Welbeck a World Cup worry for Roy Hodgson
England’s World Cup camp have received a significant blow ahead of preparations for their opening Group D clash against Italy, with Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck potentially set to miss out through a thigh problem.
The Three Lions will now take on Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri with injury concerns over both Welbeck and Arsenal attacker Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain. The versatile pair are frequently used in wide positions by Roy Hodgson, so the news could have a huge impact on England’s plans.
Some media outlets are placing a positive spin on the situation, by focusing on potential replacements for the Red Devils striker in the starting XI in Manaus.
This would likely open the door for Liverpool star Raheem Sterling, who appears to have impressed England boss Hodgson with his energetic cameos against Peru and Ecuador, despite seeing red against the latter for an over-enthusiastic challenge on Antonia Valencia.
Injury uncertainty could also provide Hodgson with a chance to outwit tactical wizard Prandelli, by allowing the Three Lions to employ a less predictable formation. England are currently 11/5 to win against the Italian outfit, or 15/8 to draw.
One possibility is a fluid attacking three buzzing behind main striker Daniel Sturridge, who was the leading English scorer in the Premier League this term.
Welbeck’s absence in this case could help ease congestion in central areas, with Hodgson attempting to play with three strikers occasionally resulting in overcrowding and a lack of genuine width.
Sterling could play on the wing, or support the striker centrally, with Wayne Rooney starting nominally on the left, a role he excelled in against Ecuador.
However, those rejoicing at the reunion of two-thirds of Liverpool’s famous SAS forward line, may do well to remember that Welbeck has fine record record of eight goals in 20 caps, including his impressive contribution to England’s Euro 2012 campaign. The Manchester-born forward played an integral part during teammate Rooney’s absence in the group games, and also put in a memorable shift against next opponents Italy in the knockout phase.
By contrast, Sturridge, who has been fast-tracked by Hodgson into the XI after a phenomenal season for Brendan Rodgers’ Reds, has produced a mixed-bag of performances in the role of leading man during the World Cup warm-up matches. The former Chelsea forward, with odds of 33/1 to hit a hat-trick against Italy, bagged the opener against Peru in spectacular style, but failed to live up to England’s expectations versus Ecuador.
Despite Sturridge displacing Welbeck in a central berth, it is clear Hodgson still rates the 23-year-old highly. The United academy product, 5/2 to score anytime against Prandelli’s side, will have to prove his fitness, with an update expected later.
Meanwhile, there is some positive news is on the horizon to boost Hodgson’s mood, as Oxlade-Chamberlain is now expected to be available for the Uruguay match. England test themselves against La Celeste their second game on June 19th, in a group they are 2/1 to top.