England's World Cup Squad 2006 - Contenders and pretenders
National team boss Sven Goran Eriksson rarely changes his team as it is and commenting the other day that he has 21 of the 23 names in his head already it appears that with only two places left and the door closing any one wanting to wear the three lions in June will have to get their skates on.
Baring injury, metertasal or otherwise, names such as Lampard, Beckham, Rooney and Owen are already packing their bags but who else will be hoping to rise the wave of form into the England squad.
Goalkeepers - Contenders
Since David Seaman's retirement in 2003 Paul Robinson has made the number one jersey his own. A string of outstanding performances in a Tottenham shirt and rarely looking troubled internationally only injury will stop him making the trip. Usually deputising is Man City's goalkeeper David James who was number on until Robinson's transfer from Leeds into the Premiership.
Goalkeepers - Pretenders
Robert Green - Nearly single handidly saving Norwich from relegation with a string of excellent performances, Green's only trouble is his status playing for Championship Norwich however a move in January or a promotion charge from the Canaries may see his chance open back up.
Chris Kirkland - With injury threatening to wreck his career the on loan Liverpool stopper may well lose his dream due to a lack of performances and consistency as Sven looks for a reliable backup. Undoubtably talanted but needs a consistent run in 2006 if he wants to get back into contention.
Nigel Martin - The only thing seemingly preventing Martin from being recalled to the England squad is his age as Sven may be looking for a deputy with youth on his side. Superb at shot stopping and experienced at International level in major tournaments may count for something if his form stays at a high level.
Outside shots but look out for:
Stuart Taylor - Free of Arsenal shackles, talanted but needs games to prove hos worth
Carlo Cudicini - Yes he qualifies so why not take advantage of him
Richard Wright: Already capped could be a good stand in but unfavoured because of his current squad status.
Defenders - Contenders
Arguably England's strongest area is central defense with Arsenal's Campbell, Chelsea's Terry and United's Ferdinand battling for the two starting spots in England's backline. With Ashley Cole and Gary Neville imovable from the defensive flank roles the free spots will some as back up to the above mentioned stars.
Johnny Woodgate - Outstanding but injury prone central defender needs to find a consistent run of form in the Real team if he wants to board the plane to Germany. Sureing up one of Europe's leakiest backlines will endeer him so Sven no end.
Wayne Bridge - Once and England started but after Cole matured simply a back up though Sven has used the pairing several times. His keeness to take Bridge can be seen by his inclusion in every England squad since his takeover in 2001, if he can find fitness and a place in the Chelsea team, the England one may be beckoning.
Matthew Upson - Once an England regular the Birmingham defenders task has become more difficult because of the fall of his team. Confident and assured Upson simply needs to lead Birmingham to clean sheets if he wants to get noticed.
Zat Knight - Making England's squad in 2005 touring the USA Knight looked assured at the back but will have to prove he can offer something other than defensive qualities if he wants to become an England regular.
Ledley King - In the same way which the previously mentioned Knight made his way onto the scene King has provided versitility as Sven has commonly chosen to use the Spurs central defender as a holding midfielder. Strong in both areas King offers goals from set pieces and calm defending, options which make him an almost certainty.
Luke Young - Replaced Gary Neville in England's last four games and it was as if the United defender was still playing. Using his pace both defensively and in attacking areas the Charlton defender didnt look out of place and would make an excellent deputy if called upon again.
Paul Konchesky - Capped at Under 21 level the former Addicks defender has slipped into West Ham's defender and has done very well. Defensively sound and with enough energy to attack and Paul would make excellent cover for Cole.
Stephen Warnock - Replaced Ashley Cole in the summer Warnocks work at Liverpool was rewarded by a call up. Slightly less attacking minded than other choices, Stephen has youth on his side and energy in bundles, he could be an excellent choice if England were planning to secure up the defense late on in a game.
Outside shots but look out for:
Glen Johnson - Forgotten at Chelsea, Johnson needs to play games and prove his quality.
Anton Ferdinand - Looking impressive at West Ham needs to show his brothers quality and hope for injuries if he wants to travel.
Michael Dawson - Confident alongside King at Spurs will have to hope to show what he can do and in a hurry.
Midfielders - Contenders
Another area which England are blessed in is midfielders. Lampard and Gerrard are a phoenominally talanted pair and after finally seeing signs of them gelling it appears there are no other spots except for those backing them up available in the middle third of the pitch.
Captain Beckham fills the right hand role with Shaun Wright Phillips looking to build on an impressive England debut, that is if he can find games at Chelsea, his place taken by one of the on form men in the side Joe Cole who appears to have made the left side his own after years of panic about having no natural left sided player.
Midfidlers - Pretenders
Joey Barton - Finally appearing to have shrugged off temper issues Barton has been been to Man City what Gerrard has been to Liverpool, everything. Box to box running, goals and creativity are all possed by Barton who seems to have an outside chance of making the World Cup.
Kevin Nolan - Long touted by his manager to appear in the England squad it appears that Big Sam at Bolton isnt the only one who sees his captains England potential. Gifted attackingly Nolan finds key roles in the mould of a scholes to find the net frequantly at Bolton.
Scott Parker - After finding his way at Newcastle after leaving Chelsea Parker has been instrumental in lifting the Geordies up the league this year. Injury is a concern for Parker who's all or nothing game would offer something different to the England manager.
Michael Carrick - At Spurs Carrick has worked up an excellent partnership with Davids and it is felt he could to the same with Gerrard or Lampard. Working hard on his game over the past nine months Carrick appears to crusie through games with quality passing and creativity.
Kieren Richardson - After an amazing set of performances out in the USA for England, Richardson has come from nowhere to be a contender in the England squad. His defensive qualities have seen Richardon become a left back at Old Trafford but undoubatbly quality going forward Richardson could being quality to the left or central midfield areas.
Stuart Downing - An excellent season two years ago left Downing as the main contender to Joe Cole's left wing position, however injury have cut his games this season short. Soon back to full fitness Downing's performances between now and June will see whether or not he can reach the level expected of an England player.
Danny Murphy - Widely expected to make the Argentina squad before injury, Murphy's world cup in 2002 was also wrecked by injury. Clever and inventive in deep roles Murphy is excellent from set pieces and would be a good choice during tight games.
Long shots but also look out for:
Gareth Barry - Recommended as a defender a couple of years ago Barry is now a fixture in the Villa midfielder but most likely to selected as a defender in an England squad.
James Milner - Barry's Villa team mate is bring and sprightly and would being energy to any game.
James Morrison - Along with Downing an excellent player from the Boro youth academy needs to find goals as well as good performances if he wants to play.
Jermain Pennant - Another player who has shifted up a gear since losing an apparent tempremant problem, Pennant looks to be something like the player Arsenal signed at 15 years of age.
Stephen Davies - Great potential at Villa, probably asking alot to become a member of the England squad in his first full season but if he continues to perform the way he has been then maybe he has an outside chance.
Paul Scholes - May have retired internationally but the big tournament has brought back Zidane, Figo and Larsson maybe Sven can change the mind of one of his favourite players.
Forwards - Contenders
The England strike force is easily one of the most talanted in the world. young Wayne Rooney and the still young Michael Owen posess goals, pace and even experience at the worlds top level.
Peter Crouch will also probably board the plane to Germany as a player who offers something different whether being used along side of instead of one of the starting two. The other place is up for grabs it seems.
Forwards - Pretenders
Darren Bent - Missing out on the Argentina squad because of injury, Bent has made an excellent start to his England career. Superb for the under 21's before their playoff defeat he offers pace and ariel threat beyond other choices.
Andy Johnson - Another forgotten man due to his clubs status a top flight move appears to beckon for Johnson who did well in the Premiership last year. Naturally talanted as a goalscorer if England need a goal then Johnson may be the man to get it.
Jermain Defoe - Lively and pacey Defoe has made every squad since 2004 and some feel he should have gone to Portugal for the Euro's. Needs to re-find his place in the Spurs team and score some goals to get back on top form.
Darius Vassell - Brought to life back at Manchester City, another of Sven's 'favourite' Vasell brings England a link between the midfield and strikers as well as electric pace and a great finish.
Outside shots but also consider:
Kevin Davies - Excellent target man for Bolton could being his country something different if we need to keep the ball.
James Beattie - Another excellent holding striker, big strong and good in the air needs to add goals.
Alan Shearer - In his final season and retired from International football how the English public would love to see Alan back in the England fold.