By Phil Harlow
BBC Sport at Craven Cottage
On 8 May, head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will name the provisional squad of 23 players he believes can win the World Cup for England.
In the coming weeks, speculation is sure to continue over the exact make-up of the group as the build-up to the finals in Germany intensifies.
In the latest of a series of scouting missions, BBC Sport and the fans run the rule over Charlton striker Darren Bent as he tries to remain in Eriksson's thoughts.
Bent's England CV consists of a solitary cap but that came in the team's last game - a friendly against Uruguay in March.
The call-up - and a place in the starting line-up - was Bent's reward for a superb start to his Charlton career.
BENT'S GOAL RECORD
2005/06: 21 in 42 games
2004/05: 19 in 50 games
2003/04: 16 in 41 games
2002/03: 18 in 43 games
2002/03: 2 in 7 games
The 22-year-old did not cover himself in glory at Anfield, failing to take one good headed chance that fell his way.
But Bent's pace and work ethic marked him out as a player worthy of serious consideration, while his impressive track record at Under-21 level - nine goals in 15 appearances - suggests that there is more to come.
And with 21 goals to his name so far this season, Bent has every reason to keep alive his hopes.
DARREN BENT - THE FORM GUIDE
With England assistant coach Tord Grip watching from the Craven Cottage stands, Bent had an excellent opportunity to showcase his talents against Fulham.
He started well, keeping it simple with a lay-off to his support. That set the tone for the match in which, while seldom attempting anything too ambitious, he scarcely gave away the ball.
Undoubtedly, Bent's prime asset is his pace. His speed off the mark and intelligent movement off the ball caused problems to Fulham central defenders Ian Pearce and Zat Knight throughout.
DARREN BENT FACTFILE
Born: 6.2.84, Tooting, London
Clubs: Ipswich & Charlton
Career games: 182
Career goals: 76
England debut: vs Uruguay 1.3.2006
England caps: One
Bent likes to play on the shoulder of the defender, rightly confident that his pace will take him clear of all but the quickest - but Charlton's wish to release Bent over the top became increasingly predictable as the match progressed.
The main chink in Bent's armour is an occasionally wayward first touch and one promising situation - when Matt Holland's ball over the top found him in space - was wasted as the ball ran out for a goal-kick.
His next effort demonstrated what he can do as he pulled down a long, crossfield pass before cutting inside Knight and forcing an excellent save from Antti Niemi.
Bent was certainly not lacking in persistence and was desperately unlucky with his next attempt at goal - a looping header over Niemi, which bounced off the crossbar not once but twice.
After the break, it has to be said that Bent was less effective, with the sharpness of his movement dropping off the initial standards, which possibly hinted at a player tiring towards the end of the season.
However, there was no lack of effort and Bent was perfectly willing to move wide to look for possession.
He looked less at home on the flanks, with one second-half cross going several feet over the heads of his team-mates and bouncing out for a throw-in.
WHAT THE SUPPORTERS THINK
Charlton fans might lynch me for saying this but I'm not sure he should go. He's had a great season for us, but I think he could get found out against seriously top-class defenders in Germany.
Bill, Charlton fan
No question, he should be on the plane. Take a look at the guy's goals-to-chance ratio. If he can get that many Premiership goals in front of a mediocre midfield, imagine what he could do with Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney feeding him...
HermiHerminator, via messageboards.
Just because Bent has only one cap, he shouldn't be discounted from the squad. If he is scoring goals and scoring more goals than his peers, he deserves his place in the squad, whether he has one cap or one hundred.
Phuture Phreak, via messageboards.
He's strong, has got blistering pace and his movement across the back line is superb. If there's a chance, he will take it and probably score. A strong shot and an intelligent player. First touch lets him down a bit sometimes but, hey, who's perfect?
Exileaddick, via messageboards.
WHAT THE GAFFER THINKS
Charlton boss Alan Curbishley expects Bent to be on the plane to Germany and admits if the striker does well at the World Cup he may end up leaving Charlton in the summer.
"If our players do well there is always the risk that a bigger club might take a fancy to them," said Curbishley.
"We worry about those sorts of things all the time.
"Darren needs to stay fit and he needs to be in Sven's face week-in, week-out.
"I know all Premiership games are watched and reports that go in on a Monday are all read.
"He is a natural goalscorer and you are surprised when he doesn't finish. His goals per game ratio for us and Ipswich is just fantastic."
Bent did not enjoy his best game of the season but it is perhaps unfair to draw too many conclusions from one match after such an impressive season.
Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Darius Vassell, Andrew Johnson, James Beattie
In a mid-table side, Bent has scored more goals in the Premiership than any other English player, with only Ruud van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry in front of him in the Premiership goalscoring charts.
His goalscoring record aside though, those words "mid-table" may be a major obstacle for Bent. Eriksson seems to have a preference for average players from big clubs over outstanding talents at less fashionable outfits.
But all things being equal, Bent should surely be on the plane to Germany.
Fitness permitting, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney are firmly established as the first-choice pairing up front for England but behind them places seem up for grabs.
Bent's Premiership goalscoring record and time on the pitch surely takes him clear of Jermain Defoe, Darius Vassell and Andrew Johnson in the race to make the squad.
And his record with the Under-21s - his nine goals came despite making only five starts - suggests a player who can come off the bench and hit the ground running.
He will doubtless face better defenders than Knight and Pearce but everything about him points to a player who can step up another level.