Harry Kane to start, alongside Theo Walcott

March 31, 2015

Harry Kane will make his first start for England when they face Italy and alongside Theo Walcott as the manager, Roy Hodgson, reverts to a midfield diamond that will be tipped by Wayne Rooney and anchored by Phil Jones.

Rooney, who will attempt to score in a sixth successive England game and match a record set by Tommy Lawton in 1938-39, admitted he is “as excited as everyone in the country” to see the Tottenham Hotspur forward make his full debut after Friday’s goalscoring cameo against Lithuania.

However, the captain warned Kane to guard against frustration when confronting Italy’s experienced defence to be marshalled by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, who have 116 caps between them and will “do anything to try and stop you”.

Hodgson’s will be an experimental lineup at the Juventus Stadium as his team attempt to counter Italy’s own five-man midfield. Walcott will be offered a first start for his country since a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in September 2013.

The manager has been denied the likes of Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling for the trip to Turin, limiting his options up front and effectively providing the Arsenal forward with his opportunity as Rooney drops deeper. Chiellini, for one, had suggested over the weekend that England missed Walcott, “a quick sprinter and terrifying for defenders”.

Yet the decision to start Jones as a holding midfielder may represent a surprise. The Manchester United player, arguably a victim of his own versatility since moving from Blackburn Rovers four years ago, has featured in the role before having started England’s 1-0 friendly victory over Spain in November 2011 under Fabio Capello. Yet he played in his favoured position of centre-half in Friday’s win against Lithuania. Michael Carrick, a more natural selection, anchored the centre.

While the uncapped Ryan Mason, too, has operated in a deeper-lying central position for his club side this season, Jones will have an opportunity to demonstrate he has the necessary composure on the ball and discipline in the tackle. The home side are ranked 10th in the world and knocked Hodgson’s side out of Euro 2012 on penalties and then beat them again in the group stage at last summer’s World Cup. Antonio Contes’s team are also in transition, however, and will show eight changes from Saturday’s 2-2 Euro qualifying draw in Bulgaria.

Hodgson’s hand has, to a certain extent, been forced by withdrawals. “Our system will be slightly different,” he said. “That’s required because we had a lot of front players available for Lithuania but we lost two of them, Raheem and Danny, which has changed my thinking. We still have what I consider to be a very offensive lineup but it’ll be hard work for those players in the front area, who have a hard job on their hands. The Italians have a very-well-worked system and they will have us running around a little bit. It’s a bit of a fairytale for Harry Kane at the moment and this will be a tougher test, but he’s got the magic touch.”

Rooney welcomed the chance to play with the Premier League’s player of the moment, albeit not in a conventional strike partnership, and offered a warning as to what the 21-year-old should expect against streetwise opponents. “With Italian defenders, especially the clever defenders, they’ll do anything to try and stop you,” he said. “You need to be aware of that and not get frustrated. Italy’s a passionate country. They love their football, they are probably the closest in Europe to South American teams, and they’ll do anything to stop you. They’re tough to play against, well-organised, they make it as difficult as they can for us. Italy are the best in Europe at doing that.

“But, at the minute, Harry just needs to continue doing what he’s been doing. He’s taking the ball, is a handful for defenders, is running at opponents and getting shots off at goal with both feet. That’s all he has to do. I’m sure if he does that the way he has been, he’ll be fine.

“I’m as excited as everyone in the country to see him start. He’s had an unbelievable season. Going into the season he was starting the Europa League games but there were questions whether he would start for Tottenham in the Premier League. He gave his manager no option but to play him and he’s not looked back, scoring goals every week.

“It’s exciting for this group of players to train with him. After getting his goal on Friday I bet he can’t wait to get out on the pitch and try and get another one. It’s great for English football to have someone scoring so regularly in the Premier League and getting a goal on debut at international level. It’s an exciting time for him and all of us.”

SOURCE: theguardian.com

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