Capello picks Agbonlahor over Bent for qualifiers

England manager goes with Aston Villa frontman to replace injured Defoe
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The Independent Football

Fabio Capello last night called Gabriel Agbonlahor into the England squad for the two remaining World Cup qualifiers ahead of Darren Bent. The Aston Villa striker was picked as Jermain Defoe was left out because of his hand injury.

Otherwise Capello picked the strongest possible squad even though England have already qualified for South Africa next summer. The team face a five-hour flight to Dnipropetrovsk in the Ukraine for the game on Saturday and the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will all be expected to be on board.

Capello regards it as imperative that the team continue their 100 per cent record in qualifying – so far they have won eight out of eight – and also believes it is important that they maintain the integrity of the competition. Ukraine are competing with Croatia for second place in the group. England play Belarus at Wembley on 14 October.

Theo Walcott, who marked his first game of the season for Arsenal yesterday with a goal, was not included. Ben Foster, the Manchester United goalkeeper whose form has been patchy of late, was also left out because of injury which means Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson stays in the squad. David James also came back into the squad. There was no place for Joe Cole, just returning to fitness. Ashley Young has been dropped.

Capello has again selected five strikers, a sign that he may take that many to the finals next year. The squad does not meet until tomorrow in Hertfordshire and it is anticipated that there could be withdrawals.

England squad: To play Ukraine and Belarus

*for the World Cup qualifiers on 10 and 14 October: Robinson (Blackburn), Green (West Ham), James (Portsmouth); A Cole (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Johnson (Liverpool), Bridge (Manchester City), Lescott (Man City), Brown (Man United), Ferdinand (Man United), Upson (West Ham); Milner (Aston Villa), Lampard (Chelsea), Beckham (LA Galaxy), Gerrard (Liverpool), Barry (Man City), Wright-Phillips (Man City), Carrick (Man United), Lennon (Tottenham); Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Heskey (Aston Villa), Crouch (Tottenham), C Cole (West Ham), Rooney (Man United).