Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
When Roy Hodgson announced his 23-man squad for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil on Monday there were no major surprises – nothing that would have anyone yelling “hold the front page” in newsrooms.
Still, there were positives, particularly the inclusion of several young, up-and-coming players. Hodgson has appeased the marketing men at the FA with established stars such as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in the mix, but the blend of youth and experience is nevertheless highly encouraging.
Carrick and Cole the key omissions
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising decisions made by the 66-year-old manager is to leave Michael Carrick and Ashley Cole behind. Both were offered spots on the squad standby list, but Cole called time on his international career after learning that he was not one of the lucky 23.
The Chelsea left back is fifth in the all-time list of most-capped England players – and was just one game away from matching Bobby Moore’s record number of appearances for a defender in the national squad – but the emergence of Southampton’s Luke Shaw has effectively made
Cole surplus to requirements
Shaw, 18, is one of three Saints players that have made the cut, the others being 26-year-old Adam Lallana, an attacking midfielder, and striker Rickie Lambert, who is one of the more senior players in the squad at 32 years of age.
Carrick, meanwhile, has performed with credit for Manchester United this season, for all that it’s been an extremely turbulent campaign overall for the Red Devils. However, he has been displaced on the plane to Brazil by 20-year-old Ross Barkley.
Barkley, who has three senior caps to his name, has impressed for Everton this season, scoring seven times in 38 appearances, and will be joined by Toffees teammates Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka.
The Liverpool connection
However, the red half of Merseyside accounts for a greater number of players, with no less than five of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool stars set to board the plane for Brazil, including the hugely exciting Raheem Sterling.
Sterling, 19, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Glen Johnson and Daniel Sturridge make up the quintet of Reds players in the squad. They all played big parts in Liverpool’s strong title challenge this season and their on-field synergy will be an asset for England this summer.
The bookmakers’ reaction
To be honest, there hasn’t been one. Looking at the outright 2014 World Cup betting odds the Three Lions are still generally available at 33/1, though William Hill are a shade more cautious, going 25/1 about England.
If you’re keen to have a patriotic punt on the World Cup, but not brave enough to back Hodgson’s men to emulate their heroics of 1966 in this year’s tournament, there are a multitude of specials markets being offered by bookies.
One of the most popular us likely to be the England Top Goalscorer betting. Predictably, Rooney heads the list at 5/2 pretty much across the board, with Sturridge next best at a standout 13/4 with 888sport.
A sporting bet in that market could be Sterling at 25s with Bet365. He’s been a regular on the scoresheet for Liverpool this term and, with his confidence sky high, it would be no surprise were he to make waves in Brazil this summer.