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John Brewin profile picture Posted by John Brewin
Jun 25, 2014

Predicting England's XI for Euro 2016

England coach Roy Hodgson discusses the team's performance against Costa Rica and is overwhelmed with the support of fans throughout the World Cup tournament.

He may have knocked them out of the tournament but England's returning antiheroes have much to thank Luis Suarez for. Drawing 0-0 with Costa Rica reserves has been all but relegated from the back pages. The walk of shame on the return home may not need to be so brisk.

Costa RicaCosta Rica
EnglandEngland
0
0
ESPN2, ESPN3 FT
Match 40
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Nevertheless, the dust will soon settle on a truly horrific campaign. The promise of those early moments in Manaus evaporated like the steam off their sweaty shirts. A flush of youth turned out to be a losing hand. "Taking the positives" is a national pastime among English sportsmen; there's always next time, even as success becomes an ever more distant memory.

Roy Hodgson has made great mention of the next generation. They are his ticket for staying in the job -- for now, at least. He might be fortunate that an extended 24-team Euro 2016 is almost more difficult to not qualify for. So, in the spirit of Hodgson's new-found sense of adventure, it's time to consider who might be playing for/disappointing the nation in La Belle France.

GK: Joe Hart

A cast-iron certainty, mostly because there is no competition for him. Neither Ben Foster nor Fraser Forster have the quality or experience to challenge him. Jack Butland, who briefly looked capable of breaking through at a young age, has stalled at Stoke because of the continuing presence of Asmir Begovic. The only potential barrier to Hart's continuing collection of caps might be another difference of opinion with his club manager at Manchester City.

RB: Nathaniel Clyne

Glen Johnson is surely toast, though a lack of a credible contender may keep him in place for a while yet. Should Gary Neville remain part of the England team, one of his details should be to find a full-back close to his capabilities in his old position. Nathaniel Clyne, from that rich Southampton seam, should be the next man tried, though clubmate Callum Chambers may have his say, too.

England lack experience in defence, but at least Gary Cahill plays regular Champions League football.

CB: Gary Cahill

He was culpable in both of England's defeats, but herein lies the truth about the options open to Hodgson or whomever might replace him: only Cahill of the current generation is currently gaining regular exposure to the Champions League. He can benefit from his troubles in South America and become a senior defender, though he has little competition in that regard.

CB: Phil Jones

The Costa Rica performance suggested he is no right-back, but we knew that already, right? Jones is at something of a career crossroads; he needs to start playing centre-back now or never reach his potential. David Moyes had started the process, but now England's future defence rests on the whims of Louis van Gaal. Should Jones falter then John Stones, who impressed in pre-tournament in Miami, may offer a different, ball-playing option to partner Cahill.

LB: Luke Shaw

Poor Leighton Baines. He may be the most unfortunate casualty of the Brazil expedition. Having waited so long for his chance, he was brutally exposed, and often not by his own hand. Shaw, should he complete the move to Manchester United that threatens to dominate the post-World Cup summer, might be realising his potential by then, reducing Baines back to the backup role.

MF: Jack Wilshere

This all depends on the next two years being far better than the last three have been, but were Wilshere to return to the player who so enthralled against Brazil in March 2013, England may have more hope. Wilshere needs to improve his fitness and recover the moral courage that made him such a compelling prospect. He must return to making tackles, too. It would represent deep sadness if such development were to stall once more.

MF: Jordan Henderson

His all-action running was unsustainable in South America and he, like Steven Gerrard, was not helped by playing in a midfield pair rather than a trio. It is to be hoped that lesson has been learned. Henderson will never be spectacular, but the best teams in this tournament have included players who fetch and carry for others. That must remain his role.

England must hope Ross Barkley continues on his current upward trajectory.

MF: Ross Barkley

Within two years, Barkley will need to have matured sufficiently to adapt himself to playing in a midfield trio. His own in-game management must develop, though he is working with the right man in Roberto Martinez. Were he to improve his short passing in midfield, rather than going for the throat every time with a run deep into enemy territory, then England may have a player who both drives and controls. They have lacked that since Paul Gascoigne was in his pomp.

FW: Theo Walcott

His absence was keenly felt in Brazil. Or at least the absence of him at the peak he was reaching before his cruciate rupture. He will still be only 27 in 2016, and what he can bring to England is better finishing from wide positions; both Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling were poor in that regard. An ability to switch into the centre and play as a striker may also be important to a team in which adaptability definitely needs to improve.

FW: Wayne Rooney

Time to make the straight choice that Hodgson refused to make. Despite all the criticism, Rooney was actually England's most effective attacker in Brazil. One goal, one assist, which meant 100 percent participation in those brief moments of national joy. Sturridge, after his goal, began to look like the confidence player he still remains; he flagged badly in Sao Paulo. Either is a decent option, but Rooney, should he not lose his way in the meantime, is the better central player.

FW: Raheem Sterling

By 2016, the concept of inverted wingers may have become old hat again, but Sterling can cause problems from left, right and centre. He eventually disappointed in Brazil, not lasting the pace in either Manaus or Sao Paulo. Two years on in development, he will need to impose himself far more.