Who will make it into England’s 2014 World Cup squad?
In just over seven months the 2014 World Cup will kick-off in Brazil and it’s fair to assume that England manager Roy Hodgson has a good idea of what his 23-man squad for the tournament will look like.
Hodgson named three goalkeepers, seven defenders, nine midfielders and four strikers in his original touring party for Euro 2012 and is not likely to fiddle with that ratio too much for next summer’s jamboree.
However, the emergence of a number of youngsters who can fill multiple roles could see some slight tweaks to the balance of the former Fulham supremo’s squad.
Despite his recent travails, England number one Joe Hart looks safely on the plane after three clean sheets in the Three Lions’ last four 2014 World Cup qualifiers and is priced up accordingly at 1/33.
Ben Foster – who worked with Hodgson at West Brom – also looks assured of his place in the 23 if he can shake of the injuries that have plagued him this season and is the second shortest-priced of the keepers to be in Brazil at 4/9.
John Ruddy would have hoped to be challenging for his country’s number one jersey by now, but Fraser Forster’s excellent form has put the Norwich stopper’s squad-place in jeopardy.
Shipping seven goals against Man City cannot have helped Ruddy’s cause and with both player’s priced up at 4/6 to make the plane, the Celtic man looks the better bet at present.
In defence, the back four that faced Montenegro can all expect to be travelling to South America in June.
Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Leighton Baines worked well together in the Three Lions’ 4-1 win against the Brave Falcons and Chris Smalling – Walker’s replacement for the 2-0 victory over Poland last time out – is still worth backing at 4/7 as he can play at right-back and centre-half.
Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole – who have established themselves as first-choice full-backs for England – will complete the defensive septet if fit.
Phil Jones’ versatility makes him a banker at 2/5, but he’s likely to be used as a holding-midfielder rather than in his natural position at centre-half with England again lacking in the deep-lying midfield department.
In central midfield, captain Steven Gerrard and Chelsea’s Frank Lampard will both make the plane in what could be the last hurrahs at international level for the two veterans.
Michael Carrick will be required to perform his metronomic passing trick and Jack Wilshere has too much guile to be left at home if fit despite his patchy recent form for club and country.
Ross Barkley was lively in his half-hour run-out against Moldova and his form for Everton this season suggests he could be a midfield ace up Hodgson’s sleeve in Brazil, so the 7/4 about his inclusion looks a very nice price.
On the wings, Andros Townsend must have booked his ticket following game-changing displays in the last two qualifiers and is a good bet at 4/9, as is versatile midfielder/winger James Milner – who can also fill-in at left-back – at 4/7.
Theo Walcott will also make the plane if fit and Danny Welbeck – who has played on the left wing recently – should go as part of a five-strong striking contingent.
Two of the other four forward roles will go to Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, but competition for the other spots will be fiercely contested.
Rickie Lambert performed admirably against Moldova and Ukraine, but Hodgson likes Andy Carroll and if the 6ft 3in Geordie proves his fitness he can win the battle of the big men up front at 2/1.
West Brom youngster Saido Berahino is expected to be given a run-out in England’s upcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany.
With Jermain Defoe out of form, not playing regularly and difficult to back at 5/4, the 20-year-old has a live chance of edging out the Spurs man at 10/1 to be in the 23.