Ron Atkinson exclusive: Hodgson has picked the 'best players available'

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Ron Atkinson insists that England's 23-man World Cup squad consists of the 'best players available' and believes that Roy Hodgson's men can progress from a fiercely competitive group.

In an exclusive interview with GiveMeSport, Atkinson said: "I do not think Roy Hodgson has picked a young side, I think he has picked the best players available. A lot of them, fortunately appear to be the right age.

"The likes of (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain, (Jack) Wilshere, (Ross) Barclay are good players in their own right. The fact that they are young, is an added bonus for me.

"I don't think there is any surprises with the squad. The biggest decision, would be whether to take young (Luke) Shaw or Ashely Cole. Whichever way he had gone on that, it would have been okay.

"Shaw looks like a terrific prospect, I saw him recently at Villa park. He has got the makings of a top player. We do have problems in other positions in England, but we can produce left backs and he looks as if he can follow in the long line of top left backs we have had."

Hodgson's men have been drawn in a tough group, alongside Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. With England's first game of the competition against Italy, just 26 days away, many Englishmen remain skeptical about their prospects.

But Atkinson has not lost faith. "England can get through the group stages. We will certainly look at Italy and Uruguay as very difficult games, but don not rule out Costa Rica, they will upset someone in the tournament, lets just hope it is not England.

"I have got a feeling we might just get two draws and a win out of the group, now whether five points will be enough to qualify, we don't know, but I think it might be."

The former Manchester United and Nottingham Forrest manager also revealed his selection prediction, ahead of England's opening game of the tournemaent. 

Atkinson said: "If we were picking a team tomorrow and everyone was fit, the goalkeeper is a given, (Joe) Hart is the best by English keeper by a mile.

"The back four, again picks itself, (Glen) Johnson, (Phil) Jagielka, (Gary) Cahill and (Leighton) Baines. Steven Gerrard will get the role as the anchor man, he will play a similar role for England as he has done magnificently for Liverpool this season. 

"I think Milner will start against Italy, he is a very reliable player, he's got experience and great energy, he should bolster the midfield. He will play on one side.

"I would not be surprised to see Hodgson play with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the other side, or maybe Wilshere or (Raheem) Sterling and just leave (Wayne) Rooney up front on his own. Because the first game is always shaky, both England and Italy would be happy to come away from it with a draw."

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