Roy Hodgson will have started planning his World Cup squad already and we could probably predict most of the squad if English players suffer no more serious injuries; but, there will be four or five spots up for grabs. England have struggled for a consistent base of strikers in the last few years, as players come and go.
The main problem England have is that they appear to pick players after three or four good performances, while other countries appear to have a secure squad that in form players struggle to break into. This is mainly due to the talent pool available to England, but the media does push for certain players to become England regulars after one good season. Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge are certain to be going to Brazil, which leaves one or two spots available for English strikers, depending on how many forwards Hodgson plans on taking. Rickie Lambert and Andy Carroll will be competing for one spot, while Jay Rodriguez and Saido Berahino could potentially go if they carry on their good form. Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent are very unlikely to be included due to lack of first team football in Bent’s case, while Defoe has opted to move to the MLS.
Wayne Rooney has always been seen as the biggest hope in English football for a number of years now and this will be his last international tournament at the top of his powers. He started playing regularly at an early age, so he’s likely to start declining soon, but he’s had a great season so far. He has scored nine times, while he also has nine assists. Manchester United have struggled this season, but it’s been Rooney’s form that has given them a chance to get Champions League football next season. He also works incredibly hard for his side, so hopefully he stays fit as he’ll be crucial for England in Rio.
He is much maligned by supporters, but Danny Welbeck will prove to be an asset for England long term. He’s still only 23 so he’ll improve in the next few years.
This season has been much better for Welbeck as he has played a lot centrally, as opposed to the wing where he has also played a lot for club and country. He has scored eight times, which is a lot better than last season when he scored only once in the league. Welbeck has been clinical in front of goal with seven out of nine clear cut chances finding the net, whereas Rooney has scored less than half of his.
Daniel Sturridge has scored more goals than any other English player this season with ten. He had an exceptional 2013 after moving to Liverpool and if he continues that into 2014, he has to start in Brazil. His partnership with Welbeck was uninspiring in the final two qualifiers, but they’ll likely be fighting for one spot in the summer. He has been worse than Welbeck when it comes to clear cut chances, scoring only four from eleven. His shooting accuracy of 55% is better than than the Manchester United duo of Rooney and Welbeck. So if he pushes on to get between 15 and 20 goals, he will be full of confidence when the World Cup begins.
This is likely to be the only international tournament that Rickie Lambert will be in real contention for, so he’ll be more eager than the others to secure a place. There are always going to be doubts about Lambert’s pace and mobility, but there is no doubt he has the technical ability to succeed in international football. He has scored six goals and created five assists this season keeping Italian international Pablo Osvaldo out of the team, who is also likely to be lining up against England in the summer. His clear cut chance conversion rate of 71% is only just worse than Welbeck, showing his composure in front of goal. It’s likely that either Andy Carroll or Lambert will go to Brazil to give England a different option as a target man. Carroll has only just returned, but he managed to get an assist against Cardiff on Saturday. The Geordie will have to be really impressive to force Lambert out of the squad though.
If England decide to take one more forward, Jay Rodriguez or Saido Berahino will have to be considered as they would both bring different qualities. Rodriguez can play on the wing, so he would be a real asset to the squad, also Hodgson watches Southampton a lot due to the English talent there. Therefore, he has to be considered a real possibility for Rio, especially after being capped by England in the last set of friendlies. He is definitely in the manager’s thoughts. The former Burnley striker has eight goals so far which is more than Lambert and level with Welbeck. It’s impressive considering he plays on the wing mainly, an area England are struggling after Theo Walcott’s injury. Berahino offers youth and unpredictability which could tempt Hodgson to pick him, especially after his impressive goalscoring both for West Brom and the England under 21s. He has scored four league goals in 16 games, 12 of which were as a substitute. If he plays regularly in the second half of the season while scoring goals, he could gatecrash the England squad.
At the moment, I’d take Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll and Jay Rodriguez if they all manage to stay injury free. The first three pick themselves, while I feel Carroll offers more of a goal threat against top class opposition than Lambert. Also he has been to and scored in an international tournament before. If he stays fit, he will score the goals to take West Ham to safety. The Geordie also offers more of an aerial threat than Lambert while his hold up play is also superior, which might be crucial if England are holding out for a win. Rodriguez offers versatility as he can play as a striker and on the wing. Considering England’s troubles on the wing, he could provide the solution as he works hard and scores goals for Southampton from out wide. This tournament will come too soon for Saido Berahino, but he will be a huge part of England’s future.