FIFA World Cup: Injury scare for Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling on standby

Danny Welbeck misses England's training session in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, heightening concerns over his fitness for the World Cup opener against Italy, but opening the door for Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling to start

Rio de Janeiro: Fears about the fitness of England forward Danny Welbeck were confirmed on Wednesday when he missed a training session ahead of his side's opening World Cup game against Italy.

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British newspaper reports on Tuesday claimed the Manchester United player had been forced out of a closed training session with a thigh injury and he did not emerge for training at England's Rio de Janeiro base on Wednesday.

Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is working his way back to fitness after damaging knee ligaments in a friendly against Ecuador, was also absent.

England forward Daniel WelbeckEngland forward Daniel Welbeck. Pic/AFP

The severity of the injury is not known with the Football Association refusing to comment, although the fact he was one of just two absentees on Wednesday set off alarm bells.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the other member of the 23-man squad not to head out, with the midfielder doing an individual programme as he continues his rehabilitation from a medial knee ligament complaint.

That injury meant the 20-year-old was never likely to be involved against Italy, but the same cannot be said for Welbeck.

The forward looked likely to start on the left flank in Manaus on Saturday, with the setback potentially set to force manager Roy Hodgson into a rethink.

Raheem Sterling looks likely to be the beneficiary of Welbeck's absence, having impressed during the pre-tournament camp despite only getting 39 minutes of action across the three warm-up friendlies.

Having not featured against Peru in their Wembley send-off, his red card against Ecuador after coming off the bench saw him banned against Honduras - a match Hodgson had planned to start him in.

Sterling had another chance to impress the Three Lions boss in training on Wednesday, which took place in 83 per cent humidity with the mercury hitting 25 degrees Celsius.

The players had access to water spray bottles during drink breaks at the session, where assistant Ray Lewington hobbled around in a cast after having surgery on his left knee.

England face Italy in Manaus on Saturday in their opening Group D game.

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