World Cup qualifiers: Blow for Roy Hodgson as Ashley Cole is ruled out of both England qualifiers

Injury forces England’s first-choice left-back out of Montenegro  and Poland matches

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The Independent Football

Ashley Cole will miss England’s two World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland having failed to come through a test on a long-term injured rib, the first casualty of Roy Hodgson’s squad as he begins preparations this week.

Cole was replaced in the squad on Monday by the Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs, who joined up with the rest of the England players at St George’s Park. However, Cole’s place in the team will be taken by Leighton Baines, left-back being arguably the position where Hodgson has the most talented options.

The problem with his rib was made worse for Cole after he aggravated the injury against Norwich City on Sunday and had to be substituted. He went for a scan on the problem and the decision was taken that it was advisable not to risk the player given what is at stake in the two games,  beginning with Montenegro on Friday and Poland four days later.

Baines, 28, who has 19 caps, has started the season strongly and offers Hodgson a great deal going forward. His chances have been limited  because of Cole’s pre-eminence. In fact, he has started just four competitive games for England, all in the current qualifying campaign, and two of those have been against San Marino.

The England squad met at St George’s Park on Monday and will train again this morning, this time in front of television cameras. Hodgson has no other injury worries and the absentee list of first-team players – Cole, Glen Johnson and Theo Walcott – is not as bad as it has been in the past for England managers.

The midfielder James Milner said that the requirement to win their final two games to win Group H and qualify for Brazil 2014 was a situation the team would have accepted at the start of the campaign. “We’ve put ourselves in a great position,” Milner said. “If we’d been offered the chance of winning our last two home games to qualify at the start of the campaign, we’d have taken it.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play in a European Championship and a World Cup so it would be great to add another tournament to that list. Playing against Brazil last summer you could see what a great tournament it will be by the atmosphere. The Brazilians eat, breathe and sleep football so it’s a World Cup that no one wants to miss.”

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