Thoughts on the World Cup: the England and Japan Squads

Sorry for the exam-imposed hiatus in the past weeks. As the next exams is in a while, it’s time for a little piece to light up this place.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is of course the a highly-anticipated event next month. My friend Jon has produced a comprehensive analysis of all World Cup nations here; I do not have the same expertise (or time:S) thus I’ll concentrate on the two nations I know best: England and Japan.



For the first time in…forever, the fate of the England team is difficult to predict. As Jon said, Roy Hodgson’s squad is the most underwhelmed (well, in British media standards; nobody’s screaming we’ll win it all!) and inexperienced since before the advent of the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ which has unfortunately disappointed.

Unpredictability is very exciting though. This England team has in my opinion achieved the delicate balance between youth and experience as circumstances allowed. The snub of Ashley Cole for Luke Shaw is justifiable, when neither is expected to start. On similar lines, you might contest the inclusion of Lampard, but no obvious option for youth exists.

It’s extremely difficult to anticipate the lineup against Italy at Manaus, but for what it’s worth here is my input, drawing a leaf from Liverpool’s diamond formation: (L-R)

Joe Hart
Leighton Baines – Gary Cahill – Phil Jagielka – Glen Johnson
Steven Gerrard
Adam Lallana – Raheem Sterling – James Milner
Wayne Rooney
Daniel Sturridge

The goalkeeper and back four requires little explanation, provided that Jagielka is fit enough. Gerrard and Sterling would play in a similar fashion as they did in Merseyside, but backed by versatile wingers capable of defending (especially Milner with Johnson). The two central attacking players (Sterling/Sturridge) can move to the wings to create opportunities for Rooney, who shall attempt his best Suarez impression and provide the magical spark. Afterall, England can only go as far as Rooney takes them.

To predict England’s fortunes is usually a futile task, but I’ll say QUARTER FINALS. Despite the Suarez-Cavani tandem, the integral components of the Uruguayan squad are rapidly ageing, and England has a reasonable chance to qualify at their expense. At the Round of 16, none of the Group C teams (Colombia, Greece, Cote D’Ivoire and Japan) appears unmanageable, but then Brazil, Spain or the Netherlands beckons…


There is one surprise in the squad selection for me: Yoshito Okubo instead of Mike Havenaar (Scratching your head because of his name? He was born in Hiroshima to Dutch parents).

I’ve always had a soft spot for Okubo, (as he was a must-buy for Winning Eleven 7, ah those were the days…) and he has had a fine season with Kawasaki Frontale. However, he is in essence a poor man’s version of Shinji Okazaki, the likely starter in the Japanese 4-2-3-1 formation. For a Japan team devoid of physicality and goal-scoring, it seems a better idea to include the 6-4 Havenaar as a Crouch-esque Plan B: not to mention he has completed a fruition season with Vitesse in the Netherlands.

As for the Japanese performance, I think advancing out of the group stage would be an achievement, and one’s that is attainable too. Unless the Man City version of Yaya Toure (with a satisfied birthday handshake) shows up every game, the technical edge possessed by the Japanese should see them through. (Asian homer?) From then on, who knows?

That’s the first rant on the World Cup over, I’m sure more will come though. In the meanwhile, do check out my friend Jon’s blog!