FOOTBALL: Injury problems are plaguing both England and Wales as the two sides prepare to get their respective World Cup campaigns underway tomorrow night.
With an opening qualifier against minnows Moldova, England look to have a much easier road to Brazil 2014 than the Dragons — but veteran manager Roy Hodgson is having to handle an ever-lengthening injury list.
Sunderland signing Adam Johnson was the latest casualty today due to a thigh problem while Ashley Cole (ankle) is also out. Both join Andy Carroll (hamstring) and Manchester United pair Wayne Rooney (gash) and Ashley Young on the treatment table, with all five also out of Tuesday’s home qualifier against Ukraine.
Meanwhile Wales manager Chris Coleman is still seeking his first win since being installed in January after the death of his late friend Gary Speed but the former Fulham boss will do well to break that duck against a strong-looking Belgium outfit tomorrow evening.
Wales are shorn of Joel Lynch (Achilles), Neil Taylor (fractured ankle), Andrew Crofts (ankle) and Craig Bellamy (calf), with Jack Collison (knee), Joe Ledley (groin), David Vaughan (ankle) and Wayne Hennessey (knee) already missing.
Southgate can draw solace from the fact that Gareth Bale, skipper Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen are all fit and available.
However in the likes of Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Thomas Vermaelen and Marouane Fellaini, Belgium boast genuine star quality and a difficult night looks in store for the Dragons.
To make their first-ever World Cup finals in Brazil, Wales will have to come through many more tough contests including Tuesday’s trip to Serbia, as well as future clashes with Scotland and Croatia.
In contrast, England’s encounter with Moldova will see them step out at the Zimbru Stadium in Chisinau as heavy favourites, but Hodgson has ordered his team not to underestimate their hosts.
“I don’t care if they are called Moldova,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, they could be called Brazil and we have to produce a performance to win us the game.”