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World Cup: Who needs to step it up for England?

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20 Premier League games (one game over half the season's total) have passed and the January transfer window is here and form now for international players is more important than ever.

Not only is there a half season left, but at the end of the campaign it's the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Set to be possibly the biggest World Cup based in football's spiritual home, Brazil, players of all ages, all clubs and nationalities will be trying to convince their international managers.

For English players that man is Roy Hodgson who will start properly planning his World Cup squad in the coming months. Here Gareth Ford-Elliott looks at potentials for each position and rate their chances of making the squad at this stage and based on predictions of how the rest of the season will go.

Goalkeepers:

No. 1: Joe Hart; Despite a few blunders in the early parts of the season and some time out the first team, Joe Hart is back in Man City's team and raring to go.

Since returning Shrewsbury-born Hart has put in some great displays, the pick of which was vs. newly promoted Crystal Palace where he made some great saves and picked up man of the match. He will certainly go to the World Cup as England's number one.

No. 2: Ben Foster; In May 2011, Ben Foster announced that he would be making himself unavailable for international selection for an indefinite period.

He was away from the international scene for a while but since joining West Brom and playing for a season under current England manager Roy Hodgson, Foster has proven himself a solid keeper and seems set to go to Brazil after making himself available and will most likely go as England's number two.

No. 3: Fraser Forster; After two loan spells at Celtic from Newcastle, English born Forster joined Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic. Despite being based outside England, Forster's impressive performances over recent years, particularly in the Champions League vs. Barcelona, should be enough to make him England's only current World Cup player based outside England.

No. 4: John Ruddy; He has had a difficult time since missing out on the European Championships with a broken finger. It's a long shot for Ruddy to break what seems a solid top three of goalkeepers, but it's no secret that Roy Hodgson is an admirer and if Ruddy can regain top form he might make the squad.

No. 5: Jack Butland vs. Alex McCarthy: It's a long shot for either Jack Butland or Alex McCarthy but if injuries to any above, either could break in. Butland replaced Ruddy in England's 2012 Euro squad but has failed to get regular first team football and McCarthy had an impressive but short spell with Reading in the Premier League.

He is now Reading's number one keeper which would probably give him the upper hand over Butland should it come down to it.

Right-backs

No. 1: Glen Johnson; Liverpool right back Glen Johnson has put in some great performances this year. He won't be guaranteed a place but is about 99 percent in the squad, although it will probably be his last major tournament for England.

No. 2: Kyle Walker; The Spurs full-back has been derided for some performances this term but is very much a fixture of the England squad. Hodgson must be a fan because his form has not been that of other potential England right backs.

Due to lack of experience of rival right backs and the fact Walker has shown the potential in the past and proves he can cut it, he will most likely make the plane to Brazil.

No. 3: Nathaniel Clyne; On current form, Nathaniel Clyne has been probably England's best right back since the start of the 2012-13 season. Despite that Roy Hodgson is still yet to involve Clyne and his immense crossing ability into the England squad. If Adam Lallana and other Southampton players go, another one could only help. Clyne seems the obvious option yet in somehow No. 3 on the list.

No. 4: Micah Richards; Despite many injury problems Micah Richards still has a slim, a very slim chance of making the squad. If he can recover from his injury sustained away at Bayern Munich and stay clear of further problems then his talent could earn him the place on the plane.

Left-backs

No. 1: Leighton Baines; Based on 2013, Leighton Baines is alongside the likes of Marcelo, Jordi Alba and David Alaba as the best in his position. He is certainly England's best current left back on ability and will go to Brazil for sure.

No. 2: Ashley Cole; Most would probably have Ashley Cole as their number one but current form is nowhere near Baines, or even the number three or four in the list, Gibbs and Shaw. His experience and the guarantee that this would be his last major tournament for England may be enough to persuade Roy Hodgson. It could be the perfect ending for possibly the best ever left back of all time?

No. 3: Kieran Gibbs; He had a fantastic 2013 and has the potential to be a great left back. He will certainly be a future England left back, the 2014 World Cup may not be realistic with the first two left backs on the list but experience at this tournament could be crucial should he go.

No. 4: Luke Shaw; He has been at Southampton since he was just eight years-old and has now finally properly broken through and proven himself in the Premier League. The 18-year-old may actually have a better chance than Gibbs to break the Cole-Baines lock on the left back position for the World Cup. The left back role is wide open and any four of these players have the talent and potential to appear as England's first-choice.

Centre-back pairings

No. 1: Phil Jagielka; He has been in the England starting XI consistently for a long time and seems set to go to the World Cup. He's in good form for club Everton.

No. 1: Gary Cahill; He has also strapped down a place in the England starting XI and with Ferdinand and Terry retired Jagielka and Cahill seems a likely starting partnership.

No. 2: Chris Smalling; A good but sometimes dodgy first half to the season sees Chris Smalling not settling down in Man Utd's starting XI. Smalling has also been involved in the England team for a while now so will most likely go to Brazil.

No. 2: Phil Jones; He is probably more known for his funny faces he pulls during matches than his talent. That's not to say he's a bad player, far from it. With Vidic and Ferdinand at United it still seems tough for Jones to solidify a place in United's first team but will probably go to the World Cup, possibly going as a midfielder though.

No. 3: Steven Caulker; Caulker has had an impressive first half season with Cardiff after a great year with Swansea in 2011-12 and a decent season with Spurs in 2012-13.

He only has one cap for England, vs. Sweden, he did however score and has proven previously that he can score with two for Cardiff in 19 appearances. He has a good chance to make the squad if he keeps up his form.

No. 3: Joleon Lescott; Manchester City centre-back Joleon Lescott is a outsider for a place on the plane after just seven Premier League appearances this season, but with 26 caps and one goal (vs. France at the 2012 Euros) he has experience of tournaments and could be helpful.

Central-midfielders

No.1: Steven Gerrard; England's captain who sealed their place in Brazil, the only way legendary Steven Gerrard will miss out is through injury.

No. 2: Frank Lampard; Like Gerrard, will most likely go to Brazil for his last major tournament with England, still playing regularly at Chelsea and has the ability to take penalties which could be very handy.

No. 3: Jack Wilshere; Along with Lampard and Gerrard, Jack Wilshere has been very active in England's midfield recently.

No. 4: Jordan Henderson; He had a difficult start at Liverpool but is finally starting to show why Liverpool paid £16 million for him. He's recently been involved in England's squad and if he keeps up his form he should make the World Cup cut.

No. 5: Tom Cleverley; Maybe not had the best of seasons so far, Tom Cleverley is seen by Roy Hodgson as an important player for the future so he will probably make the squad.

No. 6: Michael Carrick and James Milner; Both Carrick and Milner have been solid players but may struggle to make the team. Both are certainly good enough and are both better than some who may go but won't get in the starting XI.

Roy Hodgson may feel it's best they stay at home, but they could easily make the squad if injuries appear or if the manager decides to take less from other positions.

Right-wingers

No. 1: Theo Walcott; He is expecting his first child in the summer time but he should be in Brazil when he becomes a father. He's come back from injury extremely well for Arsenal and had a great year with the Gunners last season, he is one who will only miss out due to injury.

No. 2: Andros Townsend; The Spurs winger started the season on fire and will probably make the team simply on a few games he played. He has pace to burn and is not afraid to shoot, but to break into the England first team he'll need to work on crossing with both feet and off the ball work.

No. 3: Aaron Lennon; The man who's come in and replaced Townsend in Tottenham's first team Aaron Lennon has never been given a fair chance in England's team. He does however link up well with Kyle Walker for Spurs and could do for England.

He probably won't make the team because he never does for England but he's always been a solid player.

Attacking-midfield

No. 1: Ross Barkley; This season has been very good for Ross Barkley, he's found his place in Everton's first team, scored some great goals, played very well and even been linked with a £50 million move to Man Utd, although the last one seems ridiculous.

He's been involved with the England team before and should make the squad for Brazil.

No. 2: Ravel Morrison; Despite his attitude problems Ravel Morrison continues to impress. It certainly seems too early to be talking about a World Cup place but we said that about Theo Walcott in 2006 so it's not impossible.

Left-winger

No. 1: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Maybe a shock as No. 1 but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's always performed for England and has the experience at a young age. It seems a massive waste not to take him although being injured right now his form may not be there when he returns, but he should still make the squad.

No. 2: Adam Lallana; He has had a great season with Southampton so far and played vs. Germany and Chile in England's most recent games and seems like he will make the squad.

No. 3: Ashley Young, Adam Johnson, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck: It's likely that if Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana are available none of these will go down as left wingers. Welbeck may go as a versatile squad player but the others will most likely miss out.

Strikers

No. 1: Wayne Rooney; Easily England's number one striker Wayne Rooney guarantees a squad place if he's fit. It could finally be his time to step up for England at a major tournament since Euro 2004 in Portugal.

No. 2: Daniel Sturridge; Another striker who seems to have a guaranteed place is Daniel Sturridge. A great goals per game record one every 1.36 games for Liverpool, although he's yet to truly step up for England with two goals in nine games. He's still easily in the squad though.

No. 3: Jay Rodriguez; Another Southampton player with a great start to the season. With nine goals so far this season he's already levelled his total from last term and made his England debut vs Chile in a recent friendly. He seems like he'll make the squad.

No. 4: Rickie Lambert; If Roy Hodgson decides to take four strikers, which if he's planning on using just one up front alone he may not then Lambert may miss out, even if he was planning on that maybe he should think again.

Lambert has proven a great impact player for England and while he may be getting on and he's not the best player, he still adds the aerial threat that Rooney, Sturridge and Rodriguez. He's a threat from set pieces and may grab a goal or two when England really need him.

No. 5: Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck, Gary Hooper and Gabby Agbonlahor; All five of the names mentioned could make the squad if they have a killer end to the season but it's unlikely for them as their seasons haven't stood out.

Having said that Defoe and Welbeck have made recent England squads and would certainly be first reserve. Many feel that Defoe is past it and it's time for new blood and it's hard to disagree.

He could be on the move to Toronto which would surely kill his World Cup chances. Defoe scored the goal that gave England their only win at the 2010 World Cup.

Gareth Ford-Elliott's 30 man pre-World Cup squad (seven bold players cut from actual 23 man squad)

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Ben Foster, Fraser Forster

Full-backs: Glen Johnson, Nathaniel Clyne, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw, Ashley Cole, Kyle Walker

Centre-backs: Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Steven Caulker, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling

Central Midfielders: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Michael Carrick, Ross Barkley

Right-wingers: Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, Andros Townsend

Left-wingers: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Danny Welbeck

Strikers: Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert

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Topics:
World Cup
England Football
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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