Hodgson challenges England youngsters to book World Cup places

Roy Hodgson has laid down the gauntlet to the younger members of the England set-up, challenging the likes of Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Zaha and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to force their way into his thoughts ahead of the 2014 World Cup, the Daily Mail has reported.

Hodgson has picked a number of youthful representatives in his squad to play Sweden on Wednesday, with Crystal Palace forward Zaha in line for a debut shortly after turning 20. The 17-year-old Sterling could also feature after breaking into the Liverpool first team this season under Brendan Rodgers, but Hodgson has warned his young guns not to be content with friendly appearances for the national team.

Pointing to the more experienced but still relatively tender-aged players at his disposal, Hodgson said he could see the places of some of England’s old guard coming under threat by 2014. He added: “ Some of these young players who are around the fringes of our squad – getting some experience, getting a feel of what it might be like to be a Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard or Ashley Cole – might, in two years’ time, be right up there alongside these players, might even be taking their places if these players can’t keep up to the standard we’ve acquired.

The manager singled out the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere as players of high technical ability that stand to raise the overall level of the squad once they mature on the international stage.

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