England manager Roy Hodgson struck a note of cautious optimism after naming a youthful 23-man squad for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Last night it had already emerged that Ashley Cole had retired from international football after 107 caps after being overlooked at left-back in favour of Leighton Baines and 18-year-old Luke Shaw, one of two teenagers included along with Raheem Sterling. "Among many difficult decisions I've had to make for my squad, not selecting Ashley was one of the hardest," Hodgson said.
Otherwise the squad is largely as expected, with Kyle Walker missing out at right-back after recent injury problem. Experience is represented in the shape of captain Steven Gerrard and fellow midfielder Frank Lampard, each with more than a century of appearances.
Hodgson, who has selected only 12 of the 23-man squad that reached the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals and will take John Stones and Jon Flanagan with the squad while Phil Jones recovers from injury, added of his younger picks: "They've done so well in their club teams and had such success that they have imposed their ability on my thinking. You can't ignore what people are doing on a week-to-week basis.
"Do I believe the squad can win the World Cup? Yes, otherwise what is the point of taking the squad to the World Cup? But they are empty words, I'm sure the other teams are saying [the same thing]. But if we are going to win it, this talented group of players have to show their talent. We are right to have some degree of optimism."
His side will play three warm-up friendlies after they first meet up in Portugal next Monday, facing Peru at Wembley on 30 May then travelling to Miami to take on Ecuador on 4 June and Honduras three days later. In World Cup Group D England encounter Italy in Manaus on 14 June, Uruguay in Sao Paulo five days later, then Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on 24 June.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic FC), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion FC), Joe Hart (Manchester City FC).
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton FC), Gary Cahill (Chelsea FC), Phil Jagielka (Everton FC), Glen Johnson (Liverpool FC), Phil Jones (Manchester United FC), Luke Shaw (Southampton FC), Chris Smalling (Manchester United FC).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton FC), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool FC), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool FC), Adam Lallana (Southampton FC), Frank Lampard (Chelsea FC), James Milner (Manchester City FC), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal FC), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool FC), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal FC).
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Southampton FC), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United FC), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool FC), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United FC).
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