England secured their place at the 2014 World Cup with a 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley, and manager Roy Hodgson can now turn his attentions to picking a squad capable of achieving something in Brazil next summer.
The battle for places in the 23 man squad will be fierce, and the next few months will shape Hodgson's selections, and one of the situations to watch could be the participation of Chelsea' Frank Lampard.
Lampard – who will turn 36 during the tournament – was dropped for the crucial game against Poland last night in favour of Manchester United's Michael Carrick, and whilst he came on as a 71st minute substitute for Carrick, there are still question marks over his future in the England setup.
The former West Ham United midfielder signed a new one year contract at Stamford Bridge in the summer, though there is little to suggest that he will be staying with the Blues, with no plans announced for Lampard's future.
The age-old debate over whether Lampard and Steven Gerrard can play in the same team rumbles on, whilst the return of Jack Wilshere and the emergence of Everton's Ross Barkley could make Lampard expendable in the squad – especially where youth and energy will be important, given that England will have a number of fixtures over a short space of time. Can the ageing Lampard consistently provide Hodgson with an effective option in the centre of the park?
Lampard may be limited to contributing from the bench at the World Cup, with Gerrard, Carrick and Wilshere likely to be ahead of him in the pecking order. Barkley is still young and raw, but continuous performance like the ones he has shown so far this season will push him right into contention, whilst James Milner also offers versatility by being able to play in the centre as well as on the flanks.
There is a long time to go until Hodgson has to make his decision, and the friendly matches leading up to the announcement will dictate a lot of the inclusions in the final squad, and one thing going in Lampard's favour is his relationship with new Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who is giving Lampard regular football upon their reunion, which can only be good for his chances of making the squad.
With 2014 bound to be Lampard's last chance at playing in a World Cup, he will be using his time on the pitch to impress Hodgson, but one thing he can't change is the youth, energy and talent of the players contending for his position in the squad.
image: © Ben Sutherland
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