In-form Sterling primed to replace injured Walcott at World Cup

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You know a World Cup is approaching when England players start to pick up injuries. The long list of players who will inevitably miss or travel to the tournament with an injury was created early, with Theo Walcott’s name at the head of it.

The Arsenal forward was ruled out for six months with a knee injury, suffered during his side’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in the FA Cup, and will miss the summer footballing festivities in Rio.

Having never played in a World Cup, despite being called up as a ripe 17-year-old, Ladbrokes go 8/13 that the former Southampton man will realise his dreams one day.

His absence gives Roy Hodgson an early itch to scratch on the top of his bonce, as one of the guaranteed spots in his 23-man squad has now been thrown open to the floor.

According to Ladbrokes’ book on who will make the plane, Spurs’ Andros Townsend is the only wide player who can feel reasonably safe about playing at the tournament with odds of 1/4 available on the 22-year-old appearing in Brazil.

But, having been dropped by Andre Villas-Boas through poor form before then being ruled out with injury a lack of playing time means those odds may be too skinny.

Instead, two players who are in far better form can start to feel more confident of taking their seat for the in-flight safety instructions as Townsend’s clubmate Aaron Lennon shortened to 1/1 from 6/4 and Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling came in from 2/1 to 6/4 to make the squad.

Lennon hasn’t featured in any Hodgson side since the 2-1 friendly win over Brazil in February, some 11 internationals ago, but has found renewed form under Tim Sherwood recently and has World Cup experience having played in the opening two group games of the 2010 edition.

However, Sterling has started all of Liverpool’s last nine games and scored three goals in that time and could well force himself into Hodgson’s reckoning with continued strong form.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.