World Cup Watch: Jagielka and Jones to prove England fitness
England defender Phil Jagielka has admitted he is yet to regain full fitness ahead of the World Cup, which the Three Lions are 25/1 shots to win, because of a hamstring injury.
The 31-year-old returned to Everton’s line-up for the final two matches of the Premier League season, but feels he can continue to work on it during tournament warm-up friendlies, and struggled with intensive training.
“I could do with these couple of games before the World Cup just to sharpen up,” Jagielka said. “Warm-weather training last week was a little bit difficult, and it will be difficult this week but it is something I need. I do not feel 100 per cent but I do feel really good at the moment.”
Jagielka is Roy Hodgson’s first-choice centre back partner for Gary Cahill, with Manchester United duo Chris Smalling and Phil Jones the other options on the England roster. The latter has almost resumed full training following a shoulder problem.
Should Jones or Jagielka fail to prove their fitness, however, then the uncapped John Stones – also at Everton – would come into the 23-man squad.
In other news, Croatia have suffered a third withdrawal, as QPR loanee Niko Kranjcar sustained a hamstring injury in the Hoops’ dramatic Championship play-off final win at Wembley over Derby County.
Blazers coach Niko Kovac has also lost left back Ivan Strinic and winger Ilo Ilicevic from his preliminary squad. Just seven midfielders that have senior caps remain on the roster, so there is a real chance that teenager Mario Pasalic, who is to join Chelsea next season, could go to the Brazil finals.
Italy boss Cesare Prandelli, meanwhile, has signed a two-year contract extension and will remain in charge of the Azzurri, 22/1 to win this global tournament, until Euro 2016. The pragmatic manager succeeded World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi, after the embarrassing group stage exit in South Africa four years ago.