England’s concerns over fitness of Chelsea defenders calmed
Panic that Roy Hodgson would have to do further remoulding to his ever-changing England squad – which has already been stripped of John Ruddy, Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard – have been eased by the FA
The withdrawal of Gary Cahill following a collision with Joe Hart and John Terry with a hamstring complaint during the 1-0 Wembley friendly victory over Belgium provoked fear that at least one new defender would have to be introduced.
Cahill’s problem caused the greater alarm, with the Chelsea centre back being taken off for a scan and Hodgson admitting that were it to reveal a fractured jaw, he would have no choice but to call up another replacement.
However, the FA’s director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking has confirmed that the early feedback on the setback is good, with both men likely to be fit to face France on June 11. England are 7/4 to keep a clean sheet against them.
Brooking said: “Gary was certainly our initial main concern last night. It was his jaw following the collision and they were concerned that it was cracked and it might have put him out of it.
“At the moment we’re hoping it’s not. I’m sure they’ll have a second look but at present we’re hoping that’s okay.”
Despite the impressive recent performances of former Everton team-mates Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka at centre back, it is Chelsea pair Terry and Cahill who are widely viewed to be the first-choice combination.
Regardless of who has started at the back, England’s defensive displays over the course of this season have been encouraging, with clean sheets obtained in six of their eight games, the exceptions coming against Montenegro and Holland.
Defensive strength is vital to European Championship success, with the last two winners conceding no goals in the knockout rounds. England are 12/1 fifth favourites to go all the way at Euro 2012.
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