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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Walcott's fading World Cup hopes

No position in the England World Cup team is as keenly contested as the right winger’s berth. The identity of the first choice goalkeeper might also be unknown, but that is due to a lack of first class options; Fabio Capello is spoilt for choice on the right side of midfield.

For so long the domain of David Beckham, the position is up for grabs, with the former skipper one of the men vying for a place that looked settled during qualifying. When Theo Walcott scored a stunning hat-trick in Croatia in September 2008 it seemed inconceivable that the Arsenal man would not be the first choice right winger.

Thanks to injury Walcott is perhaps now an outsider to be first choice, something you should consider when you bet on World Cup 2010. Capello has made no secret of his belief that World Cup squad members need to be fit and first team regulars for their club teams.

Neither is currently true of Walcott, who has made just five league starts this term and the quality of his limited number of performances has not helped his cause.

This has been in stark contrast to the form of Aston Villa men Ashley Young and James Milner, who, like Walcott, have the advantage of being adept in other positions. Their flexibility makes them a tempting choice for Capello when he comes to trimming his squad.

Aaron Lennon appeared to have cemented the position in Walcott’s absence due to his improved displays at Tottenham, but the diminutive Spurs man’s hopes of inclusion have been hit by a recurring groin injury.

Shaun Wright-Phillips made his England debut nearly six years ago but has not become a regular due to a lack of action at Chelsea and his own injury problems. He is playing enough at Manchester City to earn selection, but his England form remains patchy.

David Bentley, the beneficiary of Lennon’s absence at Spurs is an outside bet, best odds football world cup 2010 wise, not least because Beckham remains the manager’s first choice of dead ball specialist and non-dribbling winger. Beckham’s experience will probably earn him a place on the bench. Walcott needs games to join him on the plane to South Africa.

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