World Cup 2014: How England Should Line-Up At Euro 2016


England's plane home is not on the runway yet but the luggage is packed for their flight home from Brazil after two defeats in two World Cup games. Unless Italy beat Costa Rica and Uruguay, and England defeat the latter by two goals in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday the Three Lions will be back home before the knockout stages have begun.

That has not happened since 1958, when Walter Winterbottom's depleted squad in Sweden were still reeling from the Munich air disaster. Under Roy Hodgson, expectations were at their lowest since Euro 96 yet unlike Terry Venables' swaggering side England have not given their supporters anything to crow about. However tough their group was, many expected them to emerge into the last 16.

Although England are not out they should already be looking ahead to Euro 2016, when they will finally be rid of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, maybe even Wayne Rooney, too. England have raw, pacy and exciting players who could pull up trees in France in two years' time, although it is debatable whether Hodgson should be in charge of the quest to end a 50-year trophy drought.

Steven Gerrard has struggled to perform on the biggest stages for England

The dilemma with Hodgson is, realistically, he does not seem capable of guiding major sides to silverware. His managerial honours were achieved in Scandinavia and although England's talent pool is dry, their six tournament performances under Hodgson's stewardship have done little to quell the doubters.

England's defeat to Italy was unfortunate and they performed reasonably well but they were beaten by the better side. The positivity in the aftermath of that defeat was so self-congratulatory it perhaps contributed to the mundane exertions against Uruguay in São Paulo. Hodgson has won two matches from six at tournaments.

There is no obvious candidate to replace him, though. Gary Neville, young, forthright, idealistic and yet realistic, would be an exciting successor. Neville has cut his teeth coaching England with Hodgson for two years now and his managerial inexperience, in this instance, should not be held against him. The squad is accustomed to his ticks and presence, and appointing a young coach would marry well with England's line-up in France.

England in 2016?

Despite Neville publicly claiming he hoped Steven Gerrard would continue his England career it is best for the midfielder, England and Liverpool if he doesn't. Gerrard will be 36 in two years' time and his record at international tournaments is synonymous with culpability and failure. A back pass, a missed penalty, Frank Lampard and now an assist for his Uruguayan club colleague have pockmarked his England career at Euros and World Cups. Xavi was phased out after masterminding Spain's two European Championship and World Cup wins, Gerrard was lucky just to have travelled to Brazil.

Frank Lampard's career is virtually over, with the 36-year-old ready to head to the MLS retirement home but fortunately, England are well stocked in midfield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ross Barkley's dynamism will be essential, with Jordan Henderson the standout contender to hold the fort behind them.

Further back, England's biggest concern is their central defence. England used to be spoilt for choice and boasted world-class partnerships at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, but Rio Ferdinand's injury in 2010 triggered the decline of a once indomitable rearguard. Phil Jagielka has looked uncomfortable at international level ever since he made his debut against Spain in 2008, and alongside Gary Cahill the duo were partially at fault for three of the four goals England have conceded against Italy and Uruguay.

There is a dearth of quality alternatives at centre-back, though. Chris Smalling is a solid defender but his distribution is, unforgivably, no better than when he arrived at Manchester United from Fulham four years ago and Phil Jones has become a punchline for many a joke. John Stones could develop into an athletic and sturdy centre half, though, and Steven Caulker, only 22, has the potential to alleviate the concern.

At full-back, Kyle Walker is not as effective in the opponents' half as Glen Johnson but is safer in defence, while the prodigious Luke Shaw will be ready to start after his premature selection for Brazil.

Joe Hart has looked hesitant at times in Brazil but, barring a downward career trajectory over the next two years should retain his No.1 spot across the Channel. Fraser Forster needs to leave Celtic if he is to ever truly challenge the Manchester City goalkeeper and Jack Butland, despite initial hype, is still regarded as a Championship goalie.

And what of Wayne Rooney? His record at the Euros (five goals in six) is considerably better than his impotent World Cup haul and he will be 31 at Euro 2016. By that time, he could be England's all-time top goalscorer although his fitness fluctuates so unpredictably he might not be as indispensable at the next tournament as he is now. Rooney has seldom been scrutinised as intensely as he has at this tournament, with Hodgson doing himself little favours when he crowbarred the striker into the starting XI against Italy.

Daniel Sturridge is England's best striker, and the understanding he could continue to develop with Raheem Sterling at Liverpool might aid England, if they can replicate their club form for their country.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Group D - Uruguay v England - Estadio Do Sao Paulo

Uruguay V England: World Cup 2014

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