DANIEL STURRIDGE will head into this week’s friendlies with Ecuador and Honduras convinced that he is still to cement his place in the starting line-up for England’s World Cup opener against Italy.
Sturridge claimed his fourth international goal as England cruised to a 3-0 win over Peru on Friday night, with his magnificent curled strike underlining the confidence that he has carried over from a successful Premier League campaign with Liverpool.
Given that he was the leading English scorer in the top-flight last season with 21 goals, most observers expect the 24-year-old to be leading the line when England kick off their World Cup campaign in Manaus in 12 days time.
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However, the striker is refusing to take anything for granted given that he has still only played in four competitive matches for his country.
“There are certain players in the team who have their spots nailed down,” said Sturridge. “But in my mind, mine isn’t, and I’m working hard every day to show what I can do.
“You can never be comfortable and, for me, there are no guarantees in football so it’s important to work hard and not worry about which team the manager picks. You just have to work hard and leave the decisions to the boss.
“Whatever the manager picks is his choice – I’m just here to try to work hard in training and in the games, and do what I can do. That’s the same for everyone in the squad.”
Hodgson will make a number of changes for Wednesday’s game against Ecuador in Miami, but Sturridge is expected to play at least some part in England’s penultimate warm-up fixture.
Phil Jones will start in the back four, potentially in place of Glen Johnson at right-back, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will take either Adam Lallana or Danny Welbeck’s place on the flank.
The side for Saturday’s final friendly against Honduras is likely to provide a strong indication of the line-up that will face Italy seven days later, with Sturridge and Wayne Rooney almost certain to form England’s first-choice attacking pairing.
Despite Sturridge’s goal, the duo did not combine particularly effectively on Friday night, and there is a growing debate about whether Rooney continues to merit a guaranteed place in the starting XI.
Sturridge has attempted to ignore the external discussions, and feels that if England prosper in Brazil, it will be because of their all-round strength rather than what happens in a specific area of the team.
“It’s all about the team,” he said. “It’s not just about myself or Wayne – it’s about everyone behind us, from the goalkeeper right through to the midfield.
“It’s about everyone taking collective praise, regardless of the great goals. It’s about everybody else too. We got a clean sheet (on Friday), and that was important. The defence played well and I’m just happy and thankful to be part of this squad.”