World Cup Qualifier: Striking chance for England

ENGLAND - With Wayne Rooney's head injury apparently making him look like "something out of a horror movie", Saturday morning (Singapore time) is a perfect opportunity for England's back-up strikers.

The venue is Wembley, filled to the rafters with passionate home supporters.

Their opponents are Moldova, ranked 123rd in the world, just above Turkmenistan.

Make no mistake, this isn't a game; it's a shooting gallery.

Given that Liverpool's prolific Daniel Sturridge is nursing a thigh injury and was forced to sit out training on Tuesday, it seems likely that Danny Welbeck will be given the nod to lead the line.

Welbeck has been much improved this season, linking well with Robin van Persie and demonstrating an increased tactical awareness.

He can also point to the goal he scored in the epic 3-2 win over Scotland last month.

For a man renowned mainly for his pace on the ball, a towering header in a congested penalty area was a useful skill to put on his CV.

Welbeck has won the support of his club manager David Moyes this season, but he has some way to go before he convinces national boss Roy Hodgson that he's the first choice for his country.

Hodgson has always put Rooney first, even when he's been off the boil.

Andy Carroll was dropped in favour of him during the European Championship, despite a devastating performance against Sweden.

Rooney played against Scotland even after minimal pre-season training and a very public fight to leave Manchester United.

But, as we've seen again this week, he does have problems with his fitness.

Sturridge's thigh injury could not have come at a worse time.

The Liverpool striker has been a man transformed since arriving at Anfield.

A peripheral figure at Manchester City and a deeply unpopular fringe player at Chelsea, this was always going to be his last chance to prove that he had the mentality to play at the top level.

No one has ever doubted Sturridge's talent,only his intelligence.

At Chelsea, he was too often guilty of wild, selfish efforts on goal when he could have been bringing his teammates into the game. Not any more.

Under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers, Sturridge is finally achieving his potential.

A move into the centre hasn't done him any harm, but it's the awareness that he shows in his play that sets him apart.

He's developed into a wonderful centre-forward with a gorgeous touch and an absolute refusal to be overawed by anything.

If he continues to develop at this pace, even Rooney may have to watch out.

It doesn't bode well for the remaining two strikers in Hodgson's squad.

Saint Lambert

Rickie Lambert carried out his national coach's orders by following his debut goal for England with another for Southampton, but subsequent blanks against Sunderland and Norwich will have dulled his allure.

Perhaps his burgeoning partnership with £15 million($30m) Pablo Oswaldo will bring more success.

And then there's the curious case of Jermain Defoe.

A far more rounded footballer than he was in his youth, Defoe finds himself on the edge of duty for both club and country.

The arrival of Roberto Soldado has left him on the bench for Tottenham, while the development of a new generation has seen him gently nudged out for England.

It would be sad if Defoe's best football went unrewarded after all the patience expended on his more wayward days.

Whoever gets the backing of Hodgson, they will have to ensure that they take their chance.

Moldova are an abysmal football team, a motley collection of lower-level players in the bracket of Luxembourg and Malta.

That England will win is beyond doubt. The only question is who will take this opportunity to force themselves into the manager's thinking.

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