England manager Roy Hodgson has insisted if Cole is fit, he will start for his 100th cap after more than 10 years service given to his country at senior level. Cole made his England debut against Albania in March 2001, aged just 20 years old, under Sven-Goran Eriksson.
He has since gone on to play for his country in three World Cups and three European Championships, as well as winning three Premier League titles with Arsenal and Chelsea, 7 FA Cup medals, and last years’ Champion’s League title.
He is one of the world’s most decorated footballers and is considered one of the best left-back’s in the world, without a shadow of a doubt. However, Hodgson may face a tough decision should both Cole and Everton’s Leighton Baines be fit for the World Cup in 2014. By then, Cole will be 33 and certainly be playing in his final World Cup.
Leighton Baines will be 29 and, if his recent form at club level is anything to go by, he could very well find himself England’s first-choice left-back. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Leighton Baines can consider himself one of the unluckiest footballers in the country.
Cole has been in fine form and fitness for over a decade and Baines, just 3 years his junior, really hasn’t been given enough opportunities for England in that period. He’s appeared just 13 times for England and only earned his senior debut in 2010.
By that time Cole had been first-choice left-back for at least 5 years with little in the way of competition. Baines is now that competition, however.
The England boss said as much in the run up to Wednesday’s friendly.
“They will just have to fight it out and I’m sure the competition between them will be fierce. Then I’ll have to make a decision,” Hodgson explained.
Baines, realistically probably only has one more World Cup and perhaps another European Championship left in his career. At Chelsea, young Ryan Bertrand is also shaping up to be Ashley Cole 2.0 in many respects, and he’ll likely take over Cole’s mantle for both club and country in the long run.
Baines has perhaps been unlucky in two regards in his career – unlucky that he was pipped to the post by Cole and unlucky that Everton are not regarded as a top-four team season in season out. Having played for both Arsenal and Chelsea, Cole has played in a number of big games with some of the world’s strongest opposition.
Baines may now have his chance to step in to the limelight for his country but one thing’s for sure, even a 32-year-old Ashley Cole will give him a run for his money.
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