Upson stakes his claim

Matthew Upson will get a chance to reprise his partnership with England captain John Terry in the potentially decisive FIFA World Cup qualifier against Croatia on Wednesday.

"I enjoy playing with John," said Upson, who has emerged as a serious contender to rival Terry and the injured Rio Ferdinand in the centre-back positions. "He is very good. You know what his game is all about and he goes and does it. You are aware of where he puts himself and play as a partnership. [It is important] to understand the other's quality."

The West Ham United skipper won his 16th cap at the weekend in the 2-1 friendly defeat of Slovenia and is expected to hold on to his place for the visit of the Croatians to Wembley. An eighth successive qualifying victory would book England's place at the 2010 finals in South Africa and Upson is expecting nothing else.

"It is an important game and if we get a win, we seal our place at the World Cup,"he said. "Everybody is fighting for that spot, it is a big game and hopefully we will get the right result."

Upson admitted the Slovenia fixture had been a "tricky" one for he and his colleagues including club-mates Robert Green and Carlton Cole to negotiate. However, the bigger picture was firmly in the mind for all. "There is nothing at stake in terms of points but a lot at stake for the players in terms of wanting to improve and get in the team for the qualifying game for Wednesday.

"You need to focus, do the job and do what you are good at. In your mind, it is an opportunity to impress. If you have not cemented the position in the team, you want to do well and prove you care capable of holding your own."