Five reasons Cardiff's Steven Caulker must start for England in Brazil

He many not be the fan's first choice, but here is why Cardiff City's Steven Caulker should start for England in Brazil.

Steven Caulker may be playing in a Cardiff City team that has shipped 50 goals and look destined for relegation this season, but the centre-half must feature in Roy Hodgson’s England plans regardless.

After struggling with injury problems that eventually ended his career at Tottenham Hotspur, Caulker has played every minute of the Bluebirds Premier League campaign to date. His performances have seen him net four times so far this season, including the winner in the South Wales derby against Swansea in November. Caulker received recognition for his appearances when he was called into the England squad to play Denmark last week, and here are a few reasons why he must stay there for their opening match against Italy in June:

1. He’s fit and firing. No player in the England set-up this summer is likely to have played more football than Steven Caulker. Having played every minute of every game so far this season for Cardiff, Caulker has already racked up over 2, 500 minutes on the pitch. If there’s anyone who is going to be ready, it’s him.

2. Injuries are a thing of the past. Caulker’s injury record at Tottenham was probably the reason they accepted a lucrative £9m bid from Cardiff, but since his arrival in the Welsh capital it’s been non-existent. Other centre-back options for England such as Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones have struggled with injury, and therefore match-fitness for them will fall short of Caulker’s. Smalling has also had a below-par season for Manchester United, so must be dropped in favour of Caulker.

3. He’s got a goal in him. Caulker is Cardiff’s second highest goal-scorer this season behind Fraizer Campbell. This may say a lot about the quality of the Bluebirds attack, but for a centre-back to score four goals in a team that sit 19th in the league, it shows his quality. He’s appeared twice for England, and already scored. He netted one of England’s two goals in a 4-2 defeat to Sweden in 2012. He’s scored more goals than Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll combined in the league this season.

4. He’s been by far Cardiff’s best player. Much has been said about the lack of quality in the Cardiff side this season, but Caulker has been outstanding. From scoring the winner in the first ever South Wales top-flight derby, to goal-saving tackles and blocks, he’s been by far their player of the season so far.

5. He’ll be most used to defending for long periods. Only Fulham have conceded more than Cardiff’s 50 goals this season. So Caulker will be comfortable with having to defend for large periods of the game, which may be just what is required against the likes of Italy and Uruguay.

So there we have it. Caulker has played, defended and scored more than any of England’s other centre-back options for Brazil. He’ll be fitter, match-ready and more dangerous in the opposition’s box than anybody else; he must start for England in Brazil.

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