Fabio Capello will announce his England squad on Saturday for the upcoming match against Hungary at Wembley.
Wednesday night’s friendly game will be England’s first since their disappointing showing at the World Cup in South Africa.
England’s second-round exit at the hands of Germany was only one of four sub-standard performances over the summer and Capello is expected to ring the changes with perhaps only half of the World Cup squad being retained.
The emphasis will be on youth as England prepare for a new season and a new qualification cycle for the European Championships, which begins at the start of September with qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland.
Emile Heskey has been the only player to announce his official retirement from international football but Jamie Carragher and Ledley King will once more step out of the pool of players available to Capello.
David James, now at Bristol City, is another expected to make way.
Joe Hart has now been widely tipped to get the chance to establish himself as the nation’s new No. 1, although his club future still hangs in the balance.
Ben Foster, now at Birmingham City, will most likely replace James in the squad with Capello hopeful that Foster can start to fulfill some of the potential after a stuttering couple of years largely spent as back-up at Manchester United.
Rob Green could be sweating on his place in the squad after his error against the United States saw him dropped for the rest of the tournament.
If replaced, Green’s place would most likely go to Blackburn’s Paul Robinson who enjoyed a strong end to last season, which could be enough to earn him a recall from the international wilderness having not featured for England since 2007.
Capello’s first choice defence might not be too different to what it was in South Africa with Glen Johnson, John Terry and Ashley Cole expected to be retained but the back-up should be completely different.
Carragher and King, as previously mentioned, will be discarded and captain Rio Ferdinand remains several weeks away from recovering from the injury that ruled him out of the World Cup.
Ferdinand’s replacement was Michael Dawson and he will most likely be retained and possibly pencilled in to start alongside Terry against Hungary.
Wes Brown missed out on the final World Cup selection through injury and may be recalled. His chief opposition to challenge Johnson for the right-back spot will be Micah Richards. Richards, like Robinson, has not played for England since 2007 and has not yet added to his 11 caps under Capello.
However, the Manchester City defender has been left out of the Under-21 squad thus renewing speculation that he will finally be called up by Capello.
At left-back Stephen Warnock is unlikely to be retained. Despite surprisingly making the final cut for South Africa, Warnock has still yet to add to his single cap won back in the summer of 2008 and Capello may now seek a younger alternative.
This could mean another look at Everton’s Leighton Baines who won two caps in the run-up to the World Cup but eventually missed out on selection, but perhaps more likely is a first call-up for Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs who, like Richards, has also been left out of the Under-21 squad.
Matt Upson, now 31, is another whose place will now come under severe threat from younger players in his position.
The likes of Gary Cahill and Ryan Shawcross have already been included in Capello’s squads without winning a cap but could now find opportunities more forthcoming.
Other alternatives would be recalls for Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott or his former teammate at Everton, Phil Jagielka, now sufficiently recovered from a serious knee injury.
Midfield could see an equally high turnover from the World Cup squad with more than half a dozen names competing for a place in the new squad.
Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott and Tom Huddlestone all just failed to make the final cut for South Africa but will be expecting to receive recalls.
Johnson and Walcott have already been left out of the under-21 squad so their inclusion is likely.
This might also be the case for Lee Cattermole and Jack Wilshere, both also left out of the under-21 selection, which would represent a much bigger surprise.
The tough tackling Sunderland midfielder could well add some much needed bite to England’s midfield and Capello may well take this opportunity to examine him in the senior set-up.
Wilshere impressed during his loan spell at Bolton in the second half of last season and Capello could well give fans a preview of England’s future with the inclusion of the highly rated 18 year old.
Aston Villa wide pair Ashley Young and Stewart Downing may also be hopeful of another chance under Capello having previously found opportunities hard to come by.
Scott Parker was also one of the final seven to miss out on Capello’s final 23-man World Cup squad but it remains to be seen whether Capello will continue to consider the West Ham man or choose to concentrate on younger players.
In terms of the World Cup squad, the players most likely to make way are Michael Carrick and Shaun Wright-Phillips, with Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon and perhaps even Gareth Barry expected to be nervous about their inclusion this time around.
David Beckham and Owen Hargreaves remain injury absentees.
Up front, Heskey is most likely to be replaced in the squad by Bobby Zamora who Capello spoke of after the World Cup as a player he was planning to look at, despite his relatively old age of 29 for a previously uncapped player.
Rooney, despite his World Cup goal drought continuing, will obviously retain his place whilst Jermain Defoe should also keep his spot after being one of only a handful to impress during his time on the pitch in South Africa.
Peter Crouch saw precious few minutes in the summer and Capello’s reluctance to utilise the Tottenham striker may hint at his possible replacement.
However, England remain fairly light for serious options in attack with possible replacements beginning and ending with Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Carlton Cole.
Andy Carroll has been tipped for a call-up to the senior side in the near future by Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce, but will probably have to wait a while longer having been retained in Pearce’s Under-21 selection for a friendly on Tuesday.
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