Former Chelsea man makes XI for England’s opening Euro qualifier

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There’s something quite darkly poetic in the fact that at one of the most entertaining, attacking and open World Cup tournaments in recent memory, Roy Hodgson’s England leave after the group stage with one point and two goals.

England’s future is now quite muddy. But here at news.ladbrokes we’ve taken steps to clear the water, by picking our starting XI for the Three Lions’ first Euro 2016 qualifier in Group E, a group they are 1/3 to win:

England-XI-25-6-14

While enthusiasm over the country’s attacking talent is justified, the same feeling doesn’t apply to the back five.

Of the seven defenders taken to Brazil, only two were under the age of 23. Attacking effervescence is all well and good but, as we saw on the flanks against Italy, can leave the defence exposed.

With that in mind, we want Ashley Cole (a 33/1 shot to start the match) back on an international playing field at the expense of the defensively inferior Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw. Similarly, Phil Jones is our right-back of choice as his impressive, albeit educational, displays there for club and country should render him far more than a utility man.

It’s time Gary Cahill became the outright leader of the defence and with the inexperienced but talented John Stones (5/1) alongside him, he’ll be fully able to take on that mantle.

Jack Wilshere spends too much time on the turf or in the physio room to be relied on. In fact it’s Jordan Henderson that should embody our midfield with his energy and all-round game. While he’s tearing about the place though, an anchor is needed and, until a less weathered one appears, the best man for that job is still Steven Gerrard.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (5/6) looked like he was primed to have a real impact on the tournament in the warm-ups only to be denied the chance through injury. A winged-tandem of him and Raheem Sterling is enough to satisfy the nation’s pacey thirst while Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge’s partnership showed enough promise to be persisted with.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.