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England can’t ignore West Ham star’s case for World Cup inclusion

| 16.03.2014

In the latest round of the battle to be named England’s reserve centre-forward at the World Cup, Rickie Lambert may have helped Southampton to a 4-2 win over Norwich with a second-half strike, but Andy Carroll gained plenty of plaudits as his West Ham side went down 3-1 at Stoke.

The Newcastle native scored his first goal in 11 injury-ravaged months at the Britannia Stadium to put his side 1-0 up within five minutes, only for the Hammers to be reeled in by Mark Hughes’ men – who have now won more home games this term than 14 other clubs in the division.

Although the former Liverpool man tried in vain to drag his team back into the game, firing in half of West Ham’s eight shots during the match and ghosting past Potters defenders on a couple of occasions, Hughes’ charges held out for an impressive win.

However, there’ll be plenty of other chances for the big striker to impress national coach Roy Hodgson between now and season’s end.

Carroll was making only his fourth start since mid-May against Stoke, and his form so far in 2014 suggests he’s a cracking bet at 9/4 to make Hodgson’s 23-man squad for this summer’s samba jamboree.

His third start back saw Kevin Nolan benefit to the tune of two goals from the 6ft 4in forward’s nod-ons against Swansea, although his afternoon was cut short by a somewhat harsh red card for a foul on opposition defender Chico Flores.

Carroll’s aerial prowess was on show again at the Britannia, where he beat Potters keeper Asmir Begovic to Mark Noble’s free-kick and headed home the opener.

Such a weapon could be extremely potent in Brazil, especially if England – as expected – struggle to break down top teams with the ball on the deck.

The Three Lions have looked out of ideas up front during recent friendlies against Chile, Germany and Denmark – indeed, their only goal from those games came courtesy of a Daniel Sturridge header from an Adam Lallana cross.

Carroll has a full four inches on the Liverpool star – who will make the plane bar a late injury at 1/20 odds – but the Irons giant faces pressure to regain his England place from two Saints forwards in fine form at present.

Jay Rodriguez bagged his 10th goal in 21 games against the Canaries and can be backed at 5/1 to make the cut, while Ladbrokes rate Lambert the most likely to go of the trio at 7/4.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Alex Fortune