WHILE it’s hugely important that England do not lose their opening World Cup fixture against Italy, I don’t want them to go into it feeling fearful or for Roy Hodgson to pick a negative line-up. England should be aiming for a win in Manaus.
All teams go into the World Cup with fragile confidence, so it’s incredibly important to get an early strike. History has shown us that if England don’t start fast then they don’t go fast; they’re not good at changing pace and need to be on the front foot right away.
This will depend in part on the weather. If it’s simply too hot to chase for 90 minutes then England will have to sit back, but if not they need to play a high line and to get in and about Italy. Hodgson’s men simply aren’t good enough to try to dictate the game.
If England can get their noses in front, however, then they will be in a position to counter-attack, and Hodgson is well equipped to do that.
To give them the best chance of getting in front and then being a danger on the break he has to pick Raheem Sterling, not James Milner, on the right wing.
I would also play Adam Lallana instead of Danny Welbeck on the left, in a 4-2-3-1 system that could quickly switch to 4-3-3 if needed, with Lallana capable of dropping back to help Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in midfield.
England’s players are generally individually good, but this time we also have some who can win one-on-one situations in the final third. Daniel Sturridge has shown he can do that, as can Sterling and Lallana, so for me they’ve got to play.
I have been in Brazil for three days now and I have to say that I have been slightly underwhelmed by what I have encountered so far.
I haven’t encountered any protests, but in terms of infrastructure there seems to be a lot still unfinished.
The roads I have travelled on have been terrible, it took us three hours to get from airport to hotel here in Salvador – where I’ll be watching Spain take on Holland later this evening – and many of the buildings appear to be derelict and ready to be knocked down.
There are very few visible signs that a World Cup is taking place. There is nothing much to suggest that at airports, while the scarcity of English speakers even there can make it very difficult to find help, for example with directions.
When I last came to Latin America for a World Cup, in 1986 as part of the England team, my experience was very different but that is because we were cocooned.
Also, Mexico had to hurry their preparations, having been appointed hosts only after Colombia was stripped of the privilege. Brazil has had seven years to prepare, though so far it’s not obvious.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.