There are bound to be many special moments and special players to watch this year in Brazil. If Roy Hodgson can fit all the puzzle pieces together and create a well oiled England machine, then there will certainly be some of those special moments created by England players. These are the three players most likely to shine for England.
Joe Hart – GK
No England fan need be reminded of the horrific moment against the USA that happened at the 2010 World Cup with goalkeeper Robert Green. Some say England’s hope of having a good World Cup run never recovered from that mistake. Fast forward 4 years and usher in Joe Hart.
The 27 year old has 39 caps for England and is the first choice GK for Roy Hodgson in Brazil. Things are vastly different this World Cup compared to 2010 with regards to the GK spot. In 2010, there was a three way race for the starting spot, which led to problems because it did not create a sense of foundation or confidence for the team as a whole. Joe Hart has changed that mindset. He is firmly in control of the the starting spot and his presence infuses the team with confidence. Hart has had a good year at Manchester City and profited from being dropped and then reinstated by City manager Manuel Pellegrini. He has regained his full form and will be absolutely essential for England’s defense.
Group D will certainly test the back four of England. Both Italy and Uruguay have potent attacking ability. England’s back four will most likely be Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, and Baines. They will face the task of stopping the likes of Mario Balotelli and Luiz Suarez. Realistically speaking, they will not be able to stop everything. Joe Hart will end up having to make big saves at big moments. I think Hart is up to the task of becoming one of the top goalkeepers in the tournament. He is very strong in the air, has good shot stopping ability and he is vocal out of the back. If he can keep England’s back four organized and come up big when needed, Joe Hart has a very good chance of being one of England’s stand out players in Brazil.
Wayne Rooney – ST
Wayne Rooney is a man on a mission to prove to an entire country that he is up to the task of scoring goals at the World Cup. Rooney, 28 and heading to his third World Cup, has yet to score on the biggest stage. Unfortunately for Rooney, the media scrutiny will follow him every step of the way. Rooney has been in the media spotlight since he burst onto the stage for Everton and then Manchester United as a teenager. Sadly though, he has not quite lived up to his ‘world class’ tag at the International level. This year in Brazil is Rooney’s first World Cup without injury worries and he is looking to make it count.
What to watch for: Goals. For England to strive, the team needs to produce goals. What better way to kick start the engine than having one of your veteran players like Rooney leading the way. Obviously, Manchester United had a shocking season in the BPL, but Rooney was one of the players that seemed to be back to his old self after the falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Throughout the season, the effort, drive, and desire were all there. He finished the season tied for fourth with 17 goals from 30 appearances. The man he will most likely be partnered with Daniel Sturridge, had 21 goals last season and just scored a sublime goal against Peru for England. With Sturridge being in good form and scoring goals, Rooney can flourish on his own without all the weight on his shoulders. Roy Hodgson plans to play a much more attacking style of football than England has historically played in tournaments.
Those tactics, paired with the good form of players around him means that Rooney will not be isolated up front facing some of the world’s best defenders. Rooney will score some very important goals for England this summer and is certainly always a player to watch.
Jack Wilshere – CM
The Wildcard. The 22 year old Arsenal man has been fighting both critics and injury in the lead up to the World Cup in Brazil. Jack Wilshere has been handed the #7 jersey by Roy Hodgson. A jersey which has been previously worn by England captains David Beckham and Bryan Robson. It seems that by doing so, Hodgson expects big things from Wilshere.
The difficult part is that Wilshere is not yet a promised first team starter. Hodgson will have to choose a partner to play alongside Steven Gerrard. Wilshere and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson are the two front runners for the position with Everton’s Ross Barkley playing a secondary role. Henderson obviously has previous playing chemistry with Gerrard through the Liverpool connection but Henderson may not be the best choice for England.
Steven Gerrard’s role will be to sit a bit deeper in the midfield, provide some extra support for the back four, and assist the attacking players with his vision and distribution. England do not need another player in that role. Henderson has had a good season and is a solid player but Wilshere provides so much more. If Hodgson can get the best out of the Arsenal man, Wilshere can be the fulcrum for the England attack.
He is pacey, strong on the ball, and not afraid to get stuck in. His footwork and ball control are also sublime. He is a shifty player who provides some finesse to the England attack. Hodgson should look to partner Gerrard and Wilshere in the middle of the park. It is a good balance between experienced practicality and youthful creativity. Wilshere is a player to watch in Brazil because if Hodgson can get him to play at the top of his game, he can be a huge threat going forward and a true delight to watch.