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O'Neill sets World Cup test to promising stars

O'Neill sets World Cup test to promising stars

Martin O'Neill has challenged his rising Aston Villa stars to use the next 12 months as a platform to break into Fabio Capello's England World Cup squad, starting against Fulham this weekend.
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, Curtis Davies and James Milner are either in Capello's plans or on the fringes and Villa manager O'Neill has thrown down the gauntlet to his youngsters.
Agbonlahor was promoted from the Under-21s and excelled on his debut in Berlin against Germany ten days ago while Young earned his fourth international cap as a second-half substitute.
O'Neill has now told his rising stars to gatecrash into the squad that could play in the World Cup finals in two years' time.
"As much as I complained about the timing of the international game I was delighted that Gabby played and did really well," said O'Neill.
"He's got a bit to go but he wants to improve. His big ambition was realized in Berlin and he wants to get going. Gabby had a chance to play international football for a number of countries but he wanted to play for England.
"It was an excellent introduction against high quality opposition and he knows he has major competition for his place because England are going brilliantly at the moment.
"The only thing I've said to the likes of Gabby and Ashley is to try and be on that plane when it heads to South Africa. Anything beyond that will be brilliant."
O'Neill is wary of Roy Hodgson's resurgent Fulham and does not want to throw away creditable results against Arsenal and Manchester United with another disappointing performance against a perennial struggler.
For years Villa have suffered embarrassment against teams battling to avoid relegation and O'Neill believes Fulham's confidence will be high after their draw at Liverpool last weekend.
He said: "Fulham had a great result against Liverpool and I don't think you need any further reminding about it, it's there in front of you.
"As everyone remarks, perhaps the way you play against the big teams might suggest some sort of improvement, but we've got to try and push on.
"I've said this before but you have to treat each game on its merits. It's a match we have to try to win."
Villa could be boosted by the return of Carlos Cuellar, the Spanish defender, who is set to recover from a thigh problem to play today.
Hodgson has called on his team to show the same spirit they showed against Liverpool last week.
"This game is the same level of difficulty. We have to play well enough to thwart them in the attack," said the Fulham boss.


Updated : 2021-10-25 12:39 GMT+08:00