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Roker Ramble: Uninspiring England Need Balance

The draw against Russia and the manner in which England won yesterday's game against Wales should be a wake up call for Roy Hodgson, writes @GRokerReport.

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

When Daniel Sturridge's late winner hit the back of the net yesterday in Lens it could be argued that it was perhaps the greatest England moment since David Beckham's free kick against Greece in 2001.

The goal had been coming and it's always nice when you get a late winner, especially when it's against a rival. The two England goals came from substitutes, both of whom came onto the pitch at half time following what was a disastrous opening period that saw us go behind after Gareth Bale's free kick put the Welsh ahead. For the second game running, Roy Hodgson got his starting team selection badly wrong.

England cannot finish any lower than third, meaning we're in a decent position to advance to the knockout stages next week. That said, if we are going to stand any chance of winning the tournament we cannot afford to have Hodgson selecting players that should be nowhere near the pitch, namely Raheem Sterling.

I don't have anything against Raheem Sterling, I really don't. He's a young player that had one very good season at Liverpool and was fortunate to have a big club come in for him and spend money in order to secure his future, and as a result he's been viewed as under-performing at Manchester City at a time in his career when really he's still learning his craft.

That said, when it takes around fifty million pounds in order to sign you you're immediately under pressure and as a result I feel that Sterling has suffered, particularly in the eyes of England fans that are naturally pessimistic and don't have a great deal of sympathy for players that are being selected based on reputation as opposed to performing well for their club sides.

Against Russia he was poor, working hard up and down the line without causing our opponents any real damage. Yesterday against Wales it was more of the same, with Sterling spurning perhaps the easiest chance of the game in the early stages of the first half.

Hodgson recognised his mistake and brought Sterling off at half time, but the fact remains that everyone could see after the Russia game that Raheem needed to be withdrawn and yet the manager decided to persist. It was a baffling decision.

Harry Kane is another that has struggled, and it should come as no surprise really when you consider the amount of football he has played this year. Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Daniel Sturridge all looked sharper than Kane yesterday and the fact we have three forwards that all possess blistering pace cannot be ignored any longer. Bar Italy, no side in this tournament has a solid back line and when you have quick goalscorers in your possession, you have to be absolutely mental to leave that type of talent on the bench.

Sturridge has shown over recent years that he's a confidence player. When he scores he tends to go on a roll and with Kyle Walker crossing the ball like he has been we need greedy players up front that won't waste too many chances. He and Vardy did more than enough yesterday to warrant a start against Slovakia, whilst Kane could clearly benefit from a period of rest.

Now, with Slovakia to play on Monday, it's time to stop messing around. I have absolutely no faith in Hodgson as the manager of my country but the fact remains that we are stuck with him for the duration of this tournament and, with no side really cementing themselves yet as a stand out performer, it's as open as it has ever been.

We have an absolutely outstanding chance of winning it providing the manager starts to select the right players in the right positions.

My immediate thought upon seeing yesterday's starting eleven was that not one of the midfielders or attackers were playing in a system that had worked for them at their club sides. England went out with a wide 4-3-3 formation, which stifled the creativity of Dele Alli and isolated Harry Kane, who performs better when he has a number ten feeding the ball into him from behind. When Spurs - and namely Kane - have been scoring freely all year, why wouldn't you set up your attack in a way that best suits him?

Still, I don't expect that Kane will start against Slovakia, but should we progress into the knockout stages we really cannot afford to be experimenting during games.

We need to have a clear identity coming out of the Slovakia game and it's just as important to Hodgson that his team not only perform far better than they have thus far, but also that he gets his team selection spot on.

Failure to do so will likely see England whimper out of yet another tournament without barely putting up a fight, and with the momentum that we have behind us following Sturridge's fantastic late strike yesterday we'd be foolish not to capitalise.

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