Will Fabio back Spurs stars for World Cup opener? Part 1/2

MICHAEL Dawson's call-up last Friday afternoon gave Tottenham their best ever representation in an England World Cup squad. The 26-year-old joined club-mates Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Ledley King and Aaron Lennon in South Africa...

By Ben Pearce

MICHAEL Dawson's call-up last Friday afternoon gave Tottenham their best ever representation in an England World Cup squad.

The 26-year-old joined club-mates Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Ledley King and Aaron Lennon in South Africa, giving Spurs five players at the Three Lions' training base - more than any other Premier League team.

That is also one more than the Lilywhites' previous best showings - Spurs had four players in England's 2006 and 1950 World Cup squads.


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All five were in action on Monday in England's 3-1 friendly warm-up win over the Platinum Stars with Defoe, who started alongside Crouch, scoring the opener in the third minute.

It is exceedingly unlikely that Fabio Capello will name the same starting XI when England take on USA in Rustenburg this weekend - a certain Wayne Rooney probably has a fairly decent chance of making the line-up.

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However, Tottenham's contingent are sure to be heavily involved on Saturday night.

As the Three Lions bid to strike their first blow in the World Cup, Ham&High Sport looks at the dilemmas facing Capello, and the questions which will decide exactly how big a part north London's finest will play in their country's crucial curtain-raiser.

Part One: Who will replace Rio Ferdinand in central defence?

DAWSON may have been the immediate benefactor of Ferdinand's devastating injury but, nearly one week later, it is King who looks likely to profit the most.

The Spurs skipper arrived at his first ever World Cup as an understudy, but he is now in pole position to start in the heart of the defence.

Like Dawson, Matthew Upson was an unused substitute in the friendlies against Mexico and Japan recently, and was probably fortunate to make the 23-man squad. The pair are well down the pecking order and King's main rival is Jamie Carragher.

The Liverpool man certainly has a case due to his wealth of Champions League experience. Take away King's England friendlies in the past fortnight, and his biggest non-domestic match is the Uefa Cup quarter-final against PSV Eindhoven in 2008.

Of course, the Premier League pits top-flight defenders against the world's best attacking players on a weekly basis.

However, King was unusually shaky on his return to England action against Mexico, and he admitted that he had been surprised by the pace of the game and the movement of his opponents.

That is a concern ahead of the clash with USA, who have plenty of speed in their forward ranks with the likes of Landon Donovan.

However, in that respect King is sure to be a more attractive option than Carragher, who is pedestrian over the ground these days.

Provided that King's brain is up to speed this weekend, his pace over the ground is not really a concern, and that is likely to be the decisive issue for this fixture.

That brings us to the eternal question of King's knee. If he is indeed Capello's first choice as Ferdinand's replacement, can he play in every game?

The answer is that he may not need to. Should England beat USA on Saturday, their passage to the last 16 should be secure and Capello could rest King against Algeria.

In the unlikely scenario that England still need a result against Slovenia in their third game, King could be recalled, or he could be rested again ahead of the first knockout match. It all depends on the first clash with USA - so Capello will call for King.

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