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Grant Holt: The Wrestler

Toe Poke
 By Chris Wright

World Cup squad shocks: Theo Walcott felt both sides of surprise selections

The ESPN FC panel are joined by Raf Honigstein to dissect Brazil's chances of winning the World Cup following the release of their 23-man squad.
Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez break down Mexico's 28-man preliminary roster for the World Cup and who might miss out on the trip to Russia.
France will have one of the strongest squads at the 2018 World Cup. Here's why.
France has so many terrific players that they could field four completely different squads and still be competitive in the World Cup.
Neymar will have help in Russia. Meet the players who can carry him and Brazil all the way to the final in Moscow.
It goes without saying that Lionel Messi is Argentina's only hope. Here's just how much he meant during their rocky World Cup qualifying campaign.

With 2018 World Cup squads being named, The Toe Poke takes a look at some of the memorable ways players have learned they are in or out down the years.

Paul Gascoigne (1998)

In the run-up to France 98, England manager Glenn Hoddle took an unorthodox approach to whittling down his squad which basically involved the players having to attend pre-arranged 'appointments' with the boss in his hotel room to discover their fate.

Famously, this all backfired when Gazza was called in, only to be told he was one of the six players at the training camp who wouldn't be going to the World Cup.

The midfielder immediately flew into a rage, trashing Hoddle's room while calling the England manager all the names under the sun.

"I burst straight into Hoddle's room, where he was talking with Phil Neville and I went ballistic," Gazza later recalled in his autobiography.

"I went to the wardrobe and kicked the door in. Then I overturned the table, smashing a pottery vase. I cut my leg and so there was now blood all over the place.

"I was about to start smashing all the windows when David Seaman and Paul Ince burst in and managed to restrain me. The doctor gave me a valium tablet."

Theo Walcott (2006)

The tale of Walcott's shock call-up in 2006 is thankfully a little more sedate.

At the time, he was a green 17-year-old winger with precisely zero minutes of Premier League experience when Sven-Goran Eriksson decided to include him as a wild card in England's squad for the World Cup in Germany.

"I took my driving theory test, finished at 3pm and rang my Dad -- he said I was in the England squad and I didn't believe it," Walcott said.

"I thought he was having me on. I just thought, 'First the move to Arsenal, then this. It's unbelievable.' I thought I might be in the reserves but never this."

Theo Walcott (2010)

Four years later, Walcott felt the bitter sting of missing out on a World Cup when Fabio Capello cut him from England's preliminary squad ahead of the tournament in South Africa.

There was little indication that the Arsenal winger's place was in jeopardy beforehand, with Capello even describing him as one of the Three Lions' "most important players" after a friendly against Egypt.

However, the spot eventually went to Shaun Wright-Phillips, with a disbelieving Walcott reportedly left to take the fateful call from Capello while halfway round the golf course.

Pascal Chimbonda (2006)

Given that Raymond Domenech was at the helm, it perhaps shouldn't have come as a surprise that Pascal Chimbonda -- a player with very, very limited international experience -- made his way into Les Bleus' World Cup selection.

Indeed, the Wigan Athletic full-back had previously played three games for Guadeloupe when he received his call-up from Domenech, which also saw Thierry Henry operating as an unlikely middle man.

"I was in England and I was in contact with Henry, who was playing at Arsenal at the time. It was him who called me first to tell me the national team coach [Domenech] wanted my number. So, when he said that, I had a suspicion," Chimbonda later said.

"I accepted, and gave him my number. After that, he [Domenech] called me and asked me what my plans were. I told him I was going on holiday with my family as the league was over.

"He said, 'I think you'll have to push back your holidays, because perhaps you're going to be in the squad. There will be two surprises in the squad.' It was Ribery and me."

Alas, Chimbonda didn't play a single minute at the 2006 World Cup as France eventually saw their dreams quashed by Italy in that final.

David Odonkor (2006)

Famed for his frightening pace, it's perhaps fitting that Odonkor's inclusion in Germany's 2006 World Cup squad was nothing short of a whirlwind.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann left it until the last possible moment (almost literally) to contract the uncapped Dortmund winger and inform him of his selection, making the call mere hours before the tournament was due to begin.

Klinsmann even did so without informing the German Football Association, later explaining that he did so to keep the pressure of the 22-year-old "secret weapon."

Odonkor's inclusion was quickly justified, as it was he who crossed for Oliver Neuville to score in the dying seconds of the second group stage match against Poland.

Julio Cruz (2006)

As revealed by the man himself, target man Cruz only found out that he'd not been included in Argentina's squad for the 2002 World Cup when he rang up and asked himself.

Four years later, the Inter Milan forward decided to take a very different, altogether more laissez-faire approach.

"In 2002, I called the technical director (Marcelo Bielsa) to know what was going to happen and then he told me that I would not be going to the World Cup," Cruz recalled.

"This time (2006), I wanted to do the opposite, not call anyone. So I switched off my phone."

Cruz did eventually get his call-up (presumably via email), making two appearances for the Albiceleste out in Germany on their run to the quarter-finals.

Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.


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