The announcement of England’s World Cup squad usually causes an argument or two. Every time without fail you get hot debates about the players selected – and even more intense discussions about the players left out.
This year has been a total contrast and you’ll have noticed that Roy Hodgson named his squad without any criticism or dissent at all.
That tells its own story. What we’ve got at present is an England coach with limited stock to choose from and fairly obvious decisions to make.
There are a couple of positions where I could make a claim for different selections but in the main, England’s group of 23 picked itself.
The aim of the announcements by the FA commission last week is to make sure that in future, the England manager is spoiled for choice.
Looking at the stand-by list, it doesn’t offer much food for thought.
Had the squad been down to me, the only choice I’d have argued with was Luke Shaw over Ashley Cole – and to be honest, I can see the logic of Shaw’s inclusion.
Leighton Baines is the outstanding left-back in England and if he stays fit then no-one else is going to play in Brazil. It’s a bit like taking a third goalkeeper to the World Cup.
It has to be done but in truth, keeper number three knows that he’s on the plane for the experience and the ride.
The problem will come if Baines picks up a knock or worse still is injured before the tournament.
Cole has retired from international football and he’s out of the picture now so sidelining him early was a bit of a risk.
Shaw’s a big talent, we all know that, and perhaps Hodgson prefers the attacking side of his game but I’d still have favoured Cole on the basis of his defensive ability.
Shaw is the sort of player who can help to get you a goal when you desperately need one. But Cole is more likely to stop you conceding in the first place.
And really, clean sheets is what it’s all about at the World Cup, particularly in the early stages.
If you don’t concede you don’t lose games and that’s a good start when it comes to getting through your group. If you don’t lose games in the knockout stages, the worst that can happen is defeat via a penalty shoot-out.
It might not sound like fantasy football but you have to play the percentages in these tournaments, particularly when the conditions are as unfavourable as they will be for England in South America.
Cole’s the man for that sort of strategy but it’s fair to say that we’re looking to the future and Shaw is part of England’s future.
It would do him a lot of good to be in Brazil, to soak up the atmosphere and acclimatise to the biggest occasion.
As for Hodgson, he’s going into the World Cup with a fair amount of grace.
He’s not under heavy pressure, although he’ll get hammered as England managers always do if his team make a mess of the group stages.
For me, the quarter-finals is the most I expect of England. The possible opposition at that stage look too good and too strong.
So who is going to win in Brazil? The hosts will go close, obviously, and Argentina too.
As an outside bet, I’d be tempted to back Chile. The South American sides are bound to be strong and if I’m picking a European nation, I can’t see beyond Spain.
They’ve been there, done it and they’ve got one of the best squads going.
I’m heading to the World Cup with the BBC and from a selfish perspective, my one hope is that Brazil make the final. Can you imagine the spectacle if they do?
Brazil haven’t hosted the tournament since 1950 and the idea of them in the Maracana on July 13 is the sort of romantic story we all look for. It would be the experience of a lifetime and I’ll be at the game.
As for England, it’s Italy first and a tough group to get through. All I’d say about the squad Hodgson’s taking is that I don’t think it could be much better. But I don’t see this being our time. Not yet.
My England line-up for the first game against Italy (4-2-3-1): Hart; Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines; Henderson, Gerrard; Sterling, Rooney, Lallana; Sturridge.