Glenn Hoddle: Lampard must start
Frank Lampard might be a shock selection in midfield to partner Stevie Gerrard tonight for some people, but not for me.
In my opinion, Lampard is the man Roy Hodgson should turn to – we need his vast experience to ensure England make a solid start against Italy.
Everyone assumes Jordan Henderson will line up with Gerrard in a midfield partnership that has worked well for Liverpool.
But I really think England need stability, experience and know-how for the start - then unleash some of the youngsters to frighten Italy in the final stages when some of their older players will be wilting.
I’m sure Roy is giving a great deal of thought to his starting line-up, knowing that he is going to need all three subs by the end a gruelling 90 minutes.
Raheem Sterling or Danny Welbeck is the big topic of debate. I would start with Welbeck and bring Sterling on from the bench.
Midfield needs looking at very carefully. There are a number of candidates for the middle: Jack Wilshere, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been another had he been fit.
But Lampard hardly gets a mention.
I would go with him to play square of Gerrard to offer as much protection to England’s back four as possible because they are going to need it.
If you had asked me a few months ago I would have said Wilshere was a certain starter. It seems a long time ago that he was hailed as the great new discovery - but the Arsenal player has failed to push forward in his development.
There are reasons for this, a succession of injuries and also high expectations. Now we have Ross Barkley as the new rising midfield star.
But Roy needs to be prudent in his first selection and cannot afford to have a rush of blood against Italy.
Two things are crucial for England.
Firstly, they are going to need to dictate the centre of the park. When he has played for Chelsea this season, Frank has played deep.
The Lampard-Gerrard combination has come in for an awful lot of discussion in the past. But that was the past, when both liked to bomb forward in search of goals and they didn’t gel together.
In Manaus it will be different. Under the extraordinary circumstances England will encounter, Lampard’s experience is vital - from the start.
England need to dictate the midfield, and to achieve that will also depend on the inter play between Wayne Rooney and Adam Lallana, how they link into midfield at time when England are not in possession of the ball, as much as when they are.
I would start Lallana on the left as he is suited to coming inside and driving forward. Against Denmark he was outstanding in this role.
Secondly, the game in Manaus will hinge on how each side copes in the final 20 minutes - it is when it will be won or lost because of the conditions.
The players are going to need to play in bursts of high tempo, there is no way they can keep it going all the time. Five minutes of high temp, then pace yourself, and go again for another five minute burst.
That is why England’s young guns are crucial - coming off the bench.
That is the time to bring on Sterling, Barkley and Wilshere, who will then have far more freedom to express themselves and make an impact with pace and energy.
Roy has a really good, strong bench, and as a manager is it really comforting to know that you have that up your sleeve.
I also hope that the England defence can come good and prove themselves at the highest level, as much of England’s chances of progressing will depend upon it. In fact it could be the key to England’s entire tournament, as my belief that it is possible for England to reach the quarter finals - and from there who knows?
I have to be honest here, I do fear that England have not got enough in the final third to open up defences anywhere near as much as they would like. A lot of work still needs to be done when England have the ball and I haven’t seen very much of that at all.
The team needs much more movement off the ball, for example.
Let’s hope we see some of that tonight – as for the game, I think both teams won’t want to lose this, so I’m looking at a 1-1.
*Glenn Hoddle is part of the star-studded ITV team for the World Cup, while he is also a leading pundit with Sky.