It begins tonight. The road to Rio and a chance for Roy Hodgson to begin his long term England plan, starting with Moldova in front of what is more than likely to be a hostile crowd in the Zimbru Stadium in Chisinau.
The pitch hasn’t impressed the backroom staff or players andÂ Ion Caras’s side are likely to put up a stubborn defense, but there can’t be any excuses if England don’t grab three points tonight.
And so to the team. No Rooney, of course. Ashley Cole, Andy Carroll and Adam Johnson are also injured. Johnson injuring himself during training and will now be watching the game on TV or playing european roulette. Cole hopes to be fit for Tuesday’s qualifier against the Ukraine and Carroll is out for at least six weeks with a ham string injury.
Leighton Baines is set to start for the first time in a competitive game. Hodgson is well covered for wide players with James Milner, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck can also play wide. Senior players Terry, Lampard, Carrick and Gerrard also figure in the England set-up.
The question is this; will failing to cull older players and allowing a younger team to gel at the beginning of the campaign turn out to be a mistake? Experience over youth, youth over experience – the ole’ chestnut.