By Sam Lee
Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour says Roy Hodgson must start preparing for England's World Cup opener against Italy by choosing a strong starting XI for Wednesday's friendly with Denmark.
Hodgson has named a 30-man squad for the friendly, including four goalkeepers and three left-backs, as he runs the rule over his options ahead of the only Three Lions fixture before the end of May.
Parlour says that after two defeats against Chile and Germany in November, and given the sparsity of warm-up matches ahead of the start of the World Cup, the England boss cannot afford too much experimentation.
"You’ve got to start putting a proper team out, those who you think have got to start [in Brazil]," he told Goal.
"He’s had those two games where he changed it and tried different formations. I think the XI he picks will be more or less the team that will start in Brazil, so it will be interesting to see who’s going to be involved."
Hodgson took over from Fabio Capello as England boss less than six weeks before the start of Euro 2012, and Parlour believes the former West Brom boss has moved away from the conservative tactics he employed in Poland and Ukraine.
"Roy’s done okay," he added. "The first tournament he was involved in he didn’t get time to work with the players, he went with the experienced players more than trying a few youngsters, but he’s changed his system now. It was a basic 4-4-2, but he’s gone with more of a continental style now.
"I always look at that and think you can’t play a different way to club football, a lot of teams do play that way now, with three behind a striker, and I think that’s the way forward.
"The midfield areas are where you dictate the play, that’s what teams do now, they try to get as many bodies in that area and play their own tempo, and that’s why they’ve changed the system. I’m pleased he’s done that."
Parlour was a key player for Arsene Wenger's successful Arsenal teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but won 10 England caps during his career thanks largely to the presence of David Beckham on the right side of midfield.
And he believes competition in the centre of the pitch will be fierce when it comes to whittling the squad down from 30 to 23.
"Andros Townsend has done everything right when he’s had his chance, he got man of the match and scored a goal, so he’s got a real good chance," he mused.
"Then you look at [Raheem] Sterling at Liverpool, and Jay Rodriguez and [Adam] Lallana, they’ve had great seasons at Southampton, so those boys would have a chance – there’s so much competition in there.
"I’d take Ross Barkley, he could be that little rough diamond. He could get his chance and be that player, he’s confident, he’s having a brilliant season.
"I’m sure Jack Wilshere will go, [Steven] Gerrard and [Frank] Lampard I think will go as well, so it will be interesting to see who he takes.
"Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, who does he take out of those? [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain too, he scored in Brazil, so he’ll be in the reckoning. For Roy, looking at the midfield, it’s going to be competitive for places for the World Cup."
England's expectations are low ahead of the finals in Brazil and while Parlour believes they can get out of a group which also contains Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, he expects them to need some good fortune to go any further.
"I look at the situation and I think it’s an opportunity," he continued. "I’m pleased they have Italy first, that’s a good test. Italy get stronger as they go on so it’s good to get them out of the way. I fancy them to get through the group, I really do.
"It’s going to be tough, then they'll need a bit of luck."
Despite Spain having won the 2010 World Cup, plus the two most recent European Championships, Parlour expects Germany to pose the biggest threat of the European nations.
"In terms of favourites, you’ve got to look at the South American teams, Argentina and Brazil. I think Germany will be the biggest threat from Europe. I think Germany will be bigger than Spain, once they get everybody fit I think they’ll be good.
"I know Spain don’t play with a lot of strikers but they struggle up front."
Ray Parlour was speaking as part of the Budweiser Open Trials, in association with BT Sport, where he will be assistant coach to Steve Clarke and help choose and manage the amateur footballers who will play in front of professional scouts at Wembley in April.
Watch the first part of the Budweiser Open Trials on BT Sport on Saturday, March 8, as part of its FA Cup coverage, and subscribe to YouTube.com/BudweiserUK to keep up to date with all the action.