With England struggling to break down a stubborn Denmark side on Wednesday, the score was locked at 0-0 with just over 30 minutes to do.
Then Adam Lallana skipped onto the pitch to replace Jack Wilshere with a point to prove, and at the final whistle, he’d surely rubber stamped his place in England’s 2014 World Cup squad, and possibly the starting lineup.
Southampton’s 25-year-old captain had dazzled on his first two appearances for England back in November, but this was his chance to solidify himself into Roy Hodgson’s World Cup plans. He did just that, with attacking panache, bravery on the ball and a willingness to create from a central attacking midfield role. In the 82nd minute Lallana jinxed past two Danish defenders before dinking a delightful ball into Daniel Sturridge to head home the game’s only goal which gave England victory. Moments like those prove his quality is needed by England.
Time and time again he pulled off audacious Cruyff turns that the Dutch legend would’ve been proud of, as Saints’ star man shone brighter than any other player in an England shirt at Wembley on Wednesday. England manager Hodgson earmarked Lallana’s second half cameo for special praise.
“From the 60th minute onwards we showed some really good play and Adam Lallana made a big difference.”
The fact that he only played for just over 30 minutes shows that he is still on the outside looking in at Hodgson’s World Cup squad, and Lallana hadn’t even featured in the entire qualifying campaign. But after moving his wedding forward from June 14 (the date England will face Italy in Manaus) to Christmas Eve 2013, Lallana has perhaps had a quiet word in his ear for quite some time from the coaching staff that he will be heading to Brazil this summer.
Should England build their side around him? Absolutely. Well, at least their attack.
Lallana brings an energy that has been lacking from England, in the final third, for years. His poise and quality on the ball has already seen him thrive on the international stage and pundits across England are calling for him to be given the chance to run the offense this summer. Left foot, right foot, Lallana is comfortable on the ball and can play anywhere across the midfield or attack. Looking past the World Cup this summer, he is sure to be an integral part of the England setup for many years to come.
His inclusion also satisfies many England fans who would love to see talented players included from teams other than the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. The fact that Lallana was joined by three of his Southampton teammates (Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Jay Rodriguez) in the latest England squad proves that Hodgson is picking players on merit rather than reputation.
Long may that continue, and long may Lallana be the playmaker for England. He’s the missing ingredient the Three Lions have been searching for, and they’ve found him just in the nick of time before they jet off to South America this summer.