England manager Roy Hodgson names his 23-man World Cup squad on Monday, and as ever, there are some key decisions required all over the field. This is who I would be taking on the plane to Brazil – and who would be missing out
(Missing out: Jack Butland, Robert Green, John Ruddy)
After recovering superbly from his early-season wobbles, Joe Hart is guaranteed to be starting England's opening World Cup fixture against Italy.
Beyond the Manchester City goalkeeper, however, the cupboard is pretty much bare, and Hodgson will desperately be hoping that Hart's fitness remains intact in the build up to the tournament.
In an ideal world, Ben Foster's sabbatical from international football would have ruled him out of ever playing for his country again, but with options severely limited, the West Brom goalkeeper is comfortably the best back-up option in case Hart is unavailable.
The third goalkeeper is invariably the least likely of all the 23 squad members to make it on to the field, so there is generally value in selecting a young player who will benefit from the experience.
That means a straight choice between Fraser Forster and Jack Butland, and personal preference is for the former Newcastle United trainee, whose talents are often downplayed because he plays in the Scottish Premier League with Celtic.
Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka, Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling, John Stones.
(Missing out: Steven Caulker, Kieron Gibbs, Phil Jones (injured), Joleon Lescott, Luke Shaw, John Terry, Kyle Walker)
What had looked like being a reasonably simple selection has been severely complicated by the recent injuries to Phil Jones and Kyle Walker.
Jones appeared to dislocate his shoulder in Manchester United's win over Hull on Tuesday night, and has therefore been omitted from this selection in the expectation that he will be unavailable. Kyle Walker is due to make his first appearance for two months this weekend, but has been left out due to ongoing concerns over his fitness.
The make-up of England's first-choice back four is reasonably well established now, with Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines playing on either side of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka.
With Walker out of the equation, Chris Smalling is the logical deputy on the right, and while this squad selection has tended to prioritise youth over experience, I'd go with Ashley Cole ahead of Luke Shaw on the left. The Chelsea veteran has never let England down in the past, and if Baines was to get injured at an early stage of the tournament, I'd much rather be slotting Cole into what is likely to be a reasonably shaky back four. Admittedly, however, Shaw would be unfortunate to miss out.
Without Jones, Michael Dawson is the best back-up centre-half, even though he has had a far from convincing season at Spurs, while my final defender would be something of a wildcard. Everton's John Stones is a future England captain in my eyes, and the 19-year-old would benefit hugely from being involved in Brazil.
Even if John Terry was to be available – and under Hodgson, he isn't – the former England skipper would not get anywhere near my final 23.
Ross Barkley, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere.
(Missing out: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend (injured), Theo Walcott (injured), Ashley Young)
As ever, it is the midfield selection that looks to be the most up in the air. As skipper and midfield linchpin, Steven Gerrard is a cast-iron certainty, but he is probably the only midfielder 100 per cent guaranteed to make the squad, let alone the starting line-up.
Focusing on the central area first, I'd take Gerrard's Liverpool team-mate, Jordan Henderson, and seriously consider starting the pair together in a 4-2-3-1 system. Henderson is not to everyone's taste, but he's had an excellent season with his club side, complements Gerrard perfectly and will provide some much-needed energy in the heat and humidity of Brazil.
Jack Wilshere has struggled with injury for most of the season, and has rarely lived up to his billing in an England shirt, but his mobility and vision make him a more appealing option than Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverely, whose limitations have been repeatedly exposed at international level.
For the final central midfielder, it's a choice between the experience of Frank Lampard or the youthful exuberance of Ross Barkley. I'd go with the latter, and regard Barkley as a potential game changer from the bench.
Out wide, James Milner gets the nod partly because of his versatility, but also because he is capable of adhering to strict tactical instructions in a closely-fought affair, something that is always valuable in a tournament setting.
Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana have been two of the best players in the Premier League in the second half of the season, and at this stage, I'd be starting them on the right and left flanks respectively in the opening game.
With Theo Walcott unavailable, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completes the midfield selection, although the Arsenal winger would only be going as a potential replacement.
Andy Carroll, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck
(Missing out: Jermain Defoe, Rickie Lambert)
With limited options, and the likes of Lallana and Sterling in the squad, who can play as auxiliary attackers, it makes no sense to take five strikers.
Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney are both guaranteed starters, although whether they should play alongside each other or with Rooney in a more withdrawn role is a moot point.
Danny Welbeck is also pretty much certain to make the squad, even though his club form with Manchester United has been patchy for most of the campaign. In Welbeck's defence, however, he was a key part of the qualifying campaign and has generally done okay in an England shirt.
Jermain Defoe's time has been and gone, so the final striker selection is an attempt to tick the “something different” box that always seems to need to be filled.
Andy Carroll or Rickie Lambert? The latter has had a better season and is much less likely to break down through injury. However, Carroll was all but unplayable against Sweden in the 2012 European Championships and if you're looking for someone to potentially win a game in a ten-minute burst, the former Newcastle man is the better option.
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