As expected, England manager Roy Hodgson has named four strikers in his 23-man squad for Euro 2012, with a forward on standby should one of the chosen four pick up an injury between now and the start of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
Having scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, predominantly from a wide berth, Daniel Sturridge can perhaps count himself unlucky to only make the reserve list. The 22-year-old Chelsea man started the season in dazzling form but was used less frequently by stand-in manager Roberto Di Matteo, resulting in other players nudging him down the pecking order.
The inclusion of Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe in the squad of 23, maybe over Darren Bent, is undoubtedly one of the major talking points. He too has been on the fringes of his club’s first team this year and made only 11 Premier League starts. However Hodgson trusts Defoe’s predatory instinct as a striker and is also aware of his international experience. A scoring record of 15 goals in 46 games for England, despite 29 of those appearances coming from the bench, shows he could be a useful tool from the bench. Meanwhile questions remained over Bent’s fitness with the Aston Villa man having not appeared in the Premier League since late February due to rupturing his ankle ligaments.
It was widely expected that Roy Hodgson would take one ‘big man’ to Eastern Europe – the main contenders being Peter Crouch and Andy Carroll, with Grant Holt and Bobby Zamora hoping to sneak in against the odds. Hodgson has chosen to go with the power of Carroll despite a largely indifferent season which has seen him struggle in a poor Liverpool side. Crouch is extremely unfortunate to miss out. He has an outstanding scoring record for his country with more than a goal every two matches. At 31 he must fear his international hopes have been dashed once and for all.
Danny Welbeck was widely tipped to be included among the forwards, despite having only collected a handful of England caps so far. Welbeck, who chose to play for England over the Ghana, was one of the successes of Manchester United’s season, forging a successful partnership with the indispensable Wayne Rooney and keeping the likes of Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov glued to the Old Trafford bench.
Despite missing the first two matches due to suspension, Rooney’s inclusion in the squad was never seriously in doubt. It has been another majestic season for the 26-year-old who is so consistent that his importance to Manchester United, and England, is often underplayed. To not have taken arguably England’s only world class player would be suicidal.
With Hodgson keen to stick to his rigid 4-4-2 formation, occasionally switching to 4-4-1-1, he has some big decisions to make – particularly for the matches against France and Sweden, which Rooney will miss.
One option would be to play two out-and-out frontmen. Carroll would be the favourite to fill one of those roles, possibly with Welbeck alongside him. However Hodgson may find a 4-4-1-1 setup is also feasible, with captain Steven Gerrard playing off either Carroll or Welbeck and dropping back into midfield when required.
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