By Henry Winter
Roy Hodgson has told his players “to be brave and show some courage” in games, yet England’s manager is considering a conservative system to combat France in their first Euro 2012 game in Donetsk next week.
The majority of Hodgson’s England team picks itself. The goalkeeper, Joe Hart, will be shielded by John Terry and Joleon Lescott, who steps in for the unfortunate Gary Cahill, with the full-back berths filled by Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole. Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker patrol central midfield.
In attack, Ashley Young should be partnered by Danny Welbeck, who scored a fine goal in the 1-0 friendly win over Belgium at Wembley on Saturday, and looks more suited to running at France’s centre-back Philippe Mexes than Andy Carroll. Hodgson has now assessed Carroll against Norway and Welbeck against Belgium. “Both of them did pretty well,’’ Hodgson said.
The main debate is focused on the wide acres, on whether Hodgson himself will “show some courage” and pick bold fliers like Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or wingers who contribute more defensively.
The expectation is that Hodgson will be cautious against France, deploying Downing on the left for Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner on the right instead of Walcott. Milner’s greater defensive strengths will be important against Franck Ribery.
After pointing out that Milner and Walcott “are different types of player”, Hodgson hardly waved the starting flag for the Arsenal man.