World Cup countdown: Hoddle's 22 has a catch or two...

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ENGLAND fly out to their pre-World Cup training camp at La Manga in Spain tomorrow with only "one or two" places in the squad of 22 still to be decided, according to Glenn Hoddle.

The England coach will use the week and two matches in Casablanca, against Morocco on Wednesday and Belgium on Friday, to determine the fitness of the final members of the party, after which the squad will be announced on Monday 1 June.

"All I am waiting to see is the reaction of a few players," Hoddle said. "Going into that tournament I would say there will possibly be only one or two places and we might need the two games to fathom out what we are going to do with the 22. We are on course and a lot will be dependent on what happens there. There are a couple of little situations with the fitness."

With the Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp's quest for fitness having failed, 29 players will make the trip to Spain instead of the intended 30. The squad will then fly into Morocco and back for each game, to replicate their programme during the World Cup finals, when they will travel between their base near Nantes to Marseille, Toulouse and Lens for matches against Tunisia, Romania and Colombia.

"It would be nice to win these two games and go into the World Cup on a high, but there are other reasons for the matches," says Hoddle. "Morocco will play very much like Tunisia, the climate, the fact that we are playing after flying out quickly - all the logistical side of it is very much what is going to happen in the World Cup. The only problem is that the pitch is not going to be fantastic."

England will therefore have a problem in deciding which players to field over the two matches, with some needing the playing time, others having to prove their fitness, and more requiring rest rather than a demanding, bumpy surface that could aggravate strains.

The players most under scrutiny in terms of fitness after long absences with injury this year will be Ian Wright, Darren Anderton, Les Ferdinand and even Paul Gascoigne, who has responded well in training, according to Hoddle, to all the recent coverage of his night life.

"We have semi-panned that out," says Hoddle of the composition of his teams this week. "There are four or five who need the match practice but most will have done enough work." Last week, indeed, was almost a "pre- season" situation with all but the Arsenal and Newcastle players who contested the FA Cup final having had a fortnight off.

"Even though most of them have had a long hard season, they are training harder than they have been pushed for a while," said Hoddle. "After this, they won't be doing double sessions and we will be concentrating as much on the mental preparation."

Hoddle's own experience of the Mexico World Cup in 1986 as a player told him that England left too much energy on the training ground and that they also had much to learn about diet and stretching. "We are now a club and I have them for six weeks so I can control what they eat and what they drink. We will be doing a lot of the things we didn't do back in those days but which the Continental teams were doing even then. Those who smoke will only be allowed to do so in their own rooms while players will be allowed to drink alcohol only on Hoddle's say-so, he insists. "Most of them don't want to anyway so I don't think that is really going to be an issue."

Nor drugs, it seems. All players will have been tested by the time of the finals, says Hoddle. According to the coach, eight are allowed to be tested randomly at any one time and 16 were dealt with before the Switzerland match in March and the Portugal game last month. The rest, Hoddle adds, will be completed by the end of this week. And yes, he assures, they have all been negative so far.

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