Ashley Cole rejoins England squad
LONDON -- After another off-field misdemeanor, Ashley Cole will hope to do his talking in Poland on the pitch on Tuesday and nudge England closer to the World Cup.
The defender didn't feature in Friday's 5-0 rout of Marino, with coach Roy Hodgson insisting that wasn't punishment for a vulgar Twitter outburst against the Football Association.
Whether he was dropped or rested, Cole now can't reach a century of England appearances in Warsaw — and he's facing increasing competition for the spot at left back.
Leighton Baines has started all four England games since the European Championship, although Cole was injured for the August and September matches.
"Ashley has deserved every one of his 98 caps and hopefully he will reach the 100 mark because he deserves it," Baines said. "I don't think I will be denying him that. It will happen. Ashley is a top player and I'm sure he will get to the milestone."
On his 99th international showing Tuesday, Cole is likely to be the most experienced member of the defense as England copes without center back John Terry, who quit international football before the FA punished him for racially abusing an opponent.
It was after reading criticism of his role defending Terry in the case that Cole turned to Twitter to criticize the FA.
"Getting involved in what he has been involved in at the moment has been unfortunate," former England defender Martin Keown said. "He has been misunderstood to a large extent. For all that, what you cannot argue with his success on the football field because Ashley is a phenomenal player.
"He keeps putting in the performances year after year ... if he had a point to prove he has proved it." England will hope to gain more than just a point in Poland.
Although the easier games against Moldova and San Marino have been won so far in qualifying on the road to Brazil in 2014, Roy Hodgson's side was held at home to Ukraine last month.
And while England holds a three-point lead in Group H, Montenegro and Poland have each played a game less. Hodgson will need Wayne Rooney to pick up where he left off against San Marino on Friday when he scored twice to rise to fifth in the England scoring leaderboard on 31.
The Manchester United striker will relinquish the captain's armband to midfielder Steven Gerrard, who returns from suspension.
"At the moment I am seeing the best of Wayne Rooney," Hodgson said. "Maybe in the earlier games he could play for me he wasn't at that level. Now I have to hope now he stays at his best and that he stays fit and healthy and continues to do what he is doing for Manchester United at the moment, which means he'll do it for us as well."
While the ball rarely even entered England's half against San Marino on Friday, Poland struggled in a friendly against South Africa.
Waldemar Fornalik's side won 1-0 in just his second game in charge courtesy of Marcin Komorowski's debut goal.
Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski will be missing with an ankle injury, while Przemyslaw Tyton is set to remain in goal in placed of the sidelined Wojciech Sczcesny.
But Poland's main goal threat is fit: Robert Lewandowski, who has scored four times this season for Borussia Dortmund but failed to beat Manchester City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart in their Champions League encounter.
"Lewandowski played well in that game," Rooney said. "He had the runners either side of him and they counter attacked very well. That is something we have to be aware of because we know Poland are a good counter attacking team. We will have to deal with that.
"But, as long as Joe plays well, I'll be happy. He is a fantastic keeper and he is certainly the best to come out of England for a long time."