Which strikers will make England's World Cup squad?

Tim Simon runs the rule over the strikers Roy Hodgson has at his disposal for next summer's World Cup - that is, if England qualify of course...

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Ahh, an England squad announcement: never simple, are they? Indeed, they're usually at the centre of farcical controversy as fans pore at the 23-man list with outrage and disgust as the player they've backed to make it has missed out. 
It must have felt like an impossible task for Roy Hodgson as he mulled over which players to pick in his latest England squad for the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.
The England manager has lost just one match during normal time – but he's also drawn seven of 18 games in charge and must win the next two qualifiers to move into pole position at the top of Group H.
The striking department, in particular, is often the most disputed. While there are plenty of options, Hodgson will always have to pick five strikers and, inevitably, some won't be on that plane next summer. So who's in the mix?

The certainties

Wayne Rooney
Constant speculation and a slide in the pecking order at Old Trafford has made some lose faith in the man touted as the country's saviour for almost a decade - but any England manager's plans will involve Rooney plus three or four others. 
Since joining in 2004 he's bagged double figures in every season, including two 34-goal campaigns. Rooney relishes his role as a main striker and will almost certainly be used by Hodgson in his favoured slot.
Last season he was played in a deeper role behind new signing Robin van Persie, and although he hit double figures again in goals and assists, he was criticised for being wasteful in possession and failing to track back. His 83% passing accuracy was reasonable but a long way below the United average - midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley achieved 90% accuracy, for example.
Despite impressing against Chelsea the 27-year-old misplaced 14 of 56 passes. 
Rooney still, however, managed 12 goals and 10 assists in the league last season. At international level he has disappointed at major tournaments but his overall goalscoring record is healthy, with 36 goals in 86 caps. With that, there's every chance he'll break Bobby Charlton's record of 49 by the time he hangs up his boots - a feat even Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Michael Owen couldn’t achieve. 

Daniel Sturridge

When Sturridge moved to Liverpool in January, many wrote him off as greedy and self-centred, even going as far to say Chelsea got a better deal for Demba Ba than the Reds did for the young Englishman.
Since then, aided by the enforced absence of Luis Suarez, Sturridge has made the move from isolated right-winger to an advanced central role. He's certainly taken his chance, hitting 13 goals in 17 games for the Anfield outfit. 
The 24-year-old missed England's 2-2 draw with Scotland, but by scoring five in Liverpool's first four games of the season he's given himself a huge chance of a start against Moldova and more. Confidence is sky high, his finishing clinical, and at the moment he's a necessity for Hodgson. 
Sturridge’s youth and current form is welcome in an era where most of England’s so-called 'golden generation’ have either retired or are in the twilight of their careers. The former Manchester City man is the future of the Three Lions' attack, and whether Brendan Rodgers’ assertment that he is “England’s best striker” is true or not, he'll be a key cog in the machine for years to come.

Danny Welbeck

Like Sturridge, Welbeck has energy in abundance… but also critics. Well, at least he had until the start of this campaign anyway. 
Just one goal in 27 league appearances last season (a shoddy 4.2% conversion rate) left some questioning the youngster's international credentials, though in fairness his return of seven goals in 16 games for England is a much better reflection of his abilities. 
Ultimately though, the 22-year-old offers much than most; he can play in a variety of different positions, never shirks a challenge and is exceptionally good at retaining possession. Welbeck’s unusual willingness to track back has seen him deployed as a wide man or even as a third, more advanced, central midfielder. 
Last season he was regularly used wide to utilise his work rate and exceptional pace, and won an impressive 72% of his 36 attempted tackles. He's an unusual player but a hugely capable one, while his versatility makes him a certainty should England make it to Brazil. 
His opening-day double at Swansea (from just three attempts) got him off to the perfect start - but he'll need to prove he can do it on a consistent basis to win over his doubters. For now though, he has little to worry about. 

The contenders

Jermain Defoe
Before Tottenham’s acquisition of Roberto Soldado, Defoe was largely seen as a squad shoo-in. Now, as he battles for games at club level, he's a potential drop-out as the season wears. 
Since making his England debut back in 2004 the 30-year-old has been regularly called up and, despite marginally missing out on the 2006 World Cup squad, has notched 19 goals in 54 caps.
Should he remain a Spurs player and continue to find game time restricted, that record shouldn't be overlooked. The former West Ham prodigy is a proven goalscorer at international level and could prove a valuable option off the bench for Hodgson's men. 
Should England qualify it'll almost certainly be his last major tournament, and the Spurs man will be looking to make sure he signs off in style.

Andy Carroll

History tells us England pick a traditional No.9 - and currently there isn't better option for England than Carroll, who took on 345 headed duels in his debut season at West Ham and won an impressive 65% of them.
His bullet header against Sweden at Euro 2012 was typical of the 6ft 3in powerhouse, and should serve as a persistent reminder to Hodgson of the 24-year-old's capabilities. 
Fans averse to reliance on big men should perhaps consider their often-solid scoring records at international level. A look at the Czech Republic’s Jan Koller (55 in 91) and England’s own Peter Crouch (22 in 42) tells its own story.
With age on his side and Crouch misfiring for Stoke last season, it's Carroll who is the most likely to get another chance - providing he can stay fit. 

Rickie Lambert

Is there a better way to kick off your international career?
A call-up alone would have been beyond the Southampton man's wildest dreams only a year ago, but a debut strike against Scotland at Wembley was something else entirely for the 31-year-old.
Just seven years ago he was playing in League Two for Bristol Rovers - now he's a very real contender for Hodgson's summer plans.
Lambert is different animal where England are concerned, combining aerial prowess with surprisingly impressive technical ability. The rugged Merseysider netted 15 goals for the Saints in their return to the top flight last season, including two long-range free-kicks and four headers. He also created 80 chances for his team-mates, a sizeable tally for an out-and-out striker. 
This late bloomer is somewhat of an unknown quantity at international level, and that may fall in his favour when Hodgson runs the rule over his options next summer.

The outsiders

Peter Crouch
Crouch’s aforementioned record - marginally better than a goal every two games - is the only thing giving him a chance of playing in his third World Cup for England.
Teams struggle with Crouch’s unusual 6ft 7in frame at this level - but the 32-year-old will either have to find his old scoring touch at Stoke this season or hope (privately) for a busy treatment table over the next 10 months.  
Crouch uses his technical qualities to link up play well but somehow still needs to better capitalise on his height advantage - against Crystal Palace he won just 6 of 15 aerial duels earlier this season. 

Darren Bent

Bent has recently moved to Fulham, where opportunities will flow more frequently than during his doomed spell at Aston Villa. But his chances of a World Cup pick remain slim.
He made just eight starts in the league last season, managing three goals at a shot conversion rate of 20%. Bent is a great back-up option as a reliable poacher, but even in his heyday he was never an England regular (having won just 13 caps) and that's not likely to change in the near future.  

Gary Hooper

Norwich City's new man may have not yet made his Premier League bow yet, but calls for his England opportunity came as early as last season during Celtic’s heroic Champions League run.
You get the feeling he'll have to impress quickly in the top flight to even be in with a shot, though. It’s one thing scoring regularly for Scunthorpe (43 in 80) and Celtic (63 in 95) but to do it against the Premier League's meanest backlines is another thing entirely. 

Gabriel Agbonlahor

Agbonlahor went missing for a while before bursting back onto the scene at the end of last season with a string of superb displays for Aston Villa.
The 26-year-old's pace and power is always hard to deal with, and cutting in from wide areas he offers a different, more versatile option to the others at Hodgson's disposal. 
Agbonlahor suffered three fouls on the opening day against Arsenal - two of them resulting in penalties - and proved the perfect foil for Villa's main man, Christian Benteke. Unfortunate to miss out on the Three Lions' latest squad, more of the same could make him a quiet candidate for a late push. 

Fraizer Campbell

After his goalscoring heroics against Manchester City, Malky Mackay believes Campbell can add to his solitary England cap picked up in May 2012.
Campbell's headed brace reminded the top flight of his credentials after an injury-plagued spell saw appearances at Sunderland limited. He's got a difficult task on his hands keeping the Bluebirds up this season - but that could be the perfect test for the 25-year-old to show what he can really do. 

Jay Rodriguez

He may not have the deadliest of records and often stands in the shadow of Lambert at Southampton, but Rodriguez showed glimpses of his abilities at the tail end of last season. 
His six goals and five assists proved the 24-year-old has something to offer in the final third, and while the former Burnley man has plenty to prove at the highest level, he's an alternative choice should England pick up injuries and Hodgson instead plumps for a punt over experience. With the ability to play anywhere across the front three he has versatility on his side.