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England’s Red Core

Dan Wilcox discusses his thoughts about the World Cup and the Liverpool players who are likely to go to Brazil.

He’d take all six of Liverpool’s English regular starters but fears Hodgson may not.

As the Premier League season draws to an exciting close, certainly for me as a Liverpool fan anyway, thoughts will soon begin turning to the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. Already we’ve seen it beginning, what with the new shirt being launched by Nike, and the accompanying outcry of the price, plus the untimely injuries that now force players to be ‘out for the World Cup’, we’re not too far away at all. I’m a huge fan of the World Cup format and the high concentration of football matches played in such a short space of time. Games almost every day, top players on show throughout, it’s a spectacle and one I enjoy embracing.

England have of course qualified under Roy Hodgson, and appear to be heading to South America with almost zero expectancy this summer, which is a rarity I must say. On paper, however, they have a solid team – although this is probably true of most tournaments England qualify for – and I think they could take with them the spirit and determination Liverpool have shown this season, not least in the form of numerous Liverpool players.

So who’s a dead certainty to be on the plane?

First and foremost Steven Gerrard. He’s the captain of club and country. He’s been deployed in a role somewhat different to what he’s been used to in his Liverpool career and has thrived thoroughly. He can sit and dictate the play from the back, as he has done for a large majority of the second half of this Premier League season, he can get forward too, if required. His set pieces have been unfathomably good and seem to be getting better with age. If Gerrard does win his first ever title prior to the World Cup, expect him to be even more of a driving force behind what England hope to achieve this year.

Secondly, and also a nailed on starter (injuries permitting of course) is Daniel Sturridge. He’s been fantastic all season. He’s the highest scoring Englishman in the race for the Golden Boot, of which he sits second behind only the incredible Luis Suarez. He adds pace to games, he adds an instinct, he can hold the ball up, he can run in behind – he’s an all round striker and one England can’t afford to not start, let alone take with them. If he receives the service he has done at Liverpool throughout 2013/14, expect him to score goals.

In my opinion, Jordan Henderson should also be a certainty to play (for the record I think he’ll definitely be in the squad). He’s had an incredibly consistent season; some may argue he has in fact been Liverpool’s best midfielder over Gerrard. What Henderson does so well is press the ball, keeping a high tempo to the game and seems to have an ever-lasting engine; he’d probably keep running after the 90 minutes were up if it was required of him. He’s been hugely influential to Steven Gerrard’s form this season and to what Liverpool have already achieved (Champions’ League qualification) and are possibly on the cusp of achieving.

Raheem Sterling has to go to Brazil for me. At 19 years of age, he’s been the outstanding young player of this season and has proved convincingly that he can mix it with the best in the Premier League, as well as shown everyone he has a prosperous future ahead of him. He’s incredibly versatile, has pace to burn and more recently has proven a quality for assisting and scoring. Like the previous three players, he has had a huge influence on Liverpool this season. I’d be starting him too, but Hodgson may decide otherwise.

The last certainty to fly to Brazil with England, for me at least, would be Glen Johnson. He’s had an indifferent season, one that has included injury, some solid performances and some less so good. He does however have a wealth of experience and loves to get forward which will suit England I think.

Options are relatively restricted for Hodgson at right back. There is of course an outside shout for Jon Flanagan to be in the team, and he remains, for me, Liverpool’s only regular English starter who could miss out on the trip to Brazil. Flanagan has been superb this season, and has done everything asked of him filling in for Jose Enrique at left back. He’d make a solid part of the England squad but I fear it’s maybe too soon for Flanno, not from my perspective but from Hodgson’s.

What is clear is that Liverpool could make up a massive part of what England are travelling to Brazil to fulfill. Despite the tough group, I think they have a good chance at getting a good way into the competition. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this season, it’s that anything is possible, and Liverpool’s likely core within the England side will be keen to continue proving that, very much like they have done continually throughout the year. I also think the thought of the impending World Cup may have helped these Liverpool players continually perform to a high level, as they have done. It’s a chance of a lifetime to go and play in a country that has such a clear connection with football, and many will be incredibly keen to get that chance. With more pressing matters in hand currently though, I’ll park my excitement until after we’ve won the league. Hopefully the Liverpool lads do the same.

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