England manager Roy Hodgson is set to make huge changes ahead of the crunch tie in Poland with six players who started against San Marino possibly being replaced. The Three Lions have only lost once to Poland in 17 meetings and that was all the way back in 1973 but it will be far from easy in Warsaw.
After a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign and with all eyes set on Rio in 18 months time, is Roy bringing in the right men for the job?
Kyle Walker had very little to do against San Marino on Friday but looks set to be replaced by the more experienced Glen Johnson. The Liverpool right-back has been England’s first choice for the last three years but there are question marks over his defensive ability. He will be approaching his 30th birthday when the World Cup starts and will be under pressure for a place in the team. Walker is one of Hodgson’s youngest talents and the 2012 PFA Young Player of the Year has tasted victory on all four of his appearances in an England shirt.
Cole could win his 99th cap for England tomorrow and is easily the best English left-back of his generation and despite his infamous tweet about the FA he has been given the nod to start. Everton’s Leighton Baines started against San Marino and almost marked his 12th cap with a goal from a free-kick. Baines certainly offers more of a goal threat than Cole who has never scored for his country but there is no doubting that Cole is the country’s best left-back and despite his personality flaws should be starting in Rio.
This is one of Hodgson’s toughest calls with Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka all fighting to play in England’s defence. Lescott is the most experienced with 23 caps and looks set to start against Poland. Whether it is with his former team-mate Phil Jagielka or Chelsea’s Gary Cahill is another big question. Cahill and Lescott both have Champions League experience which could give them the edge. The return of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones from injury will throw another spanner in the works for the gaffer.
The England skipper Steven Gerrard will be back in the team on Tuesday ahead of either Michael Carrick or Tom Cleverley. The Liverpool star has made 98 appearances for England and won 65 per cent of them scoring 19 goals. He is a crucial cog in Roy Hodgson’s team but will be 34 by the time Rio kicks off. It is important to remember Andrea Pirlo was 33 as he guided Italy to the Euro 2012 final and Gerrard is without argument one of England’s star players.
With Theo Walcott injured against San Marino there is a slot to be filled on the right-wing. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear as if Sir Becks is going to get a call up and James Milner looks set to step up to the plate ahead of Aaron Lennon. Milner has only played two more games for England than Walcott but has only scored one goal compared to Walcott’s four and the Arsenal winger has won 80 per cent of games in a national jersey. Questions will be asked of James Milner’s attacking threat but his work ethic and delivery into the box is considerably better than Walcott’s.
Another difficult decision for Hodgson. Danny Welbeck scored twice against San Marino but could make way for the Tottenham front-man. Incredibly both have a 33 per cent strike rate for the Three Lions with Defoe’s goals coming in 51 appearances whereas Welbeck has just 12 caps. The United striker was the preferred partner to Wayne Rooney at Euro 2012 but Hodgson will probably want to see him playing more regularly at Old Trafford over the next 18 months.