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Back Milner to start for Hodgson’s England in World Cup opener

| 06.01.2014

James Milner has been in fine form for Manchester City this season and the midfielder is worth backing at 7/2 to start England’s first match of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Three Lions face Italy in Sao Paulo and manager Roy Hodgson will be well aware that an opening match defeat would put huge pressure on his side to qualify from a group which includes Uruguay and Costa Rica.

Attacking options Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andros Townsend have all made an impact for England in recent seasons, but none offers the defensive stability of the former Leeds United and Aston Villa player.

James Milner has won 44 caps for England

Milner has not started every game for Manchester City this season, but that is no surprise given the strength (and depth) of their squad.

However he has featured in 18 of City’s 20 matches and the highlight of his season came when he scored and won a penalty in a man of the match performance at Bayern Munich during the Manchester side’s 3-2 win.

The 28-year-old has been around the England squad for five years and has made 44 appearances for the national side, including 10 for Hodgson in 2013.

James Milner has featured in 18 of City’s 20 Premier League games this season

Hodgson has already said that Milner is his “go-to” man for the big games and the manager will be keen to use his defensive qualities against the attacking threats of Italy, whose midfield has often dominated matches.

Hodgson said in September: “We know what James will do. James isn’t and doesn’t pretend to be as exciting as some of the wingers we sometimes use these days.

“We need experience, strength and quality.”

Expect similar words from the Three Lions boss in June, and a starting berth for the continually underrated Manchester City utility player.

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Nic Doggett