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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
England's men of destiny
Sven-Goran Eriksson is pondering England's squad
Sven-Goran Eriksson is pondering England's squad
England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson will name his squad for the World Cup on Thursday.

Here BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty selects the men he believes will be among the chosen 23 - and those set to miss out.

GOALKEEPERS

David Seaman (Arsenal)
David Seaman is England's first choice
David Seaman is England's first choice
It is a sad reflection on the lack of serious competition that Seaman was Sven-Goran Eriksson's automatic first choice once he had proved his fitness after a shoulder injury.

He may be past his rather self-congratulatory "Safe Hands" prime, but still the best on offer.

Seaman was swiftly restored as Arsenal's number one in the title run-in and has been a consistent figure in the closing weeks.

Nigel Martyn (Leeds United)
Martyn, for a long period, was a viable and outstanding alternative to Seaman, but has not had the best of fortune with Leeds United this season.

Now there is even talk of him being a potential Elland Road departure this summer. He will travel, but is unlikely to win too many more England caps.

David James (West Ham United)
If James had been mentioned as a World Cup contender when he left Liverpool, his backers would have been drowned out by laughter.

He has rebuilt his career at Aston Villa and then West Ham - but still capable of that catastrophic error. Heading the ball away against Newcastle United instead of catching it anyone?

SVEN'S OTHER OPTIONS.

In a perfect world, Leeds United's Paul Robinson or Liverpool's Chris Kirkland would have played enough first team football to force their way into Eriksson's plans.

I would still take one - and both will fight it out to be England's next regular keeper - instead of either Martyn or James and that would probably be Robinson.

DEFENDERS

Danny Mills (Leeds United)
Mills will come through the door left open by Gary Neville's injury. Powerful and purposeful, but unproven at international level. Will need to curb a volatile temperament that will be tested to the full in the World Cup.

Wes Brown (Manchester United)
Eriksson appears to be a Brown fan, but this would represent a massive gamble, both on form and fitness. Brown is unlikely to muscle his way past Sol Campbell or Rio Ferdinand in central defence, so he is being picked as a possible right-back.

And on the evidence of his performance in that role for Manchester United against Bayer Leverkusen this is definitely not his position.

Gareth Southgate (Middlesbrough)
Southgate has had an outstanding season at Middlesbrough. He is perfect cover for Campbell and Ferdinand and will be a mature and experienced presence around the squad. No problems there.

Rio Ferdinand (Leeds United)
The World Cup is the perfect stage for Ferdinand to move on to the next stage of his development. He has been earmarked for greatness since his days in the West Ham youth team - his performances alongside Campbell will be central to England's ambitions.

Rio Ferdinand has huge responsibilities for England
Rio Ferdinand has huge responsibilities for England
Ferdinand has had his injury problems at Leeds United in recent weeks, but has taken on the added responsibility of captaincy.

England's defence will come under close examination in Korea and Japan - and Ferdinand's performances may decide whether they pass the test.

Sol Campbell (Arsenal)
Campbell has recovered his poise following an uncertain start in the wake of his acrimonious move from Spurs to Arsenal.

He has blossomed under the careful nurturing of Arsene Wenger - but must hope injuries do not recur.

Ashley Cole (Arsenal)
Still question marks over the defensive side of his game, but Arsene Wenger is a huge admirer and his judgement does not appear too flawed.

He has massive responsibilities given England's weakness on the left side of their team.

Wayne Bridge (Southampton)
Southampton's promising youngster has impressed in the early stages of his England career, making him one of the late entrants on to Eriksson's list.

Talented, but faces a stern examination of his international credentials if he plays.

SVEN'S OTHER OPTIONS

I would pick Jamie Carragher ahead of Brown because of his proven versatility across all parts of the defence.

He has played at right back for Liverpool this season after playing on the left in their treble-winning season. He is also a more than capable central defender.

Gary Neville may not be flavour of the month among many fans, but be in no doubt his absence is a major blow, not only as a right-back but as an influence on the squad.

Graeme Le Saux has become a bit of a cause, but he is not even worth considering because his temperament has put him so far out of Eriksson's plans.

MIDFIELD

David Beckham (Manchester United)
World class. Pure and simple. Beckham looks certain to be fit after breaking his foot and will be burning to make amends for his sending off against Argentina four years ago.

Leads his country by example - a wonderful mixture of match-winner and industrious midfielder.

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
This could be the setting for Steven Gerrard to emerge as a star of world standing. When BBC pundit Alan Hansen suggests this a player with the qualities of a Roy Keane and Graeme Souness, you need add little more.

Steven Gerrard has proved class on big stage
Steven Gerrard has proved class on big stage
Fiercely driven, super-confident, Gerrard has a magnificent all-round game and everyone with England's best interests at heart will keep their fingers crossed his fitness holds out.

Gerrard exuded controlled arrogance in England's famous 5-1 win in Munich when he taunted Liverpool team-mate Didi Hamann - more of the same will do in the World Cup.

Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
Scholes is the quiet man of the England team, but a big noise on the pitch.

He is a maker and taker of outstanding goals and has a modesty and work ethic that makes him the epitome of Sven-Goran Eriksson's favourite modern midfielder. Invaluable to England's cause.

Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich)
Bayern Munich's midfield man is industrious and versatile. Perfect for the rigours of what will hopefully be a lengthy campaign.

Nicky Butt (Manchester United)
Butt has been an unsung hero for so long, but has been an outstanding performer for Manchester United this season.

He has also become an invaluable member of the England squad who may well have a part to play with Beckham and Gerrard having suffered injuries recently.

Gerrard recently described Butt as "fantastic" - rare praise indeed to be travelling along the length of the East Lancs Road between Anfield and Old Trafford.

Joe Cole (West Ham United)
Wild card in the mould of Paul Gascoigne at Italia 90. Lavishly-gifted with the ability to turn a game. He can be a liability, as against Italy at Elland Road, but well worth the risk. If he comes off, he could be one of the World Cup's new stars.

Kieron Dyer (Newcastle United)
Earmarked for England's "problem" left flank role after flashes of brilliance between injury problems at Newcastle United.

Dyer has proved he can play on the international stage - but can he do it on the left? Whether he can or not may be the key to England's hopes.

SVEN'S OTHER OPTIONS

Not a lot.

The usual campaign for Steve McManaman has started after he scored in the Champions League semi-final for Real Madrid against Barcelona.

If McManaman is the answer, it must be a very strange question.

Liverpool's Danny Murphy has had his chance, but will probably find himself edged out.

STRIKERS

Michael Owen (Liverpool)
Sacrilege to even suggest it, but Michael Owen has proved more important to England than David Beckham.

He is a world-class striker whose pace gives England vital extra yards as the opposition back off.

Michael Owen strikes fear into the world's best
Michael Owen strikes fear into the world's best
Owen is feared by every defender in the world - a priceless commodity at the highest level.

The only concern is injuries, but otherwise he will be England's most important player.

Argentina will already be scarred by memories of Owen - and he will be hoping to deliver another magic moment after 1998.

Robbie Fowler (Leeds United)
My personal pick to partner Owen in England's first game, although Emile Heskey will get the nod.

Brilliant finisher and stands right alongside Owen as the man you would most love that last-minute chance to fall to...maybe even ahead of Michael.

Emile Heskey (Liverpool)
Mixed season at Liverpool, but is Michael Owen's preferred partner and after the 5-1 win in Munich who are we to argue?

Teddy Sheringham (Spurs)
Veteran of glorious football intelligence who is worth taking for that split-second moment of thought that can make the difference. Remember Greece at Old Trafford?

Darius Vassell (Aston Villa)
The "bolter" of the squad as they say Down Under - a man who comes from nowhere into the squad late on.

Vassell is pacy and scores goals, but has his form at club level this season really made him worth a place in the squad? Time will tell.

Matt Jansen (Blackburn Rovers)
The name that is suddenly being whispered on the grapevine. Short on caps but long on talent. Eriksson is apparently waiting to watch Blackburn's last league game at Liverpool to decide his thoughts on Jansen.

SVEN'S OTHER OPTIONS

I would have found a place for Andy Cole, who has fallen from favour for reasons Blackburn boss Graeme Souness believes are based on personality as opposed to ability.

And as a wild card, my own personal preference would be for West Ham's Jermain Defoe ahead of both Vassell and Jansen - now there is a player.

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