At 2pm this afternoon, England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson will announce his 23-man squad for Germany '06. I'm wet-the-bed excited. Pundits seem to think he'll be fairly conservative. In the interests of heated pub debate, here are the 23 players that Bratwurst would take to Deutschland…
England's squad: the Bratwurst 23
Who: Paul Robinson, Scott Carson, Robert Green
Why: Robinson is England's No.1 by a mile - pray he doesn't get injured early in the World Cup or we really are shafted. I don't see any benefit in taking David James – as we saw again at the weekend, he makes far too many mistakes to play at international level. Rob Green is a talented keeper but I rate Liverpool's young Carson much higher.
Who: Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Ledley King, Sol Campbell, Kieron Richardson
Why: An area of undisputed strength. Our back four is written in stone: Cole (great to see him fit again), Ferdinand, Terry, Neville. After that there's lots of cover, although Sol Campbell's shaky form worries me and Sven must consider Carragher above him in the pecking order. I don't rate Wayne Bridge as international class and so would take the immensely talented/fearless Kieron Richardson as a utility defender/midfielder.
Who: David Beckham (capt), Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Sean Wright-Phillips, Stewart Downing
Why: It gave me great heart to type the names of England's midfield squad members and reassured me that we'll be OK in Germany. Becks, Stevie G, Lamps, Joe Cole – these are four world-class midfielders in their prime (well, Becks may be a couple of years past his best, but he'll want to make up for his injury-troubled World Cup in 2002). Boro's Downing has to travel – although he won't get much playing time, injuries permitting – and so he gets the nod ahead of Jermaine Jenas.
Who: Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Theo Walcott
Why: Oh dear. If Owen and Rooney were 100 percent fit, then we have a first XI to rival anyone in the world (including Brazil) – but they're not, so we have to accept that against Paraguay Sven will probably start with an 85 percent-fit Owen and Peter Crouch. I like Crouch and he confused the hell out of Uruguay when he came on in that friendly earlier in the year, but he's no Roo. I really hope Sven gambles on Theo Walcott, rather than Darren Bent, who I doubt at the highest level - imagine if Brazil hadn't gambled on a 17-year-old Pele. I'd also put Robbie Fowler on standby (not Bent) because he's in good form and is still the best English finisher in the game. Am also praying daily that oxygen tents actually work miracles.
What say you? Agree/Disagree?