Ashley Cole v Leighton Baines: England's left-backs assessed
Roy Hodgson has a tough choice ahead of the World Cup
With England's 2014 World Cup qualification now assured, the nation can finally relax. But manager Roy Hodgson has a tough decision to make regarding the selection of his first choice left back; Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines.
Let's begin with Cole. Since making his senior England debut in 2001 against Albania, he has been his country's first choice left back. He has appeared for England in three World Cups (2002, 2006 and 2010) and has also appeared in two European Championships (2004 and 2012).
Despite all his off-pitch controversies, the England fans still regard him as one of their own, naming him the England player of the year in 2010. Cole became an England centurion in the 2-1 defeat of Brazil in February, and is now England's most-capped full-back in history, an incredible feat.
Moving onto Baines, he was first called up to the senior England squad in March 2009 and made his debut a year later against Egypt, playing the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 win. Baines didn't feature in Fabio Capello's 23 man squad for the 2010 World Cup, with Stephen Warnock chosen ahead of him.
Baines made his competitive international debut in June 2011, in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland, assisting Ashley Young in the process. He was selected for England's squad for the 2012 European Championships, but didn't feature. Baines scored his first England goal in September 2012 with a deflected free-kick in a 5-0 win over minnows Moldova.
With Cole out of England's final two World Cup qualifying games, Baines started against Montenegro and Poland. In the final qualifying game, Baines assisted Wayne Rooney's opening goal with a fine cross, which helped England's qualification to Brazil.
Both Cole and Baines are top-quality left backs, but England cannot have two players starting in the same position. So, Hodgson faces the inevitable task regarding the selection of his first choice left back. Does he opt for the more defensive Cole, or the attacking minded Baines?
Who do you think England's first choice left back should be? Cole or Baines? Comment who you think in the section below.
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