Southampton sensation Shaw and Cardiff’s Caulker chosen by England
Injuries to regular squad members Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones have seen England manager Roy Hodgson hand a recall to Cardiff City centre back Steven Caulker.
The lynchpin of the Bluebirds backline has played every minute of their maiden Premier League campaign, but is part of a rear-guard that’s let in 48 goals.
In short, the Three Lions are rewarding a player who, although his talent and potential are not in question, is jointly responsible for the second-worst defensive record in the top-flight.
Caulker’s price of going to Brazil was halved by Coral from 8/1 to 4/1 and have shortened to 3/1, while Cardiff are odds-on favourites at 3/10 to go down this season.
Aged 22, Caulker has a great chance of playing in the forthcoming friendly with Denmark too, as he is one of just three natural central defenders selected by Hodgson on a 30-man roster.
He scored on his senior debut against Sweden in November 2012, but England conceded four – all to Zlatan Ibrahimovic – and lost 4-2.
Regular Gary Cahill (1/20 to be in the World Cup squad) is joined by Manchester United’s Chris Smalling (8/13). They join Caulker in competing for two berths against the Danes. Jagielka (1/6) and Jones (4/11) remain locks to be in Brazil if they can stay fit, however.
On a more positive note, Southampton’s highly-rated teenage left back Luke Shaw has received his first senior international call and is now also 4/1 to make the cut. Leighton Baines and centurion Ashley Cole (both 1/20) are also included on the roster, but Hodgson will be looking closely at the new boy.
“Anyone who has watched him play would not deny he deserves a place,” the Three Lions boss said of Shaw. “I think it was the right moment to invite him along with us. We are very well off in this position but he wants to compete for a place on the plane to Brazil.”
Shaw’s Saints teammates Adam Lallana (10/11), Rickie Lambert (9/4) and Jay Rodriguez all keep their places on the roster. Hodgson has also included four goalies as West Bromwich Albion stopper Ben Foster (4/9) is fit again. Joe Hart (1/50), John Ruddy (4/5) and Fraser Forster (4/7) are named too.
The nod to youth continues with Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling (6/4) promoted from the Under-21 setup again after his recent eye-catching displays.
Caulker’s temporary Cardiff teammate Wilfried Zaha (16/1) has not been so fortunate, however. Like fellow forward Saido Berahino (6/1), he remains a Young Lion for now.
Arsenal attacker Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (4/5) is also back in after fully recovering from a knee injury sustained on the opening day of the Premier League season. Tottenham counterpart Andros Townsend (4/11) keeps his place despite struggling with niggling problems over the winter.
Including Toronto-bound Jermain Defoe (9/4), who is not fit to play for Tottenham in Europa League action, and much-maligned United midfielder Tom Cleverley (13/8) are eyebrow-raising selections from Hodgson.
Defoe is simply not going to be playing at a high enough level between now and the World Cup to be a serious candidate to go. Many commentators would have preferred Everton’s Gareth Barry (5/1), on loan from Manchester City, to be brought back instead of keeping Cleverley in the squad.
West Ham target man Andy Carroll (4/1), who provided three assists in four matches before picking up a ludicrous red card against Swansea City, is a notable absentee.
He may be competing with Lambert for one spot when it comes to the final 23-man World Cup squad, but Hodgson has missed a trick here by ignoring a fresh player.
Sunderland winger Adam Johnson (another 4/1 shot) has also missed out on a recall, despite his rejuvenation under Gus Poyet and a pending appearance in the Capital One Cup final.
Ross Barkley (8/15), Jordan Henderson (5/4) and Jack Wilshere (1/6) provide energetic midfield legs alongside usual suspects Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and James Milner (all odds-on).
Right back and attack have a familiar look too, with the inclusions of Glen Johnson (1/5), Kyle Walker (2/7), Danny Welbeck (1/6), Daniel Sturridge (1/8) and Wayne Rooney (1/50).
Hodgson stressed his selections are not definitive yet but, given the cautious reputation he has, punters should not expect the squad to differ violently from how it looks now.