England’s World Cup left back problems
The fact a definite England starter faces a battle to be fit ahead of a World Cup should come as no surprise. Ashley Cole might not be as important a figure as Bryan Robson was in 1990, David Beckham was in 2002 or Wayne Rooney was in 2006, but his prospective absence is exacerbated by the unusual circumstances that might prevent his understudy from taking his place in South Africa.
Wayne Bridge is thought to be considering his international future, apparently uncomfortable in sharing a dressing room with John Terry. Even without this complication, Bridge’s selection should be doubtful, as his form and fitness has been a worry over the last 18 months.
So who is next in line to play 2010 World Cup Football for England? Stephen Warnock was in the squad to face Brazil in November and as an important part of the Premier League’s tightest defence deserves serious consideration. He is defensively sound and although he lacks Cole’s marauding attacking instincts, he is the most reliable option.
Everton’s Leighton Baines is another safe pair of hands, whose crossing ability and dead ball prowess might give him the edge, whilst his Goodison Park team-mate Phil Neville might tempt Fabio Capello due to his ability to play in midfield as well as across the back four.
Versatility is one of Joleon Lescott’s strengths, as the big centre half is as comfortable at full back as he is in the centre. Unfortunately Lescott has been hit by the same Manchester City injury jinx and form dip that has affected Bridge and Capello should have enough options in his 23-man squad to choose specialists in every position.
This should prevent him from leaning towards James Milner, as some commentators have suggested. A handful of games at right back hardly qualify an attacking midfielder as a serious left back alternative, although the Villa man’s excellent form means Capello will be keen to fit him in somewhere, with competition for midfield berths tough.
Warnock is the man who should get the nod, although Capello will be keen to get some positive feedback from the Chelsea medical staff concerning Cole. One thing is for sure, England cannot afford any more injuries to major players as it will begin to affect FIFA World Cup Betting as far as the Three Lions are concerned.