The Rio Report

The 23 players who MUST be on the plane for England

The Rio Report

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Ahead of England's big World Cup squad announcement on Monday, we nominate the 23 players we would take to Brazil.

Perhaps the most controversial decision is the omission of Ashley Cole, with Southampton starlet Luke Shaw taking his place in the squad to gain some invaluable experience.

Another Chelsea stalwart, Frank Lampard, also fails to make the cut as we jettison the long-serving England man for the up-and-coming Ross Barkley.

Let us know your thoughts, and which players you would include, in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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* All stats correct as of May 10

GOALKEEPERS

JOE HART (39 caps)

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Age: 27
For Manchester City this season: 37 appearances

Distinctly ropey earlier in the season when Costel Pantilimon replaced him for a spell in the City team but Hart has rediscovered his form and is the undisputed number one for his country. A worrying dearth of goalkeeping talent meant excluding him was never an option. Having played understudy at the last World Cup, Hart will seek to complete the rebuilding of his reputation in Brazil.

What they said about him

Manuel Pellegrini: “The second round of Joe has been a very good performance. He reacted as a professional player. One of the good things that we did this year was to talk to him and sit him (out) some games because he was in a very bad moment but he reacted as a professional player, the number one in England."

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BEN FOSTER (6 caps)

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Age: 31
For West Brom: 24 appearances

His international retirement now over, Foster is the best qualified back-up keeper and he's had plenty of practice playing in front of a porous West Brom side this season. A former Hodgson favourite from his time at the Hawthorns, Foster may not have the temperament to be No. 1 for England but that doesn't matter as long as Hart stays fit.

What they said about him

Pepe Mel: "For me, Ben Foster is the best goalkeeper in England. In particular, he is very good with crosses. He has no problem dealing with them. For me, he should be England's number one at the World Cup, but Hart at City is a good goalkeeper, a good player. Obviously it's normal I say this about Ben because he is my player, but he is a very, very good goalkeeper."

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FRASER FORSTER (1 cap)

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Age: 26
For Celtic: 43 appearances

There was a brief moment in November when it seemed Forster might supplant Hart, whose form had gone through the floor. He did nothing wrong in a 2-0 home defeat to Chile and indeed has had a fine season for Celtic, breaking a Scottish record by going 1,256 minutes without conceding a goal, but Hart's resurgence means he must be contend with a stand-in role.

What they said about him

Former Celtic keeper Pat Bonner: "What Fraser has achieved has been just incredible; it's a remarkable achievement and all credit to him. Fraser has improved dramatically since he arrived at Celtic. I watched him when he first arrived here and he was a fairly young goalkeeper. People were asking questions about who this giant of a man was. There were times when he wasn't the quickest and he could be a little bit static but he's improved dramatically.”

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MISSING OUT: John Ruddy, whose form for Norwich has been torrid at times this season.

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DEFENDERS

GLEN JOHNSON (50 caps, 1 goal)

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Age: 29
For Liverpool: 29 appearances, 3 assists

The full-back has struggled with persistent ankle problems this season, missing a whole month from the end of January, but returned to play a key role in Liverpool's superb end to the season and, with Kyle Walker now struck down by injuries, has reclaimed the No. 2 shirt as his own. Johnson possesses vast experience and is always a danger when cutting in from the right, but he can also perform adequately on the left if necessary.

What they said about him

Brendan Rodgers: "It's important for me with how we play that the full-backs can get up, join in and make runs in behind. We are seeing now the player we all know Liverpool had - which is one of the best full-backs in the world.”

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GARY CAHILL (23 caps, 2 goals)

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Age: 28
For Chelsea: 49 appearances, 2 goals, 1 assist

A place in the PFA Team of the Year was just reward for an accomplished campaign for Cahill, who developed a fantastic understanding with John Terry and, crucially, has never had to retire from international football prior to being found guilty by the FA of racially abusing a contemporary. Cahill has also forged a useful partnership with Jagielka at international level which is functional rather than spectacular, and after missing Euro 2012 due to injury there is no doubt whatsoever of his starting role, even if he looks rather less commanding with England than with Chelsea.

What they said about him

Jose Mourinho: “He’s doing well. But in a team that are doing well, it’s easier for the players to do well. He’s very stable, very humble in the way he works and plays, and has been a killer for us. Working very well.”

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PHIL JAGIELKA (24 caps, 1 goal)

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Age: 31
For Everton: 34 appearances, 1 assist

Has become one of the mainstays of the England team under Hodgson but his World Cup place appeared in some doubt due to a persistent hamstring injury which ruled him out for over 12 months. However, he returned to the team for the penultimate game of the season against Manchester City and is an automatic pick when fit. David Moyes allegedly annoyed one senior Manchester United player when asking them to model their game on Jagielka this season.

What they said about him

Roy Hodgson: “We have had good reports back for the last few weeks. He has had a problem but he has been participating to a decent level in training. They have been keen not to throw him back in but we don't have any fears.”

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PHIL JONES (9 caps)

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Age: 22
For Manchester United: 39 appearances, 3 goals, 2 assists

The perma-gurning United youngster was sent for an X-ray after damaging his shoulder during the win over Hull in midweek but his England squad status is not up for debate, even taking into account United's struggles this season. Jones has performed as a holding midfielder, at right-back and at centre-back for club and country and his versatility and quality makes him an essential inclusion. However, he is unlikely to command a starting role, even if Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed he could be the best player in United's entire history, as he has been shunted around the United team too much.

What they said about him

Roy Hodgson: "Phil has been a victim of his own versatility. We think he is a very fine player. We like him very much. If he is going to knock Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill off their perch he is going to have to perform in the Premier League.”

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CHRIS SMALLING (10 caps)

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Age: 24
For Manchester United: 38 appearances, 2 goals

Smalling has had a pretty average year with United, and that's putting it kindly, but England's worrying lack of options at centre-back means he has a place almost by default. Curtis Davies had a great season for Hull but hasn't been part of the squad under Hodgson, while Joleon Lescott didn't get enough games for City. Smalling can also cover at right-back so at least he is versatile, while his big-game experience could be a factor.

What they said about him

David Moyes, after Smalling was pictured on a night out: "I've dealt with it and I've spoken to Chris. That would be as much as I would want to say on it."

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LEIGHTON BAINES (22 caps, 1 goal)

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Age: 29
For Everton: 36 appearances, 7 goals, 4 assists

Baines looks like the third, unknown member of the Last Shadow Puppets, so closely does he model his look on pals Alex Turner and Miles Kane, and sticks out in a sport which mostly worships Drake, but this season he has also become England's undisputed first-choice left-back for the first time, thanks in large part to Ashley Cole's dramatic decline at Chelsea. Of course, Baines' vital attacking work under Roberto Martinez, carrying on from the set-piece mastery and final-third link-up play he developed under Moyes, has helped too and, after a decade of Cole, there's no doubt that Baines is now the best man for the job.

What they said about him

Miles Kane: “I've always been impressed by how he's not been affected by being in the limelight. He's a humble lad, which is rare these days, and I want to be like that, too, as fame can make you big-headed and add too much swagger. He's unbelievable to watch playing football as he's in a position where he runs up and down in defence and attack and effectively does two jobs, and it sets him apart.”

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LUKE SHAW (1 cap)

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Age: 18
For Southampton: 38 appearances, 1 assist

Perhaps the biggest decision in naming a 23-man squad came between choosing between the immense promise of Shaw and the immense experience of Cole, but the younger man's consistently impressive performances over the course of the season, and the thought of what experiencing a World Cup could do for his development, saw him make the squad ahead of the fading Chelsea star. Cole was exiled from the Chelsea first XI for long periods and Shaw – linked with huge moves to Manchester United, Manchester City and indeed Chelsea – merits a place due to his form as much as his age. A fine defender and a dangerous crosser of the ball, he is the perfect understudy to Baines.

What they said about him

Mauricio Pochettino: "He can play at Real Madrid or he can play in the world starting XI. He really has the quality to do so. I am not sure if he is one (of the best left-backs in the world) already. I think so. I am not sure if he is already the best one in the world."

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MISSING OUT: Ashley Cole, who has been out of the Chelsea team and is a fading force; Kyle Walker, who hasn't played since March and lacks defensive nous; Jon Flanagan, because we wanted an extra midfielder.

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MIDFIELDERS

STEVEN GERRARD (109 caps, 21 goals)

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Age: 33
For Liverpool: 40 appearances, 15 goals, 13 assists

Suffered such disappointment at the critical moment of the title race when slipping against Chelsea, but still, we go again, don't we? An ageing Gerrard has enjoyed a fine season playing in a holding role for Liverpool and will repeat the trick for England in Brazil as Hodgson's captain. His goals are starting to dry up, at least those not scored from the spot, but England will rely on Gerrard to win possession in the centre of the park and spray the ball around to all corners of the pitch and pick out runners. Still one of his country's classiest performers, though Liverpool's title trauma may have a psychological impact.

What they said about him

Luis Suarez: "[He] played a massive part in convincing me to stay. He didn't talk about me, or through me, in the press, but in person. In those moments I forgot that he was 'world football great Gerrard', a Liverpool legend, but as a humble person who spoke to me with all his heart for hours. He said I was the best forward he'd ever played with, which given the amazing strikers that he's played with at Liverpool, was amazing for me to hear. I'll never forget that."

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MICHAEL CARRICK (31 caps)

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Age: 32
For Manchester United: 41 appearances, 1 goal

There is no denying that of all the Manchester United players to have had a disaster of a season, Carrick is prime amongst them. It is also true that for many, Carrick epitomises all that is wrong with passing football and has become a sacrificial lamb for an entire philosophy. But the international stage he always looks at home for England and has been a useful asset for Hodgson, most notably in the final qualifier against Poland at Wembley when he added real assurance to the side. He is most likely bereft of confidence but his skill-set – tempo-setting, passing, patient football - suits a World Cup in Brazil. More useful than Lampard in a deeper role.

What they said about him

Roy Keane after an interview following a loss to Olympiacos: "That interview was just like the performance: flat. He should say a bit more, have a bit more urgency even in his interview. That just reflected United's performance tonight: flat, with no urgency. They keep saying, 'Ah, well, next game, next game'. For some of them there won't be another game for them. That's the reality."

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JACK WILSHERE (15 caps)

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Age: 22
For Arsenal: 33 appearances, 5 goals, 4 assists

It remains rather shocking that Wilshere has only won 15 international caps but the injury problems that have dogged his career impacted on his season once again as Wilshere made only five appearances after January. Still, he is too huge a talent to ignore. He showed in brief bursts this season that his potency in front of goal is improving and the midfielder, who can perform in a deep role or pushed up behind the strikers, is a versatile talent who looks at home at the very top level. A big part of England's future, but he must enjoy regular football without the fitness problems which are holding him back.

What they said about him

Arsene Wenger: "It is not a gamble [to take Wilshere to the World Cup] if he's completely fit. It's a strengthening of the team. If there was a medical doubt then yes it would be a gamble. But I think he will be completely safe and on that front medically he should be alright."

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ROSS BARKLEY (3 caps)

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Age: 20
For Everton: 40 appearances, 8 goals, 2 assists

Barkley's talent has been the talk of football for a couple of years now but this was his true breakout season as Roberto Martinez helped the Everton talent flourish into arguably the outstanding young English midfielder. Barkley possesses a turn of pace, a vicious shot and impressive technique, with his sensational strike against Manchester City on the penultimate weekend in front of Roy Hodgson only underlining the fact that he merited a place ahead of the more prosaic Lampard and James Milner. He looks an exciting option behind the striker or as one of a midfield three.

What they said about him

Roberto Martinez: "He is a phenomenal talent and the best England talent I have seen and the character that goes along with that quality is special. He finished (the season at Goodison) with another incredibly special strike and we need to give him good care because he is special. I respect (England manager) Roy Hodgson's vision and his ideas for the World Cup and whatever he decides will be the right thing.”

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JAMES MILNER (45 caps, 1 goal)

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Age: 28
For Manchester City: 46 appearances, 2 goals, 9 assists

Milner isn't exactly anyone's idea of a good time, and he has started only 12 Premier League games this season, but he is a committed, dependable player who is adept at shoring up a flank or providing industry in the centre of midfield. Perfect to bring on when looking to close a game out, Milner is also blessed with some technical ability and he is a forever useful player. He proved his value to City with some influential performances in the run-in.

What they said about him

Hodgson: "[Milner is] a good tourist."

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ADAM LALLANA (3 caps)

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Age: 25
For Southampton: 42 appearances, 11 goals, 6 assists

No one could have foreseen at the start of the 2013-14 season that, by its end, Lallana would be named on the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award and be talked about as England's best option for the left side of the attack. Yet remarkably he is, and the Southampton academy graduate has been exceptional for his club throughout the campaign, providing goals and assists as well as impressing with his mastery of the ball and calm demeanour. Lallana started and impressed in both friendly defeats to Germany and Chile in November and his assist off the bench in a 1-0 win over Denmark in March secured his place.

What they said about him

Mauricio Pochettino: “We haven’t seen a player like that in this country for a long time. Lately he has had a number of opportunities to get into the England national side so that is a very good thing for him. I am always telling him that he has the characteristics of a Spanish player and he has the skills of a Iniesta, Xavi or Fabregas.”

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ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN (14 caps, 3 goals)

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Age: 20
For Arsenal: 22 appearances, 4 goals, 5 assists

Making only six Premier League starts is hardly a compelling case for inclusion but Oxlade-Chamberlain has always been a favourite of Hodgson ever since surprisingly starting the first game of Euro 2012. His goal at the Maracana against Brazil back in June will have remained imprinted on the manager's mind and despite a problematic groin injury of late – and the knee blow which wrecked the first half of his season - the fact that he can excel as a winger on either side or catch the eye as a deep central midfielder or behind the striker means he is a valued member of the squad. His pace is also a crucial asset, giving him the edge over Milner's industry.

What they said about him

Arsene Wenger: “He has a good long ball, penetration from deep and a good quality to distribute and penetrate individually - certainly he has the same qualities as Steven Gerrard. At the moment, he is still in formation. It is good for his education as he plays left, right and central when needed. After 23 or 24 [years of age] you settle in a definite position.”

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JORDAN HENDERSON (8 caps)

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Age: 23
For Liverpool: 41 appearances, 5 goals, 7 assists

Henderson had to suffer the embarrassment of having his running style and gait traduced by Sir Alex Ferguson in his autobiography this season but responded impressively with some superb, industrious displays for Liverpool. Indeed it was noticeable that their late slump coincided with his suspension. Henderson enjoyed playing alongside Gerrard for his club and could reprise the role in Brazil.

What they said about him

Brendan Rodgers: "I think if Sir Alex ever bumps into Jordan he might want to apologise for that. The comment surprised me, I have to be honest,coming from someone with such status in the game. Maybe it was meant as flippant but to a young player making his way in the game it could be damaging. Every player is different, and every player at this club has had his strengths and weaknesses medically assessed. The statement in terms of Jordan was inappropriate."

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RAHEEM STERLING (2 caps)

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Age: 19
For Liverpool: 38 appearances, 10 goals, 7 assists

The winger only started one Premier League game prior to December but his return to the Liverpool first XI was a thrilling one, his devilish dribbling and ever-improving finishing adding a real edge to the league's surprise package as they tore sides apart. His pace and precision was vital as Liverpool wreaked havoc on the counter and Sterling showed his intelligence when being asked to run at defences from a central position at the tip of a midfield triangle too. The youngster combined superbly with the more established stars around him and has surely played his way into a starting role at the World Cup – especially with Theo Walcott and Andros Townsend both absent due to injury. Didn't play a single minute in qualifying, but who cares?

What they said about him

Brendan Rodgers after two goals against Norwich in April: "He is the best young player in European football at the moment. At 19 years of age you don't see anyone better. His intelligence with the ball, his movement and he's scoring goals. His first goal was a wonderful strike. He's just shifted it, got his shot off; to beat a goalkeeper of John Ruddy's quality shows you the quality of the strike. His pass for Luis' goal was like a top midfield player, so there's an assist, and his position for the counter attack when he broke away and obviously gets a bit of luck on the deflection but his overall performance he's shown so much maturity."

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MISSING OUT: Tom Cleverley, due to some horrid form for Manchester United; Ashley Young, ditto; Frank Lampard, as he's not the force he once was; Gareth Barry, because England have moved on.

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STRIKERS

WAYNE ROONEY (89 caps, 38 goals)

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Age: 28
For Manchester United: 39 appearances, 19 goals, 15 assists

On Match of the Day recently, Dietmar Hamann claimed Rooney should not start at the World Cup and there is undoubtedly a groundswell of opinion that his grasp on a first-team place is growing more tenuous. On the other hand, he scored eight goals in qualifying and has been comfortably England's best attacker since Euro 2004. Rooney will start, there is no question of that, but it is his role which is interesting: with Daniel Sturridge demanding a central striker's role, Rooney either plays as a partner or a No. 10 in support. The United star has looked promising in the latter role when he has been asked to perform it for his country, but not so much for his club. Hodgson must carefully consider the best way to use a player who has not scored a goal in a major tournament since that famous summer in Portugal, but use him he will.

What they said about him

Sir Alex Ferguson, following a game against Bayer Leverkusen in September: "Wayne's performance was fantastic, I was pleased to see that. He's got his energy back – the determination, his purpose to attack players, was all very encouraging to me. Being a director, I'm delighted to see that; he's back to what we always remember."

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DANIEL STURRIDGE (10 caps, 3 goals)

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Age: 24
For Liverpool: 33 appearances, 24 goals, 7 assists

Luis Suarez may have won all the individual awards going but there is a strong case that Sturridge was actually the more decisive player for Liverpool this season. His goals resulted in 18 points, while Suarez's resulted in 15. Sturridge also scored more against teams at the top of the table. Either way, there is no argument Sturridge had a truly remarkable season and, having improved his decision-making and cut back on his selfish streak, the striker now looks a centre-forward of the highest quality. England will build an attack around him if Hodgson disregards any temptation to use him on the right, as he did from the start against Denmark in March. Restored to the centre in the second half, he scored the winning goal. As he often does.

What they said about him

Roy Hodgson: “When I say I am hoping he is going to bring his form to England it's with a view to the future. He should be looking to 50 caps and when he gets his 50, look at 100 caps because he has got the talent to play. I don't think anyone would deny the talent is there.”

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DANNY WELBECK (21 caps, 8 goals)

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Age: 24
For Manchester United: 35 appearances, 10 goals, 2 assists

Welbeck has been a regular starter under Hodgson and his form has been consistently good for England, but the emergence of Lallana has put his place firmly at risk. However, the fact he has linked up well with Baines on the left previously, and can also perform as a central striker if required, means his inclusion was never in doubt. Also has big tournament experience having played in Euro 2012, famously scoring a delicious goal against Sweden. His future at United was brought under question after a reported rift with David Moyes and his performances this season have been mixed.

What they said about him

David Moyes (prior to his sacking): “I've got to say we had a word with him about a month ago and we said that he needs to be the last off the training field. Wayne's out there practising his finishing each day, whether it's taking free-kicks, shooting from tight angles or bending them in, whatever it may be Wayne's practising."

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RICKIE LAMBERT (4 caps, 2 goals)

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Age: 32
For Southampton: 40 appearances, 14 goals, 10 assists

Having come through the lower leagues and with the ability to prove dominant in the air, Lambert is often unfairly characterised as a token big man to be used when England want to play long, but his 10 assists this season suggest he is a far more rounded striker whose excellent touch allows him to bring others into play too. That gives him the edge over Andy Carroll, who is an English centre-forward in the conventional mould, and explains why he is such an important part of Mauricio Pochettino's side. Lambert scored a fairytale goal with the first touch of his debut against Scotland and followed up with another goal and two assists in a qualifier against Moldova.

What they said about him

Roy Hodgson: “In football we go down roads sometimes and say ‘This is what a centre-forward should look like’. Sometimes we forget that you can still be a good centre-forward or right-back or centre-half without having those qualities. Perhaps Rickie is someone who has come into that category. They have watched him and then found a fault, ie he can’t run like Theo Walcott.”

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MISSING OUT: Andy Carroll, because he hasn't played enough and Lambert has a superior all-round game; Jermain Defoe, because he's stepped out of the spotlight in Canada

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