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Man City man a 7/2 snip to start England’s first World Cup game

James Milner may not be a name that conjures up One Directionesque hysteria among football fans, but he offers tactical astuteness, reliability and yes, even goals.

At 7/2 the Leeds United academician is 19th in the betting to make the XI for what is likely to be a super-cagey World Cup curtain-raiser against Cesare Prandelli’s Italians.

Milner may have started just one competitive match for Roy Hodgson in the nail-biting denouement to their qualifying campaign, but it was arguably the toughest of all.

When the Three Lions travelled to Kiev knowing defeat was likely to issue the hosts with their tickets to Brazil it was Milner who was called upon.

Uruguay follow Italy, before a final outing against Costa Rica in Group D so there’s little doubt that a loss against the Azzurri would heap huge pressure on England’s remaining games.

As such a reverse must be avoided and with flavour of the month Andros Townsend and indeed Theo Walcott not known for their contribution to a disciplined rearguard, Milner and Danny Welbeck could get the nod.

England’s marauding right-backs Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson are among the most positionally undisciplined players at England’s disposal, making it all the more likely that a prudent protagonist may be needed on that particular flank.

As testament to this consideration the Manchester City stalwart started every match under Hodgson at Euro 2012, with Walcott often employed from the bench.

Then there’s the matter of his recent superb form when called upon to perform at the highest level with his club.

Man of the match as City pulled off a 3-2 coup against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, he followed up scoring the winner in Germany with a goal against Fulham.

Used relatively sparingly by Manuel Pellegrini, the winger has started just seven of his 20 appearances in 2013/14.

As such he’s likely to be fresher than many of his more injury-prone counterparts – Walcott springs instantly to mind – and that’s before his versatility is take into account.

Milner has created goals from positions on either side of an attacking front three this term, also having been employed in a 4-4-2, a formation Hodgson has used with the national side in the past.