The England squad to face Republic of Ireland and Brazil in two upcoming friendlies – as preparation for next year’s World Cup – has been announced with only a few changes made by manager Roy Hodgson.
Reading’s ever-improving goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has been handed his first call-up which has raised a few eyebrows and West Ham striker Andy Carroll has also been presented with a chance to impress once more following recovery from injury. The rest of the chosen players featured in last month’s World Cup qualifiers and will be treating these friendlies as merely fitness tests and an opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of the domestic scene.
There is also talk on who will be selected as skipper as Steven Gerrard has been ruled out due to a shoulder operation. It’s widely expected that Ashley Cole will do the honours against Ireland as it’ll be the left-back’s 100th cap (golden cap). Wayne Rooney, who is currently enduring a difficult time at Manchester United, and Frank Lampard, who signed a one-year contract extension with Chelsea on Thursday, are the “obvious choices” to wear the armband against Brazil, according to Hodgson.
McCarthy’s call-up fully deserved
For 23-year-old Alex McCarthy, these upcoming friendlies will have extra significance. It’s only justified that the Reading shot stopper should have a chance to show his worth on the international stage after such a splendid second half of the campaign for his club. Although he couldn’t help prevent the Royals from beating the drop, McCarthy’s performances in between the sticks have been exceptional in front of a particularly abject defence. If only the attack could have matched the same level of display. The pick of his best performances came against Liverpool in mid-March as he retained a clean sheet and was awarded the Man of the Match award. Even the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Countinho failed to register on a day when McCarthy showed his true potential. He should grasp this chance with both hands and ensure he makes the most of it; the experience will be invaluable.
Carroll’s impressive end to season persuades Hodgson
Fully fit after sustaining an injury mid-season, Andy Carroll is back in the England frame following a mightily strong finish to the season. On loan from Liverpool, the West Ham forward has scored seven goals this season to help his team stay way clear of relegation and secure a comfortable mid-table spot. Used as the focal point of the attack by boss Sam Allardyce, Carroll’s imposing style is a sight to behold and he’ll certainly provide England with a different dimension going forward. According to WhoScored.com, in Carroll’s 21 Premier League appearances for the Hammers this season he has won 217 out of 334 aerial duels (9.4) emphasising his dominance in the air. The former Newcastle man has also engineered 72 shots so far this term, miles ahead of all the club’s other strikes (Carlton Cole behind him with a paltry 26). If partnered with the likes of Sturridge or Theo Walcott upfront then his strength at holding the ball up and their acceleration on the break could prove to be a winning formula.
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