England footballers compete with Murray and London 2012

Sep 11, 2012

Roy Hodgson's men have a tough act to follow, but can Raheem Sterling help?

ENGLAND'S footballers have the unenviable task of following up the Paralympic closing ceremony, the celebratory parade of athletes through London and Andy Murray's US Open triumph when they take on Ukraine at Wembley tonight.

To make matters worse there will be empty seats at Wembley and England will be forced to field a threadbare team thanks to injuries and withdrawals. And just to rub the footballers' noses in it, a group of Team GB medallists from London 2012 will be presented to the crowd at half time. It all seems geared up to make football look bad.

Football 365 blogger Philip Cornwall complains: "One of the few tedious aspects of 2012 has been the desire of some to rain on the parade by drawing unflattering comparisons between the Olympians and Paralympians on one hand, and footballers on the other.

"Murray's feat will offer a fresh chance to put the boot in," he adds.

But Roy Hodgson could yet invigorate the occasion be playing some of the youngsters he has called into a squad missing the likes of John Terry, injured against Estonia, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney.

Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Jake Livermore were all drafted in on Monday after Theo Walcott became the latest to withdraw from the squad after falling "violently ill" with a virus. Daniel Sturridge has also been feeling unwell but is expected to be available.

Much of the pre-match talks concerns 17-year-old Sterling, who has forced his way into the Liverpool team at the start of the campaign and has been rewarded with an England call.

"It must be rare that a player could represent his country with just eight first-team games under his belt, but this is the situation facing the attacker," says Jay Jaffa at Goal.com, who notes that his "meteoric rise" should be looked at cautiously.

Meanwhile, cynics are suggesting that he has been selected, not because he deserves it, but to prevent him from deciding to play for Jamaica in the future.

Former Liverpool and England player Mark Walters said: "Jamaica want him to play for them so maybe England just want to get him tied up so he's ineligible for anyone else."

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