England qualify – but who will be getting on the plane to South Africa?

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Following England’s 5-1 hammering of Croatia last night, the dream of playing in a World Cup will become a reality for twenty-three men of Fabio Capello’s choosing come June. Every player in the frame will be looking to impress over the next nine months, but who will be boarding the plane as part of the England squad?

Let us not forget, before the World Cup comes around there is a long and competitive domestic season to be played in which fluctuating form and injuries will play their part in deciding who goes to South Africa. However, if the tournament was tomorrow, here is The Football Blog’s verdict on who should be going based on current form:

Goalkeepers
David James
Robert Green
Ben Foster

Defenders
John Terry (captain)
Rio Ferdinand
Matthew Upson
Wes Brown
Glen Johnson
Ashley Cole
Wayne Bridge

Midfielders
Frank Lampard
Steven Gerrard
Gareth Barry
Aaron Lennon
Shaun Wright-Phillips
James Milner
Ashley Young
Michael Carrick

Forwards
Wayne Rooney
Peter Crouch
Jermain Defoe
Emile Heskey
Darren Bent

Whilst not totally radical, their are some absentees which may raise a few eyebrows. In picking only seven defenders on the basis that Wes Brown can cover both centre-back and right-back positions, there is no place for Joleon Lescott. Matthew Upson is preferred as central defensive cover as he starts to look increasingly assured at international level.

In midfield, David Beckham and Theo Walcott don’t make the cut. Whilst a strong season from Walcott would probably see him oust Shaun Wright-Phillips, his current form isn’t good enough to merit a position in the squad. Beckham has it all to prove when/if he returns to AC Milan. He has made some crucial contributions to the England cause in the past, but he can not trade on past glories and needs to prove he can still be influential at this level.

Up front, in a choice of five allowed for by only taking seven defenders, Carlton Cole makes way for Darren Bent. If Capello takes both Crouch and Heskey, the need for another large centre forward is eliminated. Bent was extremely unlucky to miss out on the last World Cup and a good season with Sunderland should see him make it this time round.

Capello has the benefit of using the remaining qualifying games, on top of the pre-arranged friendlies, as trial games to try out those players on the fringe. There is a lot to think about in getting the balance of the squad right, and the Italian’s meticulous nature means that he is likely to leave no stone unturned. For many players, there is a lot more riding on this season than usual.

Do you agree with our squad? As is stand, who would you take and who would you leave at home? As ever, let us know your thoughts.