Jordan Henderson’s exploits in the World Cup have been critical to England’s success across the tournament. Ahead of the side’s clash with Croatia, we took the opportunity to explore the tenets of his game that have won around fans from across the nation.
Whilst the Englishman has often been accused of being too conservative with his range of passing when in the Red of Liverpool, he has all but put that criticism to bed for his national team – offering an array of passing that has contributed significantly to his side’s journey to the semi finals and firmly established himself as the number one centre midfielder ahead of the likes of Eric Dier and Fabian Delph.
This ability to find the key to unpicking the opposition defence was on show against quarter final opponents Sweden, as he twice played Raheem Sterling in with pin point passes over the top of their back line.
He will have felt aghast to have not been rewarded for the success of these balls, with his team mate squandering the opportunity to put his side in a commanding position before a second half Dele Alli header eventually put the game to bed.
His defensive work rate, again something that critics have been quick to malign over the years, has also been showcased across the tournament.
In a formation that sees four players dedicated to picking up attacking positions, the 28-year-old can often be left isolated in the centre of the park.
However, his tenacity, athleticism and willingness to get stuck into play has often meant that he has rarely been overawed by the task at hand. His last ditch block and the roar of defiance on finally clearing a potent Sweden attack will remain one of the lasting images of the English side’s tournament.
It is also testament to his reading of the game that he has rarely been left overloaded in the position. The only noteworthy occasion of this happening was the latter stages of the clash with Columbia where fatigue left him struggling to match the numbers in the Columbian midfield.
His importance to the system was to all intents and purposes exemplified by this moment – with England having to cling on until the shoot out as his influence on the tie waned.
Whilst Henderson will have felt disappointed to have lost out on the role of captain to colleague Harry Kane, he has highlighted his credentials as a leader within the club.
Having lead Liverpool in three separate cup finals during his time as the successor of Steven Gerrard, his experience and leadership qualities will be integral if they’re to reach a first final since 1966.
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