England woe for Woodgate but Konchesky earns call

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The Independent Online

Real Madrid defender Jonathan Woodgate lost a chance to break into England's World Cup squad when he picked up a hamstring injury playing for Real Madrid last night.

The injury-plagued Woodgate, who spent 18 months on the sidelines after repeated surgery on his left thigh muscle, was expected to be named in Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for Saturday's friendly against Argentina. However, Eriksson received news that Woodgate had limped off after just 23 minutes of Madrid's 1-0 league win against Real Zaragoza.

England face Argentina in Geneva, but Eriksson is unable to field his strongest squad because of injuries to Gary Neville, Owen Hargreaves, Kieron Dyer and Ashley Cole. Jamie Carragher was also injured in Liverpool's 2-0 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday and is ruled out.

West Ham left-back Paul Konchesky gets a chance to break into the World Cup squad. Konchesky's consistent performances for his club have helped the Hammers get off to an impressive start on their return to the top flight and the former Charlton defender, who has played frequently for the England Under-21 team, has broken into the senior squad for the second time since playing in the disastrous 3-1 home defeat to Australia in February 2003.

An injury to back-up goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has given David James a chance to return to the squad. The Manchester City goalkeeper had been left out after a series of poor performances, including England's 4-1 loss to Denmark in a friendly in August.

Eriksson has also included the Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge, although he has only recently returned to competitive football after a double break of his left ankle in February. Tottenham's Michael Carrick was also included after some impressive games for his club.

"It's a test for us," Eriksson said of the game against Argentina. "We are meeting one of the best teams in the world in a friendly game. It will be a beautiful friendly game. But we are not going to treat it as a friendly. We are going to take it very seriously. Argentina teams are physically very strong but with a lot of technique as well and a lot of great quality players."

Eriksson will put his faith once again in Peter Crouch on Saturday, and has asked England's supporters not to boo the striker after the reception he was given against Poland last month.

Crouch was subjected to jeers from the Old Trafford crowd when Eriksson sent him on as a substitute for Shaun Wright-Phillips after 65 minutes of England's last World Cup qualifier against Poland. He went on to play a part in the winning goal - feeding the ball to Michael Owen, who crossed for Frank Lampard to score - and Eriksson asked yesterday that England's fans show patience with the player.

Eriksson said that he was not "100 per cent" sure that Crouch would be selected for the World Cup squad next summer but wanted to see the striker again for England; he is likely to start on the bench. "He's a very honest player, very hard-working and against Austria, Crouch covered more ground than any other English player," Eriksson said. " Normally a centre-forward doesn't do that. I would ask the fans [not to boo Crouch], he won't become better by being booed. He's maybe not the most elegant but he's very special."

England squad: Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur), James (Manchester City), Green (Norwich City); Campbell (Arsenal), Terry (Chelsea), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Neville (Everton), Young (Charlton Athletic), King (Tottenham Hotspur), Bridge (Chelsea), Konchesky (West Ham United); J Cole (Chelsea), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Beckham (Real Madrid), Carrick (Tottenham Hotspur), Smith (Manchester United), Jenas (Tottenham Hotspur), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea); Rooney (Manchester United), Owen (Newcastle United), Crouch (Liverpool), Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur).

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