Predicting Who Will Be England's Defensive Starters at the World Cup
It is now exactly 50 days until England kick off their 2014 World Cup campaign against Italy in Manaus.
Roy Hodgson needs to decide who will be in his squad but more importantly who will be in his starting XI.
It is crucial the England manager chooses the right defensive unit to face Italy before taking on the twin threat of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani in their second game in Sao Paulo.
Here I select the players I believe should start in England’s defence at the World Cup to guide them through the group stages.
It is a straight fight between Liverpool’s Glen Johnson and Tottenham’s Kyle Walker for the right-back position.
It is a fight Johnson deserves to win, and he is likely to having featured 14 times under Roy Hodgson compared to Walker’s eight appearances.
There was a time when it appeared as though Johnson might fritter away all his youthful potential, but now at 29, he has developed in to a fine attacking right-back at Liverpool.
England need players in form, and Johnson has been brilliant in Liverpool’s title challenge this season, showing his pace and attacking instincts on the right side of defence.
It is hard to get excited about the Everton centre-back, but he has certainly earned a place in England’s defence at the World Cup.
He has had another impressive season under Roberto Martinez at Everton, while his England rivals Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Joleon Lescott have all endured inconsistent or disappointing campaigns.
The Everton captain also has the advantage of having formed a successful partnership with Gary Cahill during the qualifiers and brings his leadership qualities and positional sense to the back four.
Jagielka went to Euro 2012, but he didn’t feature in any of England's games. This won’t be repeated in Brazil where he should add to the 24 England caps he has already won.
Since arriving at Stamford Bridge, Cahill has established himself as one of Europe’s leading centre-halves, and he has already won both the Champions League and the Europa League.
This season he has been a part of a Chelsea defence which boasts the best defensive record in the Premier League, conceding just 26 goals, nine less than the second best record of Manchester City.
Roy Hodgson has always liked Cahill for his pace, under-rated technical ability and aerial threat from set-pieces.
If England had the same strength in depth all over the squad that they boast at left-back they would be one of the favourites in Brazil.
Ashley Cole has been one of the world’s best left-backs over the last decade, possessing the incredible record of starting all of England’s 22 games at major tournaments since the start of the 2002 World Cup, but he is currently out of favour at Chelsea.
This has allowed Everton’s Leighton Baines to barge in front of Cole and no other outfield player has appeared in more of Roy Hodgson’s squads than the former Wigan man.
But I would not start either of them and instead hand the position to Southampton’s prodigious talent Luke Shaw.
The timing is right for Shaw; he has just won his first England cap, has real momentum after a stunning season in the Premier League, and England need to start trusting their young players.
The rest of my England defence has enough experience, already boasting 96 caps between them, so Shaw’s youthful bravado would only complement and enhance them.