Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has given the country hope and most importantly England manager Roy Hodgson some food for thought today. The Arsenal man returned to England training this afternoon wearing a brace on his injured right knee, with the injury itself believed to be inflamed ligament damage which was sustained in England’s 2-2 draw with Ecuador in Miami last week. The 20-year-old, who was seen leaving after last week’s friendly a little down in the dumps, came off worse after a challenge from Ecuador’s Carlos Gruezo and underwent a scan last Thursday.
England’s number 15 had previously been told that he could be side-lined for around 10 days. He is now prepared to defy the odds and prove to the England camp that he is strong as the proverbial Ox.
Today at the Urca Military base, guarded by a posy of armed soldiers. England’s physio Gary Lewin put the midfielder through his paces after arriving half way through the training session. Other members of Hodgson’s squad took part in England’s first training session in Brazil, shadowed by the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Despite the winger’s injury he has remained in high spirits, and his excitement for the tournament has been vocal on his Twitter page. He signalled his support for England’s last friendly against Honduras by posting, “Obviously gutted to miss it, but looking forward to watch and support the lads today.”
He also uploaded a picturesque view of the sun-kissed beach from his Rio de Janeiro hotel room. Well, it wasn’t going to be a Brazilian back street Bed and Breakfast overlooking a builder’s site was it.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s season with his club had been disrupted by a groin injury, where he had only just returned to full fitness with the Gunners. If he recovers from his recent bout of injury in time, he must then regain fitness for England and quickly. However, Hodgson, the former Liverpool and West Brom boss, has 24 hours before Saturday’s first group game against Italy in Manaus to decide whether to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain if he is thought to be unfit for the tournament.
A selection of standby players are waiting in the wings, and one of the choices will be drafted into the squad if the former Southampton academy graduate fails to make it. In this position are Michael Carrick and his Manchester United teammate Tom Cleverley; Hodgson could call upon one of them to take up the role. Carrick is likely to be the favorite for the call.
Nevertheless, Hodgson remains positive regarding Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chances of being fit and not having to call upon an understudy: “When I have to cross that bridge, I’ll do that. At the moment I don’t know the extent of the injury. He did ever so well against Ecuador and looked really sharp. It would be an enormous blow if we were to lose him, so I’d prefer to concentrate on the satisfaction and positivity I can take.”