Exuberance or experience, Shaw or Cole?
Roy Hodgson faces a positive dilemma this summer, with "positive" hardly ever suitable to precede a word associated with struggles. The England boss can take comfort from the fact that he has three adept left-backs at his disposal in the trio of Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole and Luke Shaw. Ahead of this summer's World Cup in Brazil, it is likely all three will be named in Hodgson's provisional 30-man squad. With seven of those thirty a certainty to miss out on the flight to the sandy beaches of the Copacabana, the prospect of either one of the trio suffering the heartache of late omission is feasible. With Baines cementing his seat on England's plane to Brazil, there is seemingly one left full-back spot remaining, with Hodgson unlikely to take three for the ride. So who and what will Hodgson go for; exuberance or experience, Shaw or Cole?
After Hodgson recently stated that "form is important, class is permanent" it seems as if the former Liverpool boss is deliberately keeping all of his options open. And as he adjudges class to be a permanent asset, it further increases the likelihood of Cole's presence at Heathrow airport when the Three Lions head for Brazil.
The Chelsea full-back's place in Hodgson's World Cup squad was touted as a foregone conclusion, having surpassed the century mark with 107 caps and joined the likes the of Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore in the list of England greats with 100+ appearances.
His supposed rival in the hunt for a World Cup spot is nothing of the sort, having gratefully received his first England call-up on last week to face Denmark at Wembley. His country's call was fully deserved after producing more than the one impressive performance for Southampton, where he developed through the superb conveyor belt of talent which is the Saints academy, where the likes of Arsenal winger Theo Walcott and the world's most expensive player Gareth Bale began their illustrious playing days.
Both are indisputably of a high level, but the taking of three left-backs is nothing short of absurd, given the intense competition of quality in other parts of the squad. Baines, courtesy of his plump amount of game time and consistently high level displays at Everton, is a sure inclusion in Hodgson's final 23-man squad, barring any unfortunate injuries.
Both Shaw and Cole were allocated forty-five minutes to impress on Wednesday, with both displays sending divergent messages to Hodgson's mind. Cole proved why it would be an imprudent show of hastiness to discard his experience with a fine performance. His athletic running and defensive solidity was equally matched by his replacement at half-time, Luke Shaw, who demonstrated his potential to the England coach. The former Liverpool boss has, as he admitted, a selection headache ahead of the World Cup.
Shaw is on-form, young and vigorous, dearth of any form of fear. His opponent is experienced and to use a common cliché, has seen it and done it. It will be the Chelsea defender's fourth World Cup and sixth major international tournament. Experience is a useful asset, but Hodgson must get the right balance between youth and wisdom if England are to be successful in Brazil.
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