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England hit by a number of withdrawals ahead of Moldova match

England begin their road to Brazil 2014 on Friday, with their first World Cup qualifier against Moldova at the Zimbru Stadium.

Roy Hodgson has been hit with a number of withdrawals from the squad, including some of his senior regulars.

Injuries have haunted Hodgson since taking charge in May, although the England boss still remains unbeaten as manager.

Ashley Cole withdrew from the squad due to an ankle injury. The England and Chelsea regular will be assessed by the medical staff over the weekend to see whether he can feature in the second qualifier against Ukraine on Tuesday.

Hodgson decided against calling up a replacement, as Leighton Baines and Cole’s club team-mate Ryan Bertrand are in the squad already.

Johnson forced to pull out

Consequently, the left back position seems to be covered well by Baines, an accomplished player who has been an excellent understudy to Cole for many years now.

Sunderland’s Adam Johnson has also been forced to pull out from the squad following a thigh injury.

The 25-year-old will miss both games, giving Hodgson another selection query.

Johnson has been capped 12 times for his country but missed out on Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2012.

With Ashley Young injured too, the England manager surprisingly decided not to call up a replacement.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be the initial replacement on the wing after showing no signs of pressure during Euro 2012.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has come a long way

The pacey winger has shown promising improvement since making his first appearance in an England shirt and looks certain to start.

James Milner is also likely to start on the other flank. Some would argue his best role would be in the centre of midfield, but his usual 100 per cent effort for the whole game would give Kyle Walker support at right back.

Andy Carroll was another who dropped out of the squad after the Liverpool loanee picked up a hamstring injury during his West Ham debut last weekend.

Hodgson again decided not to call up a replacement, as he looks towards Danny Welbeck for a start.

With Wayne Rooney also out due to the gashed leg he picked up in Manchester United’s 3-2 win against Fulham two weeks ago, Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge could feature at some point.

The setbacks can only be a good thing for England, as they must learn to cope without some of their most influential players.

After all, in two years’ time the likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry will be nearing the end of their international careers..

By Josh Harris

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