So, with the World Cup thirty-two days away, Sven Goran Eriksson has today named the 23 players he hopes will take England to Berlin on 9th July.
Whilst the core of the squad is as expected, Sven has taken something of an unusual gamble by leaving out a number of players widely expected to make the cut and including some untried youngsters. Quite unlike the normal loyal, boring Sven, I suppose.
The biggest surprise is the inclusion of Arsenal reserve striker Theo Walcott who, at the age of 17, has yet to make a senior appearance anywhere outside the second tier of English football. If he comes on and proves to be brilliant, it will clearly look like a stroke of genius, but when you consider that Eriksson has left out Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent (18 goals this season), it is not surprising that eyebrows will be raised. Of course Eriksson also promoted Wayne Rooney to the senior England side at the same age, and he takes Walcott with Arsene Wenger's endorsement.
Robinson, James and Green are the keepers (I am with Henry Winter on this one - "taking three goalkeepers to a World Cup is like taking an extra large box of condoms on holiday...")
Defenders are (unsurprisingly), Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Campbell, Carragher, Bridge and Cole.
The midfield comes from Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Jenas, Carrick and Joe Cole, with surprising call-ups for Hargreaves, Lennon and Downing. I actually think these are not bad selections to be honest - Lennon is the form player and Downing will offer us a true left-footed option on the left hand side. I also find it interesting that Shaun Wright-Phillips has been omitted after his £20m move to Chelsea - I bet he would have been in the squad if he had played 30+ games for Manchester City this season. Perhaps other "star" players may take heed of his omission.
Up front, we could end up surprisingly short. Rooney and Owen are not 100% fit and so that leaves us with Peter Crouch (go back 18 months in a time machine and tell your mates he'd be our first choice at the World Cup and see how seriously they take you) and a 17 year old with no Premiership or European experience.
That leaves out both Defoe and Bent, as well as Ledley King, Wright-Phillips and other fringe players like Kieron Richardson, Luke Young, Wes Brown and Phil Neville. Stand-by players are Scott Carson, Nigel Reo-Coker, Young and Andy Johnson.
So, there we go. Let's hope that the inclusion of an unexpected striker might end up being the genius touch we need - think Pele in 1958, Schillaci in 1990......