Fabio Capello is keeping the England squad on their toes and will pay no attention to reputations when he picks his side to face USA, midfielder Joe Cole has revealed.
Capello's starting XI for Saturday's Group C opener in Rustenburg is far from certain with question marks remaining over every department of the side he sends out, particularly in the last line of defence where David James, Rob Green and Joe Hart are battling it out.
Cole, who will leave Chelsea as a free agent this summer when his contract expires, is hoping to secure a starting berth as he prepares for the third World Cup of his career.
And he admitted that Capello, unlike predecessors Steve McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson, will select his side purely on merit, with the Italian having already shown his ruthless streak by axing Theo Walcott from his final 23-man party.
Cole said: "The great thing about the squad now, which is different to all through my England career, is that you don't know who the manager is going to pick in any position, so it keeps everyone on their toes.
"I've always found at club level when that is the case - when players are not just playing on reputation and are being selected on form, fitness and temperament - that's when you get the better team ethic and the way the team gels together.
"It's great with England there is a lot of competition in the squad. There aren't 10 lads coming here thinking they're just going to sit on the bench, everyone in the squad is thinking they have a chance of playing here.
"The players will leave it up to the manager. We've got three great goalkeepers, we are very lucky. They are all working hard and training well. The manager will be the one who makes the decision.
"Fabio is a great manager. I've been lucky to work with some great managers and he is right up there with the best of them. You need discipline. It keeps us all on our toes. The discipline is very strong and I think that has worked well and we need that."
The 28-year-old is keen for his previous experience of the global showpiece in 2002 in Japan and South Korea and again in Germany four years ago - when he was arguably England's best player - will stand him in good stead for selection at the weekend.
The Three Lions have come in for some criticism for their displays in the warm-up matches against Mexico, Japan and club side Platinum Stars, but the creative Cole insists results are all that matter once the tournament gets under way.
He added: "Managers like experience, especially at the start of tournaments. I remember going to Japan as a youngster and it was all new but I've still got that energy and I still love it. It's a great feeling.
"I love coming away on these tournaments and it would mean the world to me to play against America and play in my third World Cup.
"The main thing is we get the result. The first game of the tournament is so important. It is not necessarily the performance which is important, it's the result, and we know we are in for a game."