England: Rickie Lambert or Andy Carroll - who would you take to Brazil?
Southampton striker Rickie Lambert believes the final striking place up for grabs in Roy Hodgson's England squad for this summer's World Cup will be a straight fight between himself and West Ham United's Andy Carroll.
But who would you take to Brazil?
Lambert has enjoyed a wonderful season at St Mary's. The Saints have been marching around the Premier League with confidence, playing some great football with a nucleus of exciting English talent. Lambert, who has worked his way up through the leagues with Macclesfield, Stockport and Bristol Rovers, is now 32 but he is playing the best football of his career. He is scoring goals, creating chances and loving every minute of being in the top flight.
The Liverpool-born striker has recorded a one-in-two strike return at the Saints, which is one-in-three this season in the top flight. He's not the quickest player in the world, but he is a smart player. He knows what moves to make and how to get that extra yard off a defender. Lambert is great in the air and on the deck and is a constant threat. He also scored the winner for England against Scotland with his first touch on his debut at Wembley in August. Dreams do not get any better than that!
But then there's Andy Carroll. The West Ham striker has been plagued with injuries over the past few seasons and failed to live up to his £35 million price tag at Anfield, but on his day he can be lethal. Like Lambert, Carroll is strong and good with the ball in the air and at his feet. More of a target man than Lambert, the Newcastle-born marksman has the ability to hold the ball up and bring team-mates into the game, and gives you much-needed height in the box.
However, Carroll's injury record is a concern, as is the fact that Carroll can often concede more fouls than actually win them. While his height can be an advantage defensively and offensively, it could also be a weakness for the team. While Hodgson will no doubt want his players to play the ball on the ground, building the play up slowly, there is always the temptation to rush it and punt an aimless ball up to him. That's not his fault, but it's not beneficial for the team.
A few months ago I was all up for taking Carroll. I thought he would be fresh, recharged and revitalised after his long spell on the sidelines, that he would provide England with another option up front, but I just haven't seen enough from the big man to convince me that he deserves to go to Brazil. Lambert has been in form all season and would leave everything in Brazil to play for his country. With Lallana definitely on the plane, and possibly Luke Shaw, it would be great for the Saints to have team-mates there to share the experience with.
So Lambert gets the nod from me, but who would you choose?
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