England World Cup Roster 2014: Updates on 23-Man Squad, Starting 11 Projections
England sealed qualification to the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a convincing 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley, avoiding the need for a nervous playoff clash next month.
Attention has now turned to the finals next summer and which sides England could possibly meet, as well as which players could be selected by Roy Hodgson for the tournament.
There are, fortunately, plenty of options, with a group of younger players impressing in the early stages of the Premier League season to make their case for inclusion.
Let's take a look at the latest updates on injuries that could hamper Hodgson's planning, while predicting a possible starting XI and squad based on recent form and selections.
Squad Update: Feb. 28, 2014
Just as Roy Hodgson's last squad involved the surprise selection of Southampton's Jay Rodriguez for November's friendlies, teammate Luke Shaw was summoned to the Three Lions' 30-man group for the March 5 contest against Denmark.
As reported by The FA's official website, Shaw joins Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert as the Saints' representation for the Wembley encounter. The 18-year-old left-back is said to have shed a celebratory tear after hearing the news, per Colin Harvey of the Daily Star.
Another youngster deservedly called up for his hard work is Raheem Sterling, who has excelled for Liverpool this season. Afforded 22 Premier League appearances for the Reds by Brendan Rodgers, Sterling has produced five goals in a three-pronged attack alongside Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, more than earning his recall.
The form of Ross Barkley, Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley has dipped in recent times, but they all remain in Hodgson's plans for the Denmark game. Jermain Defoe—who said goodbye to Tottenham fans ahead of his move to Toronto FC shortly after the squad announcment, per Paul Brown of the Daily Star—is also retained.
Gareth Barry and Adam Johnson are amongst the players who may have been called up on recent form, but ultimately missed out.
World Cup Warm-Up Fixtures Announced, Jan. 16
England will have ample opportunity to blend their starting XI, and test one or two fringe members of the squad, ahead of the World Cup after their fixture schedule was announced.
The FA has confirmed encounters with Ecuador, Honduras and Peru, in addition to the March 5 meeting with Denmark.
Colin Harvey of the Daily Star quoted Roy Hodgson saying:
I'm delighted with the games we have been able to secure and the program running up to the World Cup in general.
I was clear to those responsible at The FA that I was looking for Central and South American opposition ahead of the tournament and that is exactly what has been delivered.
Of the three nations, Peru will be first to play England on May 30 at Wembley, handing fans of the Three Lions chance to give their side a positive send-off for Brazil.
Ecuador and Honduras will then follow on June 4 and June 7 respectively, both played at the Miami Dolphins' home stadium.
A week later comes England's opening World Cup match against Italy.
Key to the choice of opposition is surely the style of football Hodgson will need to play in the baking hot conditions of Brazil. A slow tempo, possession game is necessary, and teams from South America and Central America excel in such football.
England recently got a footballing lesson from Chile, who triumphed easily at Wembley, so Hodgson will look for improvement ahead of that Italy showdown.
Theo Walcott Blow, Jan. 7, 2014
England have suffered their first major injury setback of the World Cup year, after Theo Walcott was ruled out of the Brazilian showpiece.
After coming off injured in Saturday's 2-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur, the club regrettably announces thatTheo Walcotthas sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee.
Theo will have surgery in London in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, therefore missing the remainder of the season and the World Cup in Brazil in the summer.
Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror sums up Walcott's bad luck:
Define World Cup bad luck: 2006 picked but don't play 1 minute, 2010 miss out, manager admits should have picked u, 2014 injured = Walcott— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) January 6, 2014
The injury represents desperate news not only for the player, but also his country. Walcott is England's most experienced right-winger, and he has pace to burn when fit.
Boss Roy Hodgson would almost certainly have included the Arsenal man in his final squad, knowing that Walcott can be used either on the right flank or through the middle.
The former Southampton youngster had been in fine form when injury struck, netting five goals in as many games in all competitions prior to the Tottenham fixture.
In his absence, Hodgson will likely turn to Andros Townsend as his first-choice right-winger, although he has plenty of alternatives options.
James Milner can provide a more disciplined option if England need to protect their right-back, but Walcott was surely Hodgson's No. 1 pick.
His absence prompted much reaction on Twitter, even reaching the world of golf:
Gutted Arsenal and England will miss him. Wenger needs to buy someone RT @Idahoutd you still haven't given us a take on your boy Walcott— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) January 7, 2014
Spotlight will now be on Arsene Wenger and Hodgson, who must react positively in Walcott's absence.
Post-Game Analysis, Nov. 21, 2013
England's friendly defeats against Chile and Germany gave Roy Hodgson plenty of time to test his fringe players. While a useful experiment for the Three Lions boss, those fighting for a place in the World Cup squad produced mixed results.
Southampton's Adam Lallana performed well in both games and looked comfortable in an England shirt. The 25-year-old was assured on the ball, worked hard and confirmed he has the technical ability to compete against some of international football's best midfielders.
As reported by Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph, Hodgson believes Lallana has played himself into contention for a place on the plane to Brazil.
The same can't be said for Jay Rodriguez, his Southampton teammate. Rodriguez played just 57 minutes of the two matches and failed to assert himself against an energetic Chile side. Hodgson saw no point in trying the forward against Germany and instead opted to give Rickie Lambert another chance up top.
Manchester City's Joe Hart fought against constant criticism to perform excellently against Joachim Low's team.
The recently dropped goalkeeper, who has seen his place in Manuel Pellegrini's side disappear under the weight of Costel Pantilimon, made an impressive array of stops to keep England in the game against their old foes.
As noted in Wilson's report, Hodgson believes the stopper has strengthened his position as England No. 1, a notion reinforced after Fraser Forster conceded two against Chile.
Hart may have suffered one wobble when he clattered Chris Smalling in the match with Germany, but he ended the game with his authority firmly established.
Elsewhere, Ross Barkley enhanced his reputation with a fearless cameo in the second fixture, enhancing his chances of being a wildcard selection for Hodgson's squad.
Kieran Gibbs also made a substitute appearance against the Germans and could be added to the group travelling to Brazil as cover for Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines.
Squad Update: Nov. 7, 2013
England boss Roy Hodgson made a surprise call when naming his squad for the friendly matches against Chile and Germany.
As highlighted in the FA's official report, Southampton's Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana have the chance to impress in front of the Wembley crowd.
This is the first time Rodriguez has received a call up, while Lallana is yet to capture his first cap after joining the squad for Sept. 2012's World Cup qualifier with Ukraine.
Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend and Ricky Lambert retain their place in Hodgson's selection after recently breaking into the international setup. Liverpool's Jordan Henderson returns to the fray after struggling to gain the manager's interest after Euro 2012.
Teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also remains on the sidelines with a knee problem, per Jack Wilson of the Daily Star, while West Ham's Andy Carroll recently suffered another setback during his recovery from a heel injury, as confirmed by Tony Banks of the Express.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, Ravel Morrison and Saido Berahino were all fancied to make the cut, but were included in Gareth Southgate's England Under-21 squad instead, per the FA's official report.
Fitness News: Oct 16. 2013
England's main long-term injury worry is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Per BBC Sport, he will be out of action until November.
The Arsenal player damaged cruciate ligaments in August and will have his recovery monitored by the England staff.
Potential squad member Andy Carroll, who is yet to feature this campaign, has no foreseeable return date from his heel injury, per the Daily Star, and will be concerned for his chances of appearing next summer.
As time continues to count down toward the June tournament, the opportunity for Carroll to find form for a long enough period to win favour continues to diminish.
Goal.com's Wayne Veysey reports that Theo Walcott is set to return to action following surgery on an abdominal injury, while Ashley Cole's rib injury should not keep him out much longer—given that the Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson had reported he could have returned in time for the Poland clash.
Projected Starting XI
Using recent international fixtures as the basis for judgement, the following can be expected to be England's starting XI for the first match of next summer's World Cup.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Right-back: Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Left-back: Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Centre-backs: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Right wing: Andros Townsend (Tottenham)
Left wing: Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
No. 10: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Centre forward: Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Probable Squad Members
Fraser Forster, John Ruddy, Kyle Walker, Leighton Baines, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere, James Milner, Rickie Lambert, Jermain Defoe, Tom Cleverley, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Adam Lallana.
Possible Squad Members
Jack Butland, Ben Foster, Luke Shaw, Steven Caulker, Joleon Lescott, Michael Dawson, Kieran Gibbs, Micah Richards, Carl Jenkinson, Danny Rose, Ravel Morrison, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jonjo Shelvey, Gareth Barry, Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Young, Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Zaha, Nathan Redmond, Andy Carroll, Jay Rodriguez.