Alvin Backs Trevor

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Former Upton Park legend Alvin Martin has paid tribute to Trevor Sinclair's contribution to England's World Cup finals campaign and believes the Hammers midfielder will be a key part of Sven-Goran Eriksson's team to face tournament favourites Brazil in the mouth-watering quarter-final clash on Friday.

Since winning a place in the side at the expense of the injured Owen Hargreaves during the memorable victory over Argentina in the group stages, Sinclair has been one of England's most consistent performers in their march to the last eight and Alvin, who won 17 caps himself during the early and mid-80s, admits he is delighted that the 30-year-old has finally made an impact on the international stage.

"If I'm totally honest, I must admit I was a little bit disappointed by Trevor's first couple of appearances for England last season," he says.

"He wasn't playing the way I know he can play and appeared to be a bit nervous about the whole situation. However, he was thrown in at the deep end against Argentina and that was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

"He didn't have time to think about it, he just had to go out there and get involved straight away. His first couple of touches gave him a lot of confidence and he gained the respect of the other players, who were all happy to give him the ball as often as possible.

"Full credit to Trevor for that, because he has taken the bull by the horns and followed on from the Argentina game with some excellent displays. He has linked well with Ashley Cole and proved that he can play at the highest level in the world."

With Hargreaves and Kieron Dyer reportedly back to full fitness, some pundits have suggested that Trevor could make way if Eriksson decides to shuffle the pack against the Samba Kings.

Such a scenario brings back rather unhappy memories for Alvin, who made his one and only World Cup finals appearance in a 3-0 second round victory over Paraguay at Mexico 86, yet was strangely left out for the quarter-final against favourites Argentina - a match that turned out to be one of the most infamous in footballing history following the exploits of a certain Diego Maradona.

However, this time around, Alvin believes that England's claret and blue representative won't be left out in the cold for the biggest game of the tournament so far.

"Against Brazil, the midfield area is going to be so important," says Alvin. "We need a tenacity and attacking strength that will allow us to combat the Brazilians but also keep our own game ticking over.

"The midfield four of Beckham, Scholes, Butt and Sinclair has worked very well together so far and, in my opinion, would be the best option against Brazil. All four can defend and help out those behind them, and can also provide something in attack.

"The question is, does Sven-Goran Eriksson think that England are a better side than Brazil and capable of beating them without worrying too much about their attacking threat? If he doesn't, then a counter-attacking game may be his preference, perhaps with Beckham playing more centrally to deny them space in midfield.

"Personally, I can't see England keeping a clean sheet, because I think they just have too much in attack, but I also believe that we will cause them problems at the other end. The pace of Heskey and Owen is something that the Brazilian defenders haven't faced in this World Cup so far, and I would like to see us fight fire with fire and try to take advantage of the spaces that they will leave at the back.

"Whatever happens, I'm sure Eriksson will be spot on with his tactics. People questioned him after the Sweden game, but I don't know why. I think all of the decisions he has made so far have been the right ones and he will know exactly what is needed to take on Brazil and beat them.

"I think Trevor has certainly done enough to warrant his place in the team and I believe that his determination and willingness to get up and down the flank make him the perfect choice to face someone like Cafu."