Who will Roy Hodgson take to Brazil?
If we all had to sit down today and pick an England squad to play in the 2014 World Cup Finals, it is pretty certain that everybody would be agreed upon, say 16, even as many as 20, of the 23 names Roy Hodgson will be taking to Brazil.
Joe Hart, Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and quite a few others are certain to be on the plane, barring injuries. Indeed, as it stands right now, very few places are up for grabs or debate.
But a lot can change between now and May 13th next year when Hodgson has to name his provisional squad and there may still be time for a few tweaks after that before the final 23 is announced on June 2nd when England will already be ensconced in Rio.
So will there be surprise packets and if so, who will they be? Hodgson has already shown that he is prepared to take risks when the occasion demands (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin, Andros Townsend). Who might he risk on the biggest stage of all?
Coral have opened a market on who goes to Brazil and though defence and attack would seem to be pretty much a closed shop for those wishing to break into the squad, midfield is an area where at least one new talent may knock so hard at the door that he just has to be let in.
Hodgson will take seven or eight midfielders to Brazil (depending on whether he takes four or five strikers) and Gerrard, Townsend, Jack Wilshire and Theo Walcott have probably got four of those positions nailed – Townsend certainly catches the eye at 4/9 to make it following his starring roles against Montenegro and Poland.
Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick are also odds-on to be in the squad, but knocking hard on that door will be Oxlade-Chamberlin (5/4), Tom Cleverley (7/4) and Ross Barkley (7/4). Hodgson has made a point of praising all three during his tenure and it will be a surprise if he doesn’t take at least one of them.
There are also calls for West Ham’s brilliant young midfielder Ravel Morrison (5/1) to be promoted from the Under-21s sooner rather than later and then there’s Aaron Lennon (6/1) and Jack Rodwell (8/1) to consider.
Which is why Hodgson warned the starlets with designs on a place in the squad that there is much work for them to do before they can even jump to the head of the queue of wannabes.
This is a nice position for the England boss to be in and he will see little point in bursting his brain over selection until he has to; injuries and form are ever-changing factors to take into account and, as he says, these problems have a habit of taking care of themselves.