England's No. 1 woes
Three Lions' goalkeeping time-bomb threatens to derail their World Cup hopes
An unenviable challenge that has eluded modern England managers now awaits Gareth Southgate.
Choosing an outstanding candidate to become his country's first-choice goalkeeper for the World Cup Finals this summer is proving far less routine than previously anticipated.
By the time the Three Lions have faced Holland and Italy in their forthcoming friendlies - beginning with a trip to Amsterdam on Saturday morning (Singapore time) - Southgate will hope that at least one of his current four contenders will have finally proved themselves.
But a changing of the guard is far more complicated than the process had once promised. All four contenders in his latest 27-man squad are equally fallible in doing their basic duties.
Southgate's backing for Joe Hart as his No. 1 stopper in December coincided with a downturn in his stock at West Ham, as the Manchester City loanee went three months between his most recent EPL games for the Londoners, conceding a combined seven goals.
That rustiness has effectively ruled Hart out of the running for Russia and brought the battle down to his three otherwise understudies: Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Nick Pope.
Saves, rather than Hart's lack of them, are likely to see that battle restricted to the current custodians of Everton and Stoke.
Only fine margins are able to separate Pickford and Butland statistically, with the latter making nine more saves than his opposite number's 103.
Although Pickford has played in three more games than Butland, both have still become victims of circumstance in their respective clubs' struggles.
Pickford remains a rare bright spot in an Everton team where he is the sole success from a botched summer spending spree, yet has still conceded 50 times in the EPL this season.
A late winner for his side against Stoke last weekend edged Butland ahead by one, with only Huddersfield's Jonas Lossl shipping more.
Neither emerged from the snow-driven encounter in the Potteries with much credit after allowing preventable goals to bypass them.
Yet Pickford's feted display during England's goalless draw with Germany last November, ironically at the expense of a late injury to his closest challenger, has become a distant memory.
BANKS PICKS BUTLAND
World Cup-winning goalkeeper and Stoke legend Gordon Banks' championing of Butland has further strengthened the argument for his inclusion despite the statistical discrepancies.
Pope, meanwhile, is the highest-ranked English player for clean sheets with 10 and still boasts the second-lowest tally of goals conceded (22) in the EPL overall, yet remains an outsider in the current battle to force a way into Southgate's plans, perhaps for good reason.
Before overcoming Everton earlier this month, Burnley had been on a winless run of 10 games in the EPL with Pope shipping 13 goals during that time.
He also failed to best Pickford at Turf Moor, where the visiting goalkeeper was the busier and more commanding of the pair.
Lacking such authority would merely invite an onslaught against a Belgium team bristling with the attacking qualities of Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, to name just three, in the Group G finale with Roberto Martinez's side at the end of June.
Whittling down the best of a bad bunch is not uncommon for England at major tournaments, but Southgate witnessed from a distance the damage that blind faith in a struggling West Ham stopper inflicted on their previous World Cup campaign littered with lofty expectations.
He would be incredibly naive in thinking that mistake in 2010 will not repeat itself in Russia.