In the building to today’s kickoff in Manaus, Brazil, England alluded to meeting Italy with a brave approach, a clichéd battle cry that hinted at the inclusion of Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling. When the Three Lions’ starting XI was announced this afternoon, Roy Hodgson had met that challenge, yet with Sterling starting at the expense of Southampton’s Lallana, it’s unclear what we should make of England’s lineup. Sterling will give a slow Italian defense trouble, but in dropping Lallana to the bench, Hodgson has sacrificed another potent attacker for the 19-year-old.
The decision leaves both Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney in the lineup, with Sterling completing the line of three that will play behind forward Daniel Sturridge. An all-LFC double pivot will lineup behind the attack, with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson protecting a back line of Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines. Manchester City’s Joe Hart will start in goal.
Between Liverpool (five) and Everton players, seven England starters hail from Merseyside clubs. Three more are from Manchester’s giants, with only Chelsea’s Gary Cahill representing a London-based Barclays Premier League club.
But that’s all trivia. The big story here is the inclusion of Sterling, though the other side of that coin may spark more interesting discussions. Why was Lallana dropped instead of Danny Welbeck? Or, as some were calling for, Wayne Rooney?
If England is able to effectively harass Italy’s defense and deep midfielders, we’ll know. If they prove unable to navigate the middle third or lack ingenuity near goal, we’ll be left wondering whether Lallana was the missing piece.