England have to hit the ground running, but it won't be easy against a well-drilled USA side, says Jamie Redknapp.
Last Updated: 11/06/10 8:14pm
Don't think for one second that this is an easy game for England. I have heard plenty of people saying 'oh, it's only America' this week, but I couldn't disagree more.
This is a side that has been to World Cups before, has plenty of players with Premier League experience and this is the side that beat Spain in the Confederations Cup this time last year.
They were also leading 2-0 against Brazil in the final and although they ended up losing 3-2, that should tell you that they will be anything but a pushover.
America are always a well-organised side, difficult to break down. And they have some genuinely decent players; Landon Donovan showed he can mix it with our players, Clint Dempsey is a tidy player I like and in goal, Tim Howard is one of the better in the Premier League.
This might be the game we all end up talking about, but it will be England's toughest in Group A. Of course, if they lose, it will really put the pressure on because in big tournaments all you are looking for in that first game is the three points.
I remember in Euro 96 we drew with Switzerland first up and before I'd even got in the dressing room, I remember thinking that immediately put us on the back foot. We all want to see England play well but this is the World Cup and all that matters is getting off to a winning start. There will be nerves of course, and it might not be pretty, but the players needn't care about that; you don't get any medals for playing beautiful football.
That is why Fabio Capello's selection is crucial and it will be interesting to see how he approaches this game. I was talking with my dad this week about what formation we would play and he actually said if it were him in charge, he would be aggressive, go with a 4-4-2 from the off and really try and get at USA. He thinks this game is there for the taking.
That surprised me a bit, but on reflection he might have a point. And having opted for a 4-4-2 in the three warm-up games, you'd think that is the way Capello is going to go. He says he knows his starting XI, but it has not been at all straightforward for him, not at all - and there are still one or two major dilemmas, for me anyway.
For the first time I can remember England come into a World Cup without a clear number one. Think Gordon Banks, think Peter Shilton, think David Seaman; our keeper has usually picked himself. This time though, it could be one from three. Personally I would go for David James; he is the most talented keeper I have played with or against, although there is a concern about his concentration.
Playing for England you go long spells without doing anything and Jamo is someone who loves to be involved, so I think boredom becomes a problem. But it's the first game of a tournament and I would go with experience. There's no doubt Robert Green is good enough and Joe Hart is obviously the future, but I wonder what it would do either of them if they messed up in the opening game.
The back four pretty much picks itself. Glen Johnson will be the right-back - although I heave heard that Jamie Carragher has looked very good in training - then it's John Terry, Ledley King and Ashley Cole.
With Gareth Barry being out, it has to be Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the middle, but it will be interesting to see who gets those wide positions. I still think we would be better off with both Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott in the squad because they both offer something different; I just hope it's not a decision we end up regretting.
I would go with Aaron Lennon on the right and Joe Cole on the left. I know it's far from ideal - which is why I would have taken Johnson - but Joe has played there before and in his namesake Ashley, he has the best attacking left-back in the tournament behind him.
I am all right foot, but have actually played on that left-hand side for England myself and do remember being pretty lonely - so lonely I can't even remember who the full-back was behind me! If Joe does drift inside, he knows Ashley will be bombing down that touchline.
Then it's all about who plays up front. I wouldn't mind if Peter Crouch got the nod alongside Wayne Rooney and his goal record for England supports that. But sometimes as a coach you have to take players' thoughts and feelings into account when picking your side - and Emile Heskey is Wayne's preferred opponent.
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England want Rooney to get off to a good start in terms of goalscoring and I am sure the coach has spoken to him, and knows that he is probably more comfortable with Emile alongside him. You want your main men to hit the ground running and as a striker you want to get off the mark as quickly as possible. But above all, you want to finish that first game with three points on the board.
England win - All that matters is the result here. The players will want to get this first game going and they will want to make sure they don't do anything silly. My dad might think it's best to attack the USA but I can't see Fabio Capello doing that; I wouldn't be surprised if England start off a little cautiously, then grow into the group and then hopefully the tournament. I do think the USA are tougher than people give them credit for and they are well-organised and know what they're doing. I don't think we're in for a goal-fest but I expect England to nick this, 2-1.
Steven Gerrard (England) - It's the opening game, a huge occasion so you really want your captain to show the way. I have been watching Stevie this week and like the way he's talking; he's cool, he looks ready for it and with those messages from the troops, you can just tell he knows what this means. He has sent the right message out, he has shown that passion and although people think he's surly and miserable, believe me that is not the case. And he also has genius in his feet.
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