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Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Saturday, 12 June 2010 10:47 UK

World Cup 2010: James Milner could be picked

England boss Fabio Capello

Barry on bench for US game - Capello

ENGLAND v UNITED STATES
Venue: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg Date: 12 June Time: 1930 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live and ITV1; live text commentary and in-depth analysis on BBC Sport website Full details of BBC World Cup coverage

James Milner could be a surprise name in contention to start England's opening World Cup game against the United States on Saturday.

The Aston Villa midfielder has been suffering from a virus but England coach Fabio Capello said: "He is fit and available to play."

Capello will not name his starting XI until two hours before the game.

But has revealed midfielder Gareth Barry will be on the bench in Rustenburg for the Group C encounter.

The Manchester City star suffered an ankle injury on 5 May and was thought to be definitely ruled out of the match in Rustenburg.

But Capello said: "He has been training normally for three days and is fit.

"He will be on the bench, but a start? I'm not sure. I think no. I will name my team two hours before kick-off."

Barry was a key player in Capello's England side throughout qualifying, providing a welcome balance in the centre of midfield alongside the more attacking presence of Frank Lampard.

The City star's absence prompted the Italian boss to try a number of options in the centre of midfield during England's recent World Cup warm-up matches against Mexico, Japan and Platinum Stars, but it is thought that captain Steven Gerrard, a definite starter, will be deployed in midfield, though Michael Carrick has been touted as a possibility as well.

Milner is battling for a place with Joe Cole for a place on the left flank.

David James, Robert Green and Joe Hart have yet to be told who will be wearing the goalkeeper's jersey.

Capello has insisted his men are ready for a "hard" game against the US.

England striker Wayne Rooney

I prefer lone striker role - Rooney

"Usually the first game is hard because the expectation and pressure is really big," he added. "But we've been here for eight days, trained very well, and I thought our best training session was this evening [Friday].

"I think the players are really happy at this moment - physically and mentally. We've had nine days of real focus on this game and we're sure we will go forward in this competition.

"On Saturday, more than anything, I want to see the spirit of the team - the English spirit - that I saw during qualifying."

It is not yet clear who will play alongside Wayne Rooney, one man guaranteed a start, in attack.

Reports suggest Emile Heskey is the favourite, but Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe are also vying for a start, while many analysts would like to see Gerrard deployed behind Rooney in a support-striker role.

And Rooney admitted in an interview with BBC pundit and former England international Alan Shearer that a lone-striker position would suit him perfectly.

"I've played at United on my own and I've enjoyed being in the box poaching to get goals," said Rooney. "And when I've played for England I've played in 'the hole' and I've enjoyed that too.

"So I think when you play off a striker you're involved in the game a lot more and you enjoy it, but you maybe don't get the chances you do when you're up front on your own.

"If I'm being honest I probably enjoy playing on my own more."

While people can fancy our chances, we have to go and perform

Frank Lampard

Talk has also surrounded the 24-year-old's ability to curb his temper, with World Cup officials promising a crackdown on player outbursts.

But Rooney played down talk that he will be a target for opposition players, saying: "I think as a forward player, defenders always try to stop you any way they can so it's part of football.

"I'll have to bite my tongue and get on with it."

Midfielder Lampard, meanwhile, believes the team's experience in previous tournaments could prove to be a decisive factor in South Africa.

According to Infostrada, England's will be the second-oldest squad at the World Cup behind Brazil with an average age of 29 years and 56 days.

And Lampard, 32, commented: "The confidence in the squad is similar to 2006, maybe even more because of our experience.

"But while people can fancy our chances, we have to go and perform."

In 2006, England went out at the quarter-final stage, losing 3-1 on penalties to Portugal after the match, during which Wayne Rooney was red-carded, ended 0-0 after extra time.

But Lampard has stated that memories of that heartache, combined with the weight of big-match experience at club level among the squad, will inspire England this time around.

PHIL MCNULTY'S BLOG

The Chelsea midfielder continued: "I certainly feel better now for my years of experience in club football and at international level.

"But, by the same token, we know how difficult a difficult a competition this is.

"That last World Cup wasn't great for me personally, and wasn't fantastic for the team. We got knocked out in the quarter-finals yet again. You don't get that many World Cups in your career and this could possibly be my last, in fact probably my last.

"I want to look back and say I was part of a team that was successful and have been personally successful as well.

"If it is the last one I play, we'll put everything in there to make sure it's as good as it can be. We're very settled in our minds."

Getting their campaign off to a good start against the US, however, is not the "be all and end all" for England, stressed Lampard.

"It'll be a tough game. The first one always is," added Lampard. "Considering we're playing the strongest team in our group, other than us hopefully, then I think it'll make for a tight game.

"I think the US will be very organised. It will be a very big game for them. It's one you want to win to put yourself in a strong position.

"But I have seen many a game in tournaments before when that first game doesn't go as you expected and teams are a bit cagey.

"We can't think about it as the be all and end all and just have to prepare for the game."

Wayne Rooney

World Cup guide: England

International users can view England guide here



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see also
Insider's guide - United States
11 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Lee Dixon's tactical view
11 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Capello settled on England team
10 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
England is 'easiest match' for US
11 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
US not planning to target Rooney
10 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
England players warned on dissent
10 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Joe Cole seeks start against US
09 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
No fears over Rooney - Ferdinand
08 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Who are the champions?
09 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Barry to sit out England opener
07 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
DeMerit warns US of Rooney threat
07 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
English flag to fly above No 10
10 Jun 10 |  Politics
Capello angry with photographers
09 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
England training photos
04 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010


related internet links:
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