Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross shares his tips on playing as England in EA SPORTS 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.
England are on the brink of World Cup glory.
After coasting through the group stage without conceding a goal, The Three Lions roared past the first knockout round, won their quarter-final game 7-0 and beat Spain 2-1 in the semis to book a place in the World Cup final.
They’ve been solid at the back, wonderkid Ross Barkley has excelled in a deeper midfield role next to Gerrard and striker Daniel Sturridge can’t stop scoring. But the real star so far has been winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has scored goals consistently from the left wing.
I am of course talking about Online World Cup mode, which I’ve been playing pretty much constantly since EA’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil was released last month. In the build up to Roy Hodgson naming his squad I had countless conversations with mates about who should be in the team, and this really got me in the mood to play as England in the World Cup game. After trying loads of different line-ups and formations I’ve now settled on a starting XI, shape and style of play that I really enjoy using, and one that’s working well in terms of results.
So in this week’s Backpage we’re going to look at who I pick and how I play when I’m England, which will hopefully be handy if you’re thinking of using them for your next World Cup campaign.
Plus, if you read on, I’ll let you know how that final went.
If you’re a regular reader of the Backpage then you’ll know I love the 4231 formation in FIFA 14, and I’m still a huge fan of it in the World Cup game. England start with the regular 4231 by default and that seems to suit them slightly better than the wide version I like best, as the three players behind the striker play closer together centrally and a little further forward.
This helps me combine quickly with fast passes in the final third – very effective in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil – and makes it slightly easier to test the keeper with shots from distance. I really encourage players to take more long shots in this game as I’ve seen many of them hit the back of the net when I wasn’t really expecting to score, which is something we’ll cover in more detail here in the near future.
For now though, if you want to try the 4231 but feel slightly put off by the lack of a strike partnership, have a look at these tips for using a lone frontman.
Style Of Play
The first thing I do right after kick-off is select an attacking mentality using the D-pad. This seems to encourage the holding midfielders and full-backs to join in more going forward, and those extra numbers can really make the difference – my CDMs in particular score loads of goals because they both have decent long shot ratings and often receive the ball in dangerous areas as they make late runs forward.
I build attacks patiently, which again gives those late arrivals the opportunity to get involved, but I move the ball quickly when space opens up. The wide players are often outlets for my attacks – I can usually find one of them with a pass when I need to escape pressure – and when they have the ball I try to keep my opponent guessing on what I’ll do with them by varying things as much as possible. Sometimes I’ll pass inside and look for a one-two, perhaps creating space for a long shot, or I might stick to the byline and run at the full-back. The wingers are very effective in both versions of the 4231 for me, and England have some fantastic options in those positions.
Because I play with such an attacking style it’s very important to do the right things defensively with this set up, so I make an effort to keep my team shape – especially in the back line – by not pressing too much or permanently sprinting. I also take care not to over play or take needless risks at the back, particularly with forward passes from deep as there can at times be quite a distance between my defence and midfield following an attack breaking down.
GK – Joe Hart
I doubt I need to tell you why I stick with Joe Hart in goal – he’s England’s number one and the highest-rated goalkeeper available for selection.
RB – Glen Johnson
I really like Kyle Walker in this game and he’s both faster and slightly stronger than Johnson, but the Liverpool defender is taller, so seems to win more in the air, and has a slightly better weak foot – handy when he’s in shooting positions on his weak side. There’s really not a lot in it but I’ve generally got on slightly better with GJ at RB.
RCB – Gary Cahill
Cahill is quick for a centre-back – his sprint speed is in the mid 70s – and he’s dominant in the air thanks to his height and excellent leap. That comes in very handy for corners, both defensively and in attack.
LCB – Chris Smalling
Smalling is England’s fastest CB and, while I know it’s not all about pace, I’ve found his extra speed compared to some of the other centre-backs to be a real advantage. He’s also very tall so, like Cahill, is good in the air.
LB – Leighton Baines
Baines is quick, has great stamina and is an exceptional crosser, so he’s an attacking threat for my team for the full 90 minutes. I often use him to put early crosses into the box using LB and long pass – he has the early crosser trait – and he’s also an excellent penalty and free-kick taker.
RDM – Steven Gerrard
Gerrard obviously has fantastic vision and passing stats, but one of his most useful attributes for me is his ability to score from distance. As I mentioned earlier I try to get the CDMs involved in attacks, and I play Gerrard on the right to make it easier for him to get a good long shot in using his strongest foot.
LDM – Ross Barkley
This one is a really tough call between Wilshere and Barkley. Wilshere is perhaps a more natural fit in a deeper role and gives balance at LDM because he’s left-footed, plus his technical stats are superior to Barkley’s. But the Everton CAM has done so well for me in this position over a number of tournaments that I just can’t leave him out. He’s popped up with loads of important goals and feels a bit harder for the opposition to stop. It is extremely close between the two though, so try both to see which one you prefer.
RM – Theo Walcott
Talking of close calls, I originally planned to recommend Raheem Sterling as the RM because he’s been excellent for me there, but the final player I tried in that position was Theo Walcott and he’s scored in almost every game he’s played for me since. Both players are exceptionally fast and feel great on the ball thanks to their dribbling ability but, in close games when you must take your chances, Walcott’s finishing is potentially match winning.
LM – Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain
Who you select for this spot will depend on the way you want to play. Lallana is a fantastic player and has good passing attributes, so is a good creator, but Oxlade-Chamberlain is quite a bit quicker and seems harder to tackle, which will suit you if you prefer to take players on more directly. Again I found this position really tough to settle on because both players have felt great in the games I’ve played, but ultimately I score a lot more goals with Oxlade-Chamberlain so he makes my eleven.
CAM – Wayne Rooney
Rooney has the highest overall rating in the team, so as you would expect he’s heavily involved in almost all of my attacks. The CAM position is perfect for him, as he has all of the attributes needed to really make things happen from there. His long shots, finishing and shot power make him dangerous from inside or outside the box, and he has the ability on the ball to quickly and effectively link with those around him to create quality chances.
ST – Daniel Sturridge
As with all lone striker formations, who you pick for the role will again depend on your play style. If you plan to cross the ball a lot then you’ll probably have more success in the air using strikers like Lambert or Carroll, but if you want a quicker striker with good technical skills and great finishing ability, I’d pick Sturridge. He’s a fantastic player in FIFA 14 – no Premier League player has scored more goals than him online for FUT 14 managers – and he’s just as good in 2014 World Cup Brazil in my opinion.
So that’s my starting line-up and how I like to play when I’m England, and it does seem to work. In the tournament I mentioned at the start of this article I won the final 3-1, finishing with a record of seven wins, 22 goals scored and just three against.
If you have any tips on playing as England that you’d like to share with other players, please comment below or tweet them to me @darren_cross
As always, thanks very much for reading.