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Moldova v England: The key men

It is the opening game of England’s World Cup 2014 qualification campaign and manager Roy Hodgson will be eager to avoid an unlikely banana skin in the form of Moldova, as the European minnows host the Three Lions, hoping to cause a major upset.

England will have to do without a couple of squad regulars, with Ashley Cole out because of an ankle injury sustained in Chelsea’s Super Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid whilst striker Andy Carroll injured a hamstring on his Premier League debut for West Ham United last weekend.

Wayne Rooney is still out with the gashed leg he suffered two weeks ago against Fulham.

England will be favourites to reach Brazil 2014 as likely victors of Group H that also contains joint Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine, as well as Montenegro and European whipping boys San Marino.

Currently ranked 137th in the world, Moldova are outsiders in every sense and have never qualified for a major tournament with their international highlights, including two victories over Georgia and Wales in their Euro 96 qualification campaign.

England’s key men

With Rooney and Carroll both sidelined, Jermain Defoe (pictured) is again waiting in the wings ready to stake his claim, much like the way he has done at club level for Tottenham Hotspur.

A proven goalscorer, Defoe has often been on the periphery of the squad but has always represented a capable deputy when called upon.

29-year-old Defoe is likely to earn his 50th Three Lions cap from the start, as he is set to be partnered alongside Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck in a possible 4-4-2 system.

He will fancy his chances of registering on the scoresheet against a Moldovan backline who are inexperienced at the highest level.

With Rooney out, Defoe must stake his claim and he will fulfil an important role, spearheading the attack in a game where fans are expecting England can get the job done and convincingly so against lesser opponents.

Another player who will be keen to impress is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Arsenal winger is likely to start, after Sunderland's recent import Adam Johnson was ruled out with a thigh injury.

Oxlade-Chamberlain offers pace, the ability to trouble any kind of opposition defences and deals better with defensive duties, than Theo Walcott and Ashley Young, who is missing from this squad due to injury. 

England are often criticised for their slow build-up play and Oxlade-Chamberlain can ignite some genuine quality and pace from the flanks.

Moldova’s key men

With the majority of the Moldova squad either based in their home nation or in the Russian and former Soviet Union regions, there has been a lack of a true Moldovan hero in the national team for some years now.

Striker Serghei Dadu threatened to stake that claim a few years ago but now the most talented Moldovan national is probably captain and centre back Alexandru Epureanu of Krylia Sovetov in the Russian Premier League.

The 25-year-old commands greater experience than the majority of the squad, having played for a number of years at the top level in Russia for FC Moscow, Dinamo Moscow and now Krylia, following his breakthrough in Moldova in 2002 for Zimbru Chisnau and then Sheriff Tiraspol.

Defoe and Welbeck will look to get the better of Epureanu, with pace standing out as the key ingredient in this particular on-field battle.

By Taylor Williams - Follow me on Twitter @Taylor_Will1989 - Visit my blog - thetrickywinger.blogspot.com

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