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Shaw can put pressure on Cole in England World Cup auditions

| 04.03.2014

The last time England played Denmark competitively it was in the 2002 World Cup in Asia, in between a famous victory against Argentina and an infamous defeat to eventual winners Brazil, the game in which Ronaldinho caught David Seaman off his line with a speculative long-range free kick.

England won 3-0, thanks to an own goal and strikes from Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, while impressing at left back was a 21-year-old just establishing himself at the start of a long and distinguished international career.

Almost 12 years on and with 106 caps to his name, Ashley Cole is surely coming towards the end of his England stint. Already under immense pressure from Leighton Baines for his place in the starting line-up and unable to command a regular start for his club, the Chelsea defender will now watch Luke Shaw audition for his spot in Brazil as Roy Hodgson starts to get serious about whittling down his squad to a final 23.

There are many who believe that Cole should be on the plane to Rio; he has, after all, probably been the most consistent and reliable England defender over the past decade, as well as arguably the best.

Coral rate him a 1/10 shot to make the cut and 5/6 to start the first game against Italy, but Baines seems to have just overtaken him in the pecking order and if Shaw, the subject of rave reviews from England colleagues and down to 9/4 to make the final squad, shines at Wembley, we might just start to wonder if one of the big names being left at home Hodgson was talking about is Ashley Cole.

Ross Barkley (1/2 to be in Brazil), Adam Lallana (8/11), Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (both 10/11) are tantalisingly close to making the cut and most Three Lions fans would be thrilled if the manager could make room for all of these exciting youngsters. But they have a chance now to make a huge statement about themselves and they musn’t fluff their lines.

You have to wonder whether Denmark will be busting a gut after the disappointment of missing out on World Cup qualification. They are a good side on their day (ranked 20, just five places behind England), as they showed when almost beating Italy last October, but can be really poor, too, as they demonstrated when hammered 4-0 at home at Armenia four months earlier.

Another England 3-0 win (12/1 with Coral) looks quite feasible, but, while we do tend to take these friendlies very seriously, this will definitely be more about the team performance – and individual performances – than the result.



Jon Freeman