In with a shout? England’s World Cup hopefuls

With the World Cup just a matter of months away the fight for places on Fabio Capello’s plane to South Africa has already begun. Here, I take a look at the players who will be fighting for those final places.

Joe Hart – The Birmingham goalkeeper has been in fantastic form this season and, for goal-keepers, we all know how much confidence can improve performances. On performances this season Hart could even be regarded as first choice for the World Cup. Capello is a brave man and if he has been watching like the rest of us then don’t be surprised to see Hart with no.1 on his back.

Michael Dawson – Now Tottenham captain, Harry Redknapp has shown faith in a player who has been improving year by year. As long as he can remain injury free until the end of the season, Dawson could be seen as the automatic replacement for Terry or Ferdinand. Good in the air, strong and a confident passer, he ticks all the boxes for a competent defender.

Matthew Upson – Another player whose progress has been hampered by injuries. Looked very assured in defence whilst playing for England against Brazil in the last friendly and will have impressed Capello with that performance. Given that that was against one of the World Cup favourites he will be feeling very confident going in to the World Cup if selected.

Theo Walcott – Guaranteed a place? Far from it at the moment. Not only has the Arsenal winger struggled to get over niggling injuries but he has also looked well below par when playing. Hopefully this is just a case of a lack of match practice for one of England’s most important players if fit and on form. He certainly has some point proving to do.

Ashley Young – Not regarded as one of Capello’s most favoured players. Certainly the same cannot be said for Martin O’Neill who has almost come close to stating that his winger is the best in the World. Realistically Young is a very gifted player. He has bags of pace and a lethal cross but he has failed to show this in his appearances for England. I’m not sure if Capello is a gambling man but he may well look to Young if he is.

Michael Carrick – The silent assassin. Carrick has been one of United’s best players in recent games. His passing is on a par with the best in the League and he has a wealth of experience in top games. Arguably should have a starting spot ahead of Gareth Barry on current form but will the history of partnerships that work be his downfall. Will be interesting to see none the less.

Joe Cole – What might have been of Joe Cole if it wasn’t for injuries? However, his return could not have been better timed with just enough time to get some matches under his belt and stake a claim for the squad. An outsider in my eyes but certainly has the potential to prove me wrong.

Carlton Cole – Injuries seem to be the order of the day. Cole was in fantastic form this season for West Ham. Links with Arsenal and Liverpool in the transfer window will have shown Capello just how highly regarded this player is. Certainly offers an alternative to Emile Heskey and is arguably the better footballer of the two.

Michael Owen – A bit like marmite on this one. You’re either desperate for him to go or really don’t think he should. Capello is certainly the latter but with the nation divided in opinion he will still feel he is in with a chance. Certainly if he displays the predatory instinct we all know he has, it may be hard to leave a proven goal machine at home.

Tough choices all around. Who’d like to be in Capello’s shoes hey? I don’t think I would.