England kicked off their preparations for the World Cup this week with the announcement of Roy Hodgson’s 23 man squad and 7 standbys. Hodgson has learned from the mistakes of previous bosses by naming a squad that blends youthful energy with experience. The inclusion of Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley is unsurprising given that both players have had sensational seasons. Shaw got the nod ahead of the experienced Ashley Cole who misses out and is now set to retire from international football. Also missing out is Toronto’s Jermaine Defoe who is reduced to the standby list with Rickie Lambert picking up the fourth striker position. Lambert to be fair has been in great form for Southampton who shocked many with their 8th place finish in the EPL. It is believed that Hodgson went for Lambert over Defoe as the latter was too similar in style to the other strikers in the squad – Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge. With Wayne Rooney the starting striker, Hodgson preferred to take Lambert over Andy Carroll as the powerful Alan Shearer type striking option. It will be the first time in history that Southampton will have three players in an England World Cup squad with Adam Lallana joining Lambert and Shaw in the squad. The midfielder, who is rumoured to be a Liverpool target will offer Hodgson an additional attacking threat, and may even get the starting spot over Chelsea’s Frank Lampard.
Belgium manager Marc Wilmots surprised few with his squad selection with only two names standing out. Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj has finally decided to pledge his loyalty to Belgium despite several other options on the table and has been rewarded in kind with a place in the 23 man Belgium squad heading to Brazil. In too is 19 year old Lille striker Divock Origi, who gains his place in the squad thanks in part to the injury to Christian Benteke who has been ruled out of the tournament with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Surprisingly though there is no place for Thorgen Hazard who has been in blistering form this season and recently won Belgian League player of the year. However he will have to settle for a place in the standby list unless an injury to a fellow midfielder grants him his chance. Thorgen will be praying that chance is not at the expense of his older brother, Eden Hazard as they look to be the first Belgian brothers to play together in the World Cup since the Mpenza brothers in 1998.
Fellow Group H contenders Russia left out two noticeable names when their manager Fabio Capello announced his 30 man provisional squad. The exclusion of Andrey Arshavin from the list suggests that the former Arsenal man’s international career is now over and there are doubts too about former Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko too after his omission. But it’s the inclusion of Reading’s Pavel Pogrebnyak that has most people talking. So far he has never featured in a Russia team under Capello but it appears now has a shot of becoming an option from the bench for the former England coach. Capello still has to cull his squad down to 23 so Pogrebnyak is right not to celebrate just yet but he is one step closer than Arshavin or Pavlyuchenko.
Two players who will also be disappointed not to be going to Brazil are Manchester City duo Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy after they were left out of France’s World Cup plans. Didier Deschamps believes that the pair didn’t show enough this season to warrant a place in his team which has a strong EPL bias with nine players selected who are plying their trade in England. Nasri failed to comment on the inclusion unlike his girlfriend who took to twitter to blast the French team and their manager in a vile outburst. Also missing out are uncapped wonder kid Kurt Zouma as well as Lyon trio of Yoann Gourcuff, Bafetimbi Gomis and Alexandre Lacazette although the latter striker is on the standby list. Group E opponents Switzerland have also named their squad with little to no surprises in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s selection. The team that was unbeaten in qualifying had been ravished by injuries of late but with the return of influential winger Xherdan Shaqiri and goalkeeper Diego Benaglio plus the positive signs of the recuperation of Tranquillo Barnetta, Switzerland should be at full strength going into their first game against Ecuador.
For Spain’s opponents in Group B, a weak Spanish squad is something they were praying for but unfortunately will not experience after head coach Vicente Del Bosque named his provisional squad. The current World and European Champions are looking to make history by completing a unique quadruple by lifting the trophy in Brazil and have named a squad full of talent and experience to do so. The inclusion of Iker Casillas was not unexpected despite featuring only on a few occasions this season for Real Madrid but the man who displaced him Diego Lopez does miss out. Also in the squad is Fernando Torres after yet another disappointing season at Chelsea. His soon to be replacement Diego Costa on the other hand has had a breathtaking season with Atletico Madrid and books his spot on the plane back to his country of birth, Brazil. Del Bosque still needs to axe seven players from the team before he confirms his final selection so Torres spot may not be as secure as others but given his past endeavours for Spain, it would be foolish of Del Bosque not to take him. The news that Thiago needs knee surgery so will miss the tournament is a blow for Spain but with a wealth of riches in midfield, the current champions should be able to cope without him.