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Head To Head: The Unlucky Seven

World Cup squad announcements are usually met with disbelief, although in the case of Roy Hodgson’s big reveal on Monday afternoon the surprises were seemingly kept to a minimum.

Of course, that doesn’t mean to say that everybody has agreed with his selection policy. After naming his initial 23-man squad, Hodgson went on to announce seven players that might still make the plane if any injuries occur. Some people are under the belief that certain names should have been upgraded to the main squad, while others are suggesting that some players shouldn’t have even be put on standby.

In a bid to see just how these backup players stand, here is a lowdown on how they fare against the players who have most likely taken their place in the main squad.

    

John Ruddy v Fraser Forster

In some ways, John Ruddy must be one of the unluckiest players involved in the England setup. After receiving a shock call up for Euro 2012, he was sent home after just two days after breaking his finger in training. Despite being involved in practically every international squad since then, the Norwich shot-stopper has been told at the final hurdle that he’s now fourth choice behind Joe Hart, Ben Foster and Fraser Forster.

It’s the latter of these names which is understood to have taken his place. Just like Ruddy, Forster also has one cap to his name. The big difference between the two is that while Ruddy has conceded 62 goals whilst playing in a relegated team, Forster has been part of the title-winning Celtic side that let in just twenty two goals. When you also factor in the twenty one clean sheets that Forster made, it starts to become clear what Hodgson based his decision on.

    

Michael Carrick v Adam Lallana

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the squad came in the form of Michael Carrick, who was turned down instead of younger models such as Adam Lallana. Carrick’s international career appeared to be over in Euro 2012, when he refused to be named on the standby list. However, after forcing his way back into Hodgson’s plans over the last couple of years, the general consensus was that the 32-year-old would be travelling to Brazil.

It looks as though a disappointing domestic season with Manchester United has hindered such hopes. With Adam Lallana proving to be one of the most creative players in the Premiership this season, there was only going to be one winner if a choice had to be made between the two. While creativity has never been one of Carrick’s main attributes, when it comes to basic form he was comfortably beaten and as such, his international career could be over.

    

Tom Cleverley v Ross Barkley

Another Manchester United midfielder who has been the subject of plenty of criticism has been Tom Cleverley. At one point, he was meant to be the next big thing of English football – but that mantle now seems to have been passed over to his replacement in the squad, Ross Barkley.

It would be fair to say that Cleverley has been dealt some rough hands through the season; let’s not forget there was that online petition that aimed to “ban him" from the World Cup squad. He’s been a long way from his best in the United midfield, and many believe that he could be one of the casualties as the Red Devils revamp their squad. There’s every chance that someone like Barkley could replace him at club level as well, with several of the big hitting European outfits casting an eye on the dynamic Everton midfielder following a string of impressive performances.

This is one of Hodgson’s which certainly pleased most England followers, who were delighted that the manager, once regarded as being rather cautious, would pledge his faith in a young player like Barkley over more experienced heads.

    

Jermaine Defoe v Danny Welbeck

The omission of Jermaine Defoe has probably raised a few eyebrows and while one could claim that the emergence of Daniel Sturridge this season has pushed the 31-year-old down the pecking order, if anything the Toronto striker has been in competition with Danny Welbeck for that final striker’s place.

Defoe can be regarded as a typical poacher and while he might be anonymous for large spells of a game, the fact he has nineteen goals from fifty five international caps shows what a threat he has been to opponents. He made the switch to Toronto earlier this season to enhance his call-up potential and a return of three goals in four games made many think that he could be given a place in Roy’s squad – especially after he also scored ten for Tottenham prior to his move.

When this is compared to Danny Welbeck, who has just scored once since January, it’s no surprise to hear that some supporters are concerned. Admittedly, Welbeck can be utilised in other positions and he was one of the star performers at Euro 2012, but on current form one could say that Defoe has been extremely unlucky to be overlooked this time around.

    

Jon Flanagan v Chris Smalling

Manchester United’s poor season has meant that a lot of their players have come under criticism, and Chris Smalling can be classed in this bracket. On the other side of the spectrum we have Liverpool, who have had a host of players performing at their peak and youngster Jon Flanagan is one of these.

One could argue that Chris Smalling’s versatility, particularly the fact that he can operate at both right back and centre-half, is the reason he was given the nod. However, on the other side of the coin we have 21-year-old Jon Flanagan, who is primarily right-footed but has still been able to play much of the season at left-back.

Of course, the thing that works against Flanagan is his lack of experience and he is still yet to accumulate a cap for his country. Still, if any of the full backs do drop out, his form throughout the campaign suggests he’ll be able to comfortably do a job in the England shirt.

    

John Stones v Phil Jones

Out of all of the players on standby, John Stones probably has the best chance of jumping on the plane next month. Roy Hodgson has already said that the Everton defender will be upgraded to the 23-man squad, if Phil Jones does not recover from the shoulder injury picked up several weeks ago.

While this injury wasn’t as severe as first thought, his recovery is still not guaranteed and this could present an excellent opportunity for a youngster who was playing in the Championship for Barnsley last term.

Like most of the standby list, there have also been suggestions from some pundits that Stones should have been in the squad already. He has established himself as one of the steadiest centre-halves in the country, while Jones has again been part of that leaky Manchester United defence. Jones also hasn’t managed to cement a permanent position in the Red Devils line-up, although he does have nine caps to his name – which is nine more than 19-year-old Stones.

    

Andy Carroll v Rickie Lambert

This final showdown really is battle of the beasts, with both of these players having physical presences that no other England striker offers. In the case of Andy Carroll, a lot of people are surprised that he has even made the standby list, after scoring just twice in an injury-plagued campaign.

Lambert on the other hand has had another successful season, bagging sixteen goals in all competitions. Of course, he’s only got four England caps to his name, but having scored in two of those games he’s already shown that he has what it takes to perform on this stage. You could bring the small issue of accumulated transfer fees into the picture – with Carroll costing a combined £50m over the course of his career, while Lambert’s figure is a meagre £1.5m. Nevertheless, even though Carroll does have that heavyweight reputation in world football, there was no doubt that Lambert was going to come on top following yet another successful top flight campaign.