With David Beckham ruled out of the World Cup, the door has opened for Adam Johnson to stake a late claim for England's finals squad. According to his Manchester City teammate Joleon Lescott, the winger is very much a candidate, possessing the magical quality that players like Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott demonstrated at a young age. An audacious injury-time curling effort to give City a 1-1 draw at Sunderland yesterday proved that. "I put him in that ability bracket, definitely," said Lescott. "He has just got to believe in himself and continue doing what he's doing. If he keeps producing that form, then why not?" And Lescott said Johnson should not discount himself from joining the central defender in the England reckoning for South Africa. He added: "No, it's not too late for the World Cup. If he's doing well for City on a regular basis then why not? "He might see it differently, but from the outside looking at it, for me, there's an opportunity to play on the left wing and at the moment Adam is good as any in the Premier League. "He takes the ball under pressure and can make things happen, in the same way as Craig Bellamy and Shaun Wright-Phillips. We are blessed with players like that." The goal against Sunderland was Johnson's first for City since he joined in January from Middlesbrough. But in just six games he has already shown he can have a major impact for club and country. Blessed with pace, close control and confidence, he is also comfortable playing on the left and right flank. Lescott added: "He's settled in straight away. Everyone has made him feel welcome, but no one was going to be surprised at what he's doing on the pitch because they know what kind of player he is." Johnson's name will be in the mind of Fabio Capello, the England manager, after the news that Beckham had torn an Achilles in AC Milan's win against Chievo on Sunday. With a three-month rehabilitation period expected, the former captain is unlikely to recover in time to make a fourth finals appearance and his international career could be over. It has left Capello with a dilemma. Walcott and Wright-Phillips are favourites for a place in the final 23-man squad, but with Aaron Lennon also struggling with injury and Joe Cole out of the Chelsea side and out of form, there is still hope for Johnson and the Aston Villa pair Stewart Downing and Ashley Young. Johnson was in Capello's 30-man squad for the friendly with Egypt, but has yet to win a full cap. But neither had Walcott when he was surprisingly called up by Sven-Goran Eriksson for the 2006 World Cup. Johnson said: "I'd love to think I had an outside chance, but I have to keep performing. Stranger things have happened." firstname.lastname@example.org
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