England's national squad has been announced ahead of their friendly against Denmark next Wednesday, with Roy Hodgson opting to include a total of 30 players in the group—including a late chance for the likes of Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw to impress and make the World Cup squad.
The full squad, as per BBC Sport, includes a mix of seasoned veterans such as captain Steven Gerrard and forward Wayne Rooney alongside largely untried international players, with Ross Barkley and Steven Caulker joining Sterling and Shaw.
In all, it's a squad which probably contains—barring injuries between now and May—the majority if not all of England's ultimate World Cup 23, with Hodgson still to select a few final faces to complete his group.
Big chance for Sterling and Shaw
Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling has been in imperious form since December, creating 25 chances and scoring five goals in 15 matches since he returned to the Reds' starting lineup. Even alongside the free-scoring duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Sterling has put in a number of Man of the Match performances.
Improved and intelligent dribbling, searing pace and a real work ethic off the ball have made him a big part of Liverpool's front line. Combined with the absence of the injured Theo Walcott, it's likely that there is a clear starting spot to be won for the World Cup and that Sterling must be the current front-runner to fill it.
He has just one senior cap so far but a good performance against Denmark could see him start the World Cup as England's main man on the flank.
The case for Luke Shaw is slightly different: Though he has put in an excellent series of displays at left-back for Southampton, he is really pushing for a place on the plane to Brazil as a back-up.
Ashley Cole is England's recognised starter but his severe lack of game time for Chelsea—just 330 minutes in the league since early November—means his international spot is in jeopardy. In the case he misses out, Everton's Leighton Baines will be the starter, having had another very good season himself.
Even so, Shaw's first impact at senior level could see him head to a major tournament as a teenager, immediately putting him in the frame for regular games for his country thereafter.
Question marks over others
Other names included in the squad are less obvious to identify as a genuine option for Hodgson.
Jermain Defoe is bound for MLS and has barely featured for Spurs, while Andros Townsend—despite his two impressive performances in World Cup qualifying—has not started a league game since November.
So many holes in that England squad. Jermain Defoe has played five minutes since January 11. Five minutes.— Dale Johnson (@dalejohnsonESPN) February 27, 2014
Four goalkeepers are in the squad, none of whom will really challenge Joe Hart, while it remains to be seen what the likes of James Milner, Frank Lampard, Rooney and Gerrard will be able to show that Hodgson and co. have not seen 20 times already over the past two years. In such a large squad, surely few of the regulars will be asked to play significant minutes ahead of handing chances to others.
Jordan Henderson has enjoyed a magnificent season in midfield for Liverpool, while Ross Barkley of Everton and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal will also be hoping for further game time in the centre of the park to push their causes. It is possible that all three are fighting for the same one or two spots in Hodgson's eventual squad.
Once more, Southampton's attacking duo of Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez will hope they can be given the chance to show they have enough to warrant inclusion.
Missed the plane
Phil Jones has missed the squad due to his nagging hip injury, per Mark Ogden and Matt Law of The Telegraph, while the likes of Andy Carroll, Jon Flanagan, Micah Richards, Peter Crouch and Tom Huddlestone have all been overlooked.
It appears that for various reasons they will all not be involved with England's World Cup squad, save for an unbelievable three months between now and the end of the season.
The Denmark game is not the last fixture before the World Cup starts, but it is arguably the final chance for new names to push themselves to the front of the queue.
All eyes will be on who Hodgson opts to start with and who gives a good enough account of themselves at international level to justify heading to Brazil 2014.