where if there were a clinical finisher amongst the opposition the result could have been much different.
If England are to be serious contenders for footballs greatest side Hodgson must find a solution to the team’s defensive issue. If he does and key players maintain or improve their current form and stay fit (no metatarsal injuries!), then maybe he can start dreaming of being the second man to lead England to World Cup glory.