On Tuesday night, the new Wembley will host Montenegro in a Euro 2012 qualifying match. Montenegro leads the Group G with a perfect start to the campaign, winning their first three games. On the other hand, The Three Lions, who also have six points to show for their opening two games, have been mired by a plague of injuries and to make matters worse a few key components are suffering from a dip in form.
Fabio, for starters, just get the best out of Rooney!
The nightmare called World Cup 2010 is yet not forgotten, but Fabio Capello has been given a chance to redeem himself. After Spain were crowned the World Champions in South Africa in July, England, collectively as a nation, sat down to perform a customary post-mortem. The English ego was hurt yet again, and certain sections of the media called for the heads of their over-the-hill superstars, even Capello wasn’t spared. Those were tough times for the Italian, however, he managed to convince the FA to persist with him.
The former Real Madrid manager has tried to be as politically correct during his time in England as possible – from the ouster of John Terry as Captain before the World Cup to pacifying England after the African disaster by saying that he would now focus on fresh talent rather than on over-paid non-performers – he has always tried to sail in the direction of the winds.
Since then, he has given more opportunities to young players such as Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott, but, more intriguingly, when he had to pick a striker for the qualifier against Montenegro in the absence of Defoe due to injury, he picked Bolton’s Kevin Davies when he had a chance to reward Andy Carroll for his performances for Newcastle this season. With all due respect to Davies, the 33-year old was the man-of-the-match in the draw against Wigan, he is not the sort of player who would be in the reckoning for a place in the side that boards the plane for Euro in 2012.
Here’s the squad that was announced by the England manager for the upcoming match at Wembley –
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (Birmingham City), Robert Green (West Ham), Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Defenders: Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa)
Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Joe Cole (Liverpool), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Aston Villa)
Forwards:Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Darren Bent (Sunderland), Kevin Davies (Bolton)
After the announcement on October 4th, Phil Jagielka, Aaron Lennon and John Terry have pulled out because of injuries While, Gary Cahill and Stewart Downing have joined the squad.
The injury to Everton defender, who had put in solid shifts in the absence of Terry and Ferdinand in the last two victories, had spared Capello of a major headache of having to ponder over relegating one of the two stalwarts to the bench, before Terry himself pulled out due to a back injury. As per the latest reports, the Italian is yet to decide on who would captain the side – Ferdinand who has remained sidelined for 8 out of the 10 games since being named the England skipper or Gerrard who has done reasonably well in his absence.
The most notable omissions from the squad that travelled to South Africa are David James, Emiley Heskey, Jamie Carrager, Michael Carrick, and Frank Lampard. Amongst them, only the Chelsea man is missing due to injury, or so it seems. While, Joe Hart, after displacing Shay Given from the Man City starting eleven, has established himself as England’s first choice goal-keeper.
Finally, the Three Lions’ Hart is in the right place!
Darren Bent finally finds himself in the England setup, after missing out on two successive World Cups. The 26-year old Sunderland striker, who has scored 29 league goals in 45 games since moving from Tottenham, has put the disappointment of being ignored by Capello behind him, and has begun this season with a bang. He had opened his England account last month against Switzerland.
The other welcome additions to the squad since the World Cup have been Ashley Young, Adam Johnson and, if not injured, Theo Walcott. Another positive sign that points to a better future for the The Three Lions is the promotion of Arsenal starlet Jack Wilshere to the senior side. Jack was supposed to play for the England under-21 side against Romania on the 12th, but on Capello’s demand he wasn’t included to travel with Stuart Pearce’s side.
These welcome developments come with a few undesirable ones – Capello once had a reputation of picking players who were performing consistently for their clubs, but the inclusion of Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips leaves a lot to be desired. Cole returned to the Liverpool first team after serving out a three-match ban, and since then his only notable performances have come against mediocre Europa league opponents, while in the league, we are yet to see the Joe Cole of old. On the other hand, how SWP always manages to convince the Italian to include him is beyond the perception of any sane football follower. The only possible reason, for this time, would probably be, the absence of Walcott.
Ashley Cole, who has 85 caps for the The Lions, will become the highest capped left-back of all time when he takes the field against Montenegro, surpassing the England legend Kenny Sansom. The Chelsea full-back is 29 now, and it’s not beyond him to become England’s highest capped player of all time – a record held by Peter Shilton with 125 appearances.
“It would be crazy if the England fans boo Ashley on Tuesday. They should cheer him and it would be really nice if they did that. I’d certainly like them to.” – Former Arsenal player Kenny Sansom
We will have to wait and watch how this drama unfolds, but as England try to come to terms with yet another disappointment, a few things would serve them well in future. Firstly, they need to let the team focus on football and not over-hype them before the Euro that begins in two years time. Secondly, the media should restrain themselves, use football to sell their papers, and not make a mockery out of a player’s personal life. We do not want another John Terry or Wayne Rooney Saga. Thirdly, Capello has his task cut out. He would have to resurrect the team from the ashes. It certainly does not mean he will have to wash his hands off all the older players, but to form a team that has a perfect blend of experienced heads and youthful exuberance.
If all goes according to plan, the real England may just stand up in two years time.
Highlights of England’s last Euro 2012 Qualifier against Switzerland