February 6 sees the height of the English FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations as the national team face Brazil in a star-studded friendly at Wembley Stadium.
Roy Hodgson’s men will take on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazilians at the national stadium in a match that isn’t just about ceremony, but also about improving England’s togetherness ahead of the rest of their campaign to qualify for the World Cup next summer, which is held in Brazil.
Scolari, who has returned to the Brazilian fold for the first time since winning the World Cup in 2002, has named a squad which includes the Chelsea trio of David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar; Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar and world stars such as Neymar, Hulk and Daniel Alves, but just who Hodgson will name in his XI remains to be seen.
As with all friendlies there are sure to be a few players who pull out of the squad, but given that the only team that England have beaten in the past four matches was tiny San Marino, Hodgson will be desperate for his side to put on a good show.
Perhaps he would like his team to line up like this against the five-time world champions:
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
An easy decision for Hodgson to make and quite a big game for the Manchester City stopper Hart, who attracted criticism for his display in England’s last match―the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired mauling by Sweden in Stockholm.
Right-back: Glen Johnson
The full-back has been in stellar form for Liverpool at both right and left back this season, and should be one of the first names on an England teamsheet on current form.
Centre-back: Phil Jagielka
Another no-nonsense, typically committed season from the Everton man, who will be looking for a 17th cap against the Brazilians.
Centre-back: Gary Cahill
Cahill has benefited from John Terry’s injury at club level to become a mainstay of the Chelsea defence, and with Terry now retired from international duty he’ll be hoping to become an England regular too.
Left-back: Ashley Cole
Leighton Baines has been fantastic again this season, but Cole still holds on to his England place and will make a 100th appearance for his country against the Brazilians.
Defensive midfield: Michael Carrick
Whether or not Hodgson picks him remains to be seen, but Manchester United’s Carrick certainly deserves an England place for his excellent recent form. Spain’s Xabi Alonso once said that the English game ignores technical players like Carrick, but they shouldn’t do for much longer.
Central midfield: Steven Gerrard
The England captain has worn the armband with distinction ever since Hodgson appointed him as skipper before Euro 2012, and given his fine recent form for Liverpool he’ll want to impress again here. Won his 100th cap against Sweden in England’s last match.
Central midfield: Jack Wilshere
The sight of a fit and firing Wilshere has been a huge plus point for Arsenal over recent months amidst the drama that they usually go through, and he’ll be desperate to get back in an England shirt after making his comeback in the Sweden game.
Wide forward (right): Theo Walcott
With the ink now dry on his new Arsenal contract, Walcott can focus on his football and on his somewhat stop-start England career. Much attention is paid to his starting position, but coming in from the right flank he can cause any team problems.
Wide forward (left): Daniel Sturridge
Maybe a surprise name, but Sturridge is riding the crest of a wave since his move to Liverpool and England could benefit. Like Walcott, he can play all across the forward line and his confidence could be crucial against highly skilled opponents.
Centre-forward: Wayne Rooney
Still England’s best forward, Rooney may have had form and fitness problems of late but he can still make the difference at the top level. He’ll be able to drop deep and look to link with Gerrard, Wilshere and the two wide forwards in a bid to make England a creative force.