With just under 100 days to go until the start of the World Cup in Brazil, and after a very unconvincing 1-0 victory over Denmark on Wednesday, it seems like an appropriate time to assess England’s team. The usual pessimism that surrounds an England team at the time of a major tournament is beginning to kick in, with some going so far as to create an online petition, suggesting that Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley be banned from going to the World Cup on the back of some highly unimpressive performances for club and country.
Unfortunately, the match against Denmark did not seem to provide too many conclusions, creating even more selection headaches it seems. Luke Shaw and Ashley Cole are neck and neck for the back-up left-back spot, while Jack Wilshere’s injury now puts his place in the squad up in the air. Jordan Henderson played well in an advanced midfield role, while Lallana impressed after coming on as well.
Despite being dropped by Manchester City earlier on in the campaign, Joe Hart is the undisputed first-choice for England. He has recovered well from that disappointment to put in some good performances for his club in recent times and that can only bode well for the World Cup. However, who should be the second and third choices?
Fraser Forster has had an excellent campaign at Celtic and it looks like he will be on the plane to Brazil. The 25-year-old has only one cap to his name but has been breaking all sorts of records in Scotland this season (including keeping 13 consecutive clean sheets in the league.) His form has not gone unnoticed, with England manager Roy Hodgson stating, “I must say I am really pleased for Fraser to break the Scottish clean sheet record. It is a great achievement and he deserves it because he’s been playing very well.” I believe that Forster should be Hart’s understudy in Brazil, something which he has all the qualities for.
It seems as if there is a direct battle between John Ruddy, Ben Foster and Jack Butland for one place in the squad. The latter is still very young and does not have much top-flight experience, which would rule him out if I were picking the squad. However, the likelihood of needing the third-choice keeper at any point in the tournament is doubtful, and so many are calling for him to go to Brazil to “gain experience.” This has not proved so successful in the past (think Theo Walcott in 2006) and so I still would not pick Butland.
Foster has been playing relatively well recently for West Brom, as has Ruddy for Norwich. Foster has only played 13 matches this season because of injury, while Ruddy has played every one of Norwich’s 28 Premier League games so far, conceding 43 goals in the process. For me, there is barely anything between them, but I would go for Ruddy as he has been in slightly better form and has played more this season, meaning his fitness will probably be better. Unfortunately though, third-choice goalkeeper is arguably the most useless in the entire squad, with a very slim chance of playing.
Picked: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, John Ruddy