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Ashley Cole retires from international football

ESPN staff
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Ashley Cole was said to have turned down standby role

Chelsea defender Ashley Cole has announced his retirement from international football after being left out of England's 23-man squad for the World Cup.

The 33-year-old was in direct competition with Southampton's 18-year-old left-back Luke Shaw, who is reportedly on the verge of sealing a move to Manchester United, as the understudy to first-choice Leighton Baines. A lack of first-team football at club level, where he had lost his place to Cesar Azpilicueta, had put his place under threat and how Hodgson has decided to look to the future.

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The Daily Telegraph earlier broke the story of Cole's omission, reporting that the veteran had declined the opportunity to be on the standby list for Brazil. Hodgson will officially announce his 23-man squad on Monday afternoon, together with seven reserve players to cover for possible injuries, but confirmed on Sunday that leaving Cole out was one of the "hardest decisions of my career."

Hodgson told the FA's official website: "Among many difficult decisions I've had to make for my squad, not selecting Ashley was one of the hardest.

"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. The most important factor was speaking to Ashley prior to the announcement on Monday, he deserved to hear it directly from me and he took the news with huge grace.

"In two years working with him he has shown nothing but relentless professionalism, and a great hunger to play for England. He is someone I have the utmost respect for and I wished him all the best, he in turn wished the team well this summer.

"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."

It is also reported that Kyle Walker, the Tottenham full-back, has not been included in Hodgson's squad, while Manchester United duo Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley are also thought to have missed out.

Cole earlier tweeted confirmation he was to retire from England duty after failing to make the plane.

It means Cole's England career finishes after winning 107 caps. Only four players have won more: Peter Shilton (125), David Beckham (115), Steven Gerrard (109) and Bobby Moore (108), but Moore is the only outfield player to have started more internationals.

He made his debut under Sven Goran Eriksson against Albania in 2001 and went on to play in three World Cups and two European Championships, starting every tournament game.

Cole is widely regarded as the best left-back to play for England, regarding as a leading defender in world football for many, many years. But now England will look to a new chapter, firstly with Baines and with Shaw, who currently only has one senior cap, his heir apparent in the coming years.

He is out of contract at Chelsea this summer and waved to the crowd at the end of Sunday's 2-1 win at Cardiff City, although Jose Mourinho does not believe the defender has played his last game for the club.

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