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Football: Cole quits England after World Cup axe

Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole has announced his retirement from international football after being told he'd been left out of England manager Roy Hodgson's squad for the World Cup.

LONDON: Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole announced Sunday he was retiring from international football after being told he'd been left out of England manager Roy Hodgson's squad for the World Cup.

"I got the call from Roy and agree England team should be about the young players," the 33-year-old Cole told his Twitter followers.

"We have a great manager and team and I wish them only success. I will be supporting them like a true fan. Thanks to everyone for everything," the 107-times capped Cole added ahead of Hodgson's official squad announcement on Monday.

Cole's words indicated his failure to hold down a regular first-team spot at Chelsea this season, where he has been displaced by Spain's Cesar Azpilicueta, had cost him his England career.

His omission means that Everton's Leighton Baines is set to be confirmed as England's leading left-back when Hodgson unveils his 23-man squad for the World Cup finals, with Southampton teenager Luke Shaw providing cover for the 29-year-old.

"#Baines and #shaw are great players, proved this season, and are the future of this country, it was a pleasure to get #107 caps #eng," added Cole, who earlier on Sunday started in Chelsea's final league game of the season, a 2-1 victory away to already-relegated Cardiff, on Twitter.

Former Arsenal defender Cole made his international debut against Albania in 2001 and has been an England regular ever since, starting every tournament game since his finals bow against Sweden at the 2002 World Cup.

Back in March, Hodgson said he understood he might have to disappoint a "big name" player when it came to selecting his squad for Brazil.

On Sunday, Hodgson told the Football Association website that dropping Cole, who "in his prime" was the world's best left-back, had been one of the toughest decisions of his career.

"Among many difficult decisions I've had to make for my squad, not selecting Ashley was one of the hardest," Hodgson said

"He's been an incredible competitor for England, to amass over a century of caps is a truly staggering achievement and he deserves enormous credit for the desire and brilliance which has shone through over the years he has represented his country.

"There are few players who can be considered among the very best in the world, but Ashley in his prime was the best left back without question," added Hodgson, who said Cole had accepted his omission with "huge grace".

"Of course I must respect his decision to retire, he has been one of England's finest players, but I want to look to the future. It has been one of the hardest decisions of my career."

Now it appears that the 18-year-old Shaw is set for his first major tournament as an England player despite having just the one cap behind him.

Shaw received a glowing report from Hodgson after making a 45-minute substitute appearance during his England debut in the friendly win over Denmark two months ago, with the manager saying: "Anyone who has watched him play would not deny he deserves a place."

The fact Cole, who moved across London from Arsenal to Chelsea eight years ago, was pictured crying after the Blues' final home Premier League game of the season last weekend also raised questions about his club future.

It is understood Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho would like Cole to remain at Stamford Bridge but several clubs in Europe and the United States have reportedly expressed an interest in signing the player.

England will face Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in the group stages of the World Cup which gets under way on June 12.

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