Terry absence will hurt England at World Cup - Lineker

The former international feels a centre-back partnership of the ex-captain and Chelsea team-mate Gary Cahill is key, before hailing Lionel Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo
Gary Lineker believes the absence of John Terry damages England's chances at the World Cup.

The Chelsea captain quit the national side following a fall-out with the Football Association in 2012 after being found guilty of racist abuse, but has formed impressively under Jose Mourinho this season.

5/4 England are 5/4 with bet365 to not qualify from Group D
The 33-year-old quashed speculation of a comeback once and for all, but Linkeker feels his experience will be missed in Brazil.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the best partner for [Gary] Cahill would have been John Terry ... but John Terry wasn't called in," the former striker wrote in his blog, Blahzil.

"The back up in that particular area is either [Chris] Smalling or [Phil] Jones, now both of those players of course have struggled this season at Manchester United.

"So you've not really got that much consistency in that position - it's the one area of the team which is a concern."

Linker, though, is confident Roy Hodgson's defence will be improved by the return to form of Joe Hart.

He added: "Thankfully Joe Hart has bounced back to form with Manchester City and he'll be hugely encouraged by the fact that he went on to win the [Premier League] title.

"So that's massively encouraging because goalkeepers are an integral part of any defence."

Looking at the World Cup as a whole, the former Barcelona man has pinpointed Lionel Messi as the key attraction over the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.

"For me Messi is a gift from the footballing gods," he wrote.

"He's just such a phenomenal talent, a player that doesn't only best people but memorises them and produces magical moments, scores a multitude of goals and he's always an honest player.

"He gets kicked, he gets hacked, he gets up. He never dives, he doesn't cheat. He's just a brilliant example for footballers everywhere.

"For me Messi just edges it in the sense that he's more of a team player. I think Ronaldo is a phenomenal talent – brilliant player – love him to bits. But he does play for himself a little bit.

"Messi always makes the right decisions, whether to pass or whether just to finish. The man's a little genius."