Five of the side who started in Rustenburg keep their place.
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World Cup 2010: England XI vs USA, Rustenburg: Green; Johnson, Terry, King, Cole; Lennon, Gerrard, Lampard, Milner; Heskey, Rooney.
Euro 2012: England XI vs France, Donetsk: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Parker, Gerrard, Milner, Young; Welbeck.
Green vs Hart: Shaky Green was the best of a bad bunch in 2010. True to form, he suffered a nightmare in Rustenburg, letting a tame Clint Dempsey effort slip under him as the game finished 1-1. By comparison, Premier League winner Hart is one of the Three Lions’ most talented and consistent performers and will surely hold onto the number one jersey for years to come. Verdict: Massive improvement.
Johnson & Cole vs Johnson & Cole: Much the same here. Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson has matured slightly with age and is less prone to howlers now. On the left flank, Ashley Cole, now over-30, remains one of England’s most dependable and consistent performers, both offensively and at the back. Verdict: Same same.
Terry & King vs Terry & Lescott: A tough call. Back in 2010, John Terry was marginally sharper and more consistent than he is now and certainly not lacking in any experience. He was, however, partnered with surprise inclusion Ledley King who, although formidable when fit, started despite a chronic knee complaint and was forced off at half-time. His latest partner, Joleon Lescott, has cut out the concentration lapses and grown into a formidable defender, whose confidence will be sky high after helping Man City to the Premier League title. Verdict: Slight improvement.
Lennon & Milner vs Oxlade-Chamberlain & Milner: Being part of a title-winning and pressured Man City side has matured James Milner over the past two years, while the Yorkshireman retains his workmanlike qualities of 2010. Aaron Lennon is exhilarating when he runs at defenders but has too often been inconsistent or disappointing in an England shirt. Unknown quantity Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will offer the same pace and width but his fearlessness means he should make a bigger impact that the Spurs winger ever managed. Verdict: Improvement.
Gerrard & Lampard vs Gerrard & Parker: Everyone, and we mean literally everyone, knew Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard wouldn’t play well together, so it’s not immediately clear what Fabio Capello was thinking in Rustenburg. The Liverpool, and now England, captain remains in the side, although, two years older, he is less able to influence games as he once was. Parker’s inclusion is a massive plus, however. He offers work-rate, genuine protection for the back four and, most importantly, will allow Gerrard licence to roam. Verdict: Big improvement, not neccesarily in personnel but certainly in system.
Heskey & Rooney vs Young & Welbeck: There’s no doubting that Wayne Rooney is a big miss in the 2012 side but will return for England’s final group game. Between Young and Heskey, there is simply no contest. One is a carthouse, unlikely to ever get near scoring a goal and a living embodiment of long-ball football; the other is a speedy and skillful front man, with an eye for goal and a talent for wonderful curling finishes. Verdict: 2010 edges but only because Rooney is so lethal.
Hodgson vs Capello: Hodgson does not have the club pedigree of the Italian but he is a wily old fox who has plenty of international and tournament football experience, having managed Finland, Switzerland and the UAE in the past. Unlike Capello, he understands the culture of the English game and speaks the language. That said, English fans and media alike were raving about the ‘Iron Sergeant’ before the debacle in South Africa… Verdict: No-one can doubt Capello’s nous but he simply wasn’t a good fit for England. Hodgson’s past suggests reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Improvement.
Overall verdict: 2012 XI has more potential to make an impact. Crucially, Hart offers talent and stability in goal and the change of system in midfield, made possible by Parker’s inclusion, will allow England to get the best out of Gerrard and the speedy trio of Young, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Welbeck.