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The Chosen 23: My England Squad for Brazil 2014

England are in a tricky group, and therefore a tricky situation as far as expectation goes. They aren't even favourites to make it out the group, let alone win the thing, so taking a squad of youngsters to experience the atmosphere of a major tournament, without concentrating on progress is one line of thought.

I hummed and hawwed about what to write for this week's blog. I considered jumping on the Moyes bandwagon and adding my tuppence worth of swill to the trough, but there didn't seem to be much to be said - he couldn't fill Fergie's shoes, lost the dressing room, and probably should have got another year to prove himself. That's about it really.

So instead I'm looking at this summer's World Cup. Thrillingly at the time of writing it's only 48 and a half days away, when I can sit on the sofa all day consuming endless quantities of football and Maltesers when I really should be getting a job to fund my postgraduate course.

England are in a tricky group, and therefore a tricky situation as far as expectation goes. They aren't even favourites to make it out the group, let alone win the thing, so taking a squad of youngsters to experience the atmosphere of a major tournament, without concentrating on progress is one line of thought. However, it is a bit defeatist, and will hardly sit well with fans and media that believe that as we invented this game, all the folks we invited to play it with us should jolly well lie down and make a plush carpet over which we can walk to victory.

So it's with this uneasy balance in mind that I've picked a 23-man squad for this summer's World Cup. I know that this is another topic on which every England football fan and their bulldog dressed like John Bull will have an opinion on, but frankly this is a lot more fun than picking over Moyes' carcass, which has arguably been putrefying since they lost at the Etihad in September.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Ben Foster, Fraser Forster

Joe Hart is the kind of player who isn't nearly as good as he clearly thinks he is. Maybe it's the shampoo commercials, or the fact he claimed before the Liverpool game that facing Sturridge and Suarez would be 'fun'. Pardon me for being obtuse, but I'm not entirely sure how picking the ball out the back of his net three times and losing a possible title-decider gets classified as 'fun'. Anyway Hart is England's best keeper and has improved since being dropped earlier in the season, and thrillingly looks like he'll only get better as he matures, like cheddar. Ben Foster's had a good season at West Brom (when fit), and Forster has once again been the best keeper in the SPL. True, that's like winning a beauty contest when all the other participants are lepers, but he made another catalogue of fine saves in the Champions League, and deserves to be on the plane.

Right Backs: Glen Johnson, John Flanagan

This is probably England's weakest position, in all honesty. Kyle Walker, PFA Young Player of the Year a couple of seasons back, has declined like a water slide and has been one of the weakest links in a shabby Spurs defence, and I don't think deserves a spot in the squad. Glen Johnson, on the other hand, has gone from strength to strength (again, when fit), and has been in sparkling form in Liverpool's astonishing charge for the title. No less impressive, however, has been Flanagan. Even when played out of position as left-back, Flanagan has shown superb technique, awareness, and maturity beyond his years, going from the periphery even at the start of this calendar year, to an established first-XI member for the potential champions. Johnson as first choice, Flanagan as the exciting back-up.

Left backs: Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw

The first time I'd seen Ashley Cole in months was when he played for Chelsea against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final, and it was pretty astonishing. He looked like he'd put on a fair bit of weight, and that beard he sported looked suspiciously like one worn by a man on a long dry spell in both professional and personal lives. He still had skill, but Baines is now the complete package, and Shaw seems as yet unfaised by the hype (although the tears he shed after his call-up for the Denmark friendly were both sweet and a little unsettling), and is - to use the common cliché - "one for the future".

Centre Backs: Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones

I don't care how much John Terry throws his face in the way of the ball or eats weak-willed referees for brunch, he's too divisive for the England team, especially now the FA have banned him from the captaincy. Nevertheless, he has influenced his nation for the better, albeit indirectly - his partner in the Blues defence, Cahill, has really emerged as our best defender. Barring another unlucky injury like he suffered pre-Euro 2012, he'll start alongside Everton's Jagielka, who may also be ageing a tad, but is eminently reliable, and, unlike Terry, isn't inclined to be a racist or allegedly shag a Big Brother contestant (at the time of writing). Jones should also go, as he's multi-purpose and can do the Terry thing of throwing his face into a speeding bullet if necessary.

Central Midfielders: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, James Milner

Has Gerrard been the best all round player in the Premier League this season? That's a question for another blog, but he will be crucial to whatever success England may or may not have. Out of all the Chelsea old guard, Lampard is the only one I would take, if only for the inevitable penalty shoot-out should England make the knock outs. I put Milner here as a centre-mid, although if he went he'd probably play in every position known to football, including sweeper. His best position is in the centre of the park though, is fine second half showing against Liverpool is proof of that. Wilshere is quality when on form, although I'm not sure if he should start. I'd give that berth to Henderson, who has been exceptional this year, really growing as a commanding, ball-playing midfielder, and silencing the critics who feel a footballer who hasn't won every medal by the age of 21 is a failure. There are two notable absentees here - Michael Carrick and Ross Barkley. Carrick has only declined this year, failing to run a poor United midfield and only excelling in the art of passing backwards. Barkley meanwhile has shown flashes of brilliance, but I think many are blinded by his stunning goal against Norwich on the opening day of the season, and the fact he isn't a regular starter for Everton proves he isn't ready. Yet.

Wingers: Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend

I would have put Jay Rodriguez in this category, but his luck in getting a severe knee injury is up there with forgetting to buy a Lotto ticket on the day your numbers come up. Instead, the Southampton quota is down to two, with the exceptional Lallana surely deserving of a starting spot. Oxlade-Chamberlain meanwhile has always been impressive for England, as long as he isn't played as a defensive midfielder, as he is occasionally for Arsenal, in one of Wenger's barmiest brainstorms. Townsend and Sterling meanwhile should be on the bench - Townsend for his exceptional showings in qualifying, and Sterling for his exceptional showings for Liverpool. Seriously, if we're level with fifteen to go against Italy or Uruguay, and Sterling comes on, I think that's a game winner for the Three Lions.

Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Daniel Welbeck, Andy Carroll

I hate to admit it as much as the next man who isn't Robbie Savage, but Wayne Rooney is England's best striker (not best player, that's Gerrard), and will lead the line in Manaus. He's had a very good season for United too, although a good season for club tends to translate to feckless form for country, but fingers crossed. Sturridge will be key for England too (for the third time, if fit), and I think Welbeck deserves a go, if only to show his best form in the world's most public shop window, after expressing his desire for a transfer. Which leaves us with the spot reserved for a big lug to stick on up front if things get a bit hairy. Lambert or Carroll? I'm inclined towards the guy with the experience of playing and scoring on the biggest international stages. Carroll, you're in.

So what do you think? Am I spot on, a deluded fool, or somewhere in between. Let me know what you think, and who you'd pick. Also, if anyone from Manchester United is reading this, I once got Peterborough United to the Premier League on Football Manager 2010. If that's not put me above Louis Van Gaal in the pecking order, I don't know what will.

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