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Defoe makes case for England start

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Phil McNulty | 10:05 UK time, Sunday, 6 September 2009

Fabio Capello gave the briefest insight into how he will resolve the dilemma that confronts him before England attempt to stamp their passport to South Africa.

England will secure their place in next summer's World Cup after an almost flawless qualifying campaign if they beat Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday night.

Capello, the arch-pragmatist and meticulous planner, will not have been lulled into a false sense of security by England's untroubled progress and a laboured win over Slovenia only served as a timely reminder of questions still unanswered.

The most immediate is who will partner Wayne Rooney in attack against Croatia - Emile Heskey or Jermain Defoe?

Heskey offers Capello a range of options, namely strength, height, physical presence and selfless devotion to the team ethic appreciated by his colleagues. Defoe offers goals.

Defoe was at it again on Saturday. While Heskey bustled, worked hard to assist Wayne Rooney and missed his only presentable chance, Defoe emerged from the bench and dispatched another clinical finish to go with his double against the Netherlands in Amsterdam last month.

And yet, when quizzed about Defoe's contribution, the ever-cautious Capello may just have given the game away when he said: "Always when Defoe plays in second half he scores."

Defoe scores against Slovenia

As goals are generally regarded as the game's most precious currency, Defoe should be a guaranteed starter against Croatia. All logic suggests it.

But Heskey's England career has been one long defiance of logic. A succession of England managers (plus highly-respected club managers it should be added) have accepted the seemingly flawed theory that one of their main strikers is not a goal threat in exchange for his worth to the team.

When Heskey scored against Kazakhstan in Almaty in June, it was his first competitive goal for England in seven years - and yet team-mates only just stop short of forming an orderly queue to sing his praises when questions are raised about his effectiveness.

At Liverpool, manager Gerard Houllier often played Heskey ahead of Robbie Fowler on the basis that he brought more out of Michael Owen than a player who, in terms of natural gifts, he simply could not touch. It is a pattern that has been repeated throughout his career.

Heskey has played his part in some of England's best recent victories, but is now not even a regular at Aston Villa and his goal record has always been supremely indifferent. If Defoe does not start for England now he never will because he is on the hottest of hot streaks.

He should, in my view, partner Rooney on Wednesday but Capello's answer hinted at the fact that Defoe is viewed as an impact player as opposed to a starter.

Capello's view will also be shaped by the fact that Heskey's role as a battering ram of sorts, and an outlet that can release pressure on England, helps bring the best out of Rooney. This has to be at the forefront of his thinking and goes pretty much all the way to explaining Heskey's continued presence.

Rooney will carry much of England's hopes in South Africa and Capello is smart enough to know all his attacking plans must revolve around him - but Defoe's current form still makes a compelling case for him to oust Heskey.

Defoe ticks all the boxes. He is in the form of his life at club level, is soaring in confidence and has the very obvious self-belief that he is at home on the international stage.

He is pushing the prospects of a belated England return for Manchester United's summer capture Owen even further into the distance with his current potency.

And yet Heskey is still in prime position to get the nod against Croatia as one of England's great survivors shows he can flout all normal rules that apply to strikers.

Capello's occasionally frustrated touchline demeanour also hinted at dissatisfaction in other areas ahead of England's latest meeting with the dangerous Croatians.

England were uncertain in defence, with Liverpool's Glen Johnson providing further proof that he is more at ease attacking the opposition's goal than defending his own. He is not under immediate threat because of a lack of serious alternatives, but his uncertainty will have been noted.

John Terry and Matthew Upson were occasionally caught square by slick Slovenian passing, especially early on, while England's goalkeeping position is a major headache for Capello ahead of next summer.

Capello seems set on Portsmouth's David James, but he is a keeper who will be almost 40 by the time the World Cup starts, has never been a model of consistency and has been suffering from injury recently.

Robert Green and Manchester United's Ben Foster have yet to mount a serious challenge and West Ham's keeper had some uneasy moments on Saturday, particularly when he handled outside his area when collecting a clearance, an offence missed by the officials.

England keeper Robert Green

The next 10 months will be an audition for this trio to convince Capello that they are the most reliable last line of defence - and all three have yet to make a convincing case.

Aaron Lennon had just cause to feel satisfied with his contribution after performing with greater vigour and effectiveness that Shaun Wright-Phillips when he replaced the Manchester City winger at the interval.

Wright-Phillips was peripheral at best and Lennon may just have pushed ahead of him for a starting place on Wednesday. Arsenal's Theo Walcott will also come into the equation on the right flank for the World Cup, along with David Beckham of course, when fit.

The other main talking point from a low-key affair was the award of a penalty to England in the first half, when Wayne Rooney fell as he challenged with Slovenia's Bostjan Cesar. As diving is the new national obssession after the Eduardo affair, questions were asked after Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson pointed the spot.

No problem here. Simply a poor decision as opposed to theatrics from Rooney, despite the complaints of Slovenia captain Robert Koren.

Rooney's main contribution was to prove he is quite simply indispensable to England cause - now Capello must decide who partners him as they attempt to apply the finishing touches to World Cup qualification.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I think Defoe should start, give him a chance against a good team in a competitive game. If he can't click with Rooney when he is in this kind of form then maybe they just don't work as a team.

    Qualification isn't an issue now and it's better to test it against Croatia now then as a last ditch attempt at the WC.

  • Comment number 2.

    With regards to Rooney, I'm pretty sure I saw him slam his hands on the floor as if to say that should have been a penalty (just before it was awarded) or is that just me?

    Anyways, I can see Capellos logic in (what it looks like) selecting Heskey. Starting Defoe against Croatia will just add pressure to him, where as bringing him on fresh and frustrated in the second half may will bring the best/goals out of him.

  • Comment number 3.

    matt1389 makes a good point. Better to try the Defoe-Rooney partnership now than later.

  • Comment number 4.

    Why not play all 3 against croatia? go with

    Heskey
    Defoe Rooney Lennon
    Barry Gerrard

  • Comment number 5.

    Start with Heskey, and if we havent scored by half time replace him with Defoe. We will have plenty of time to start with Defoe in other competive matches if we qualify early againt Croatia. I get the impression he might no be as effective if Capello start with him against Crotia.

    I see Carton Cole as a replacement for Heskey anyway. If Cole keeps on progressing, by the end of the season I expect he will be ahead of Heskey in the pecking order.

    When Heskey plays he seems to make the team tick better, and he did well early on in the qualifiers when we played Croatia.

    We've had a flawless qualifying campaign so far so lets trust Capello to wo whats best.

  • Comment number 6.

    I cant see a pragmatist like Capello changing the formation of the team greatly, especially to something that he simply wouldnt be using at the world cup anyway.

    Much as it might seem sensible to play Defoe from the start, his impact against tiring defences is pretty unquestionable, especially a defensive unit that has been battered around by Heskey for an hour or so.

    A more pressing issue is that of central defensive cover. If John Terry was to get any sort of injury just before or during the world cup tournament, then we would automatically be a little light at the heart of the defence. The next in line in quality terms, Ledley King, sadly isnt up to playing more than 2 games in the tournament at most. The other candidates are good club players but not proven international quality defenders that can keep the likes of the Brazil or Spain front lines at bay.

  • Comment number 7.

    Rooney was dire, especially towards the end of the match. Cole and Defoe, the two strikers in form, should start.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    As England are almost certainly qualified, now is the time to try out Defoe with Rooney in a real competitive game. These qualifiers will be great tests

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't know why Capello keeps persisting in selecting Heskey - he hasn't been good since 2001 and other virtually nothing that Carlton Cole doesn't offer and he's a lot better. If Defoe only offers goals then isn't that good enough? Rooney drops too deep and Heskey couldn't hit a barn door so why not have Defoe start so we can actually score from our strikers?

  • Comment number 11.

    "#2 luke 1471 With regards to Rooney, I'm pretty sure I saw him slam his hands on the floor as if to say that should have been a penalty (just before it was awarded) or is that just me?"

    Was this not just a show of fustration that another cross put into the box was not of the quality it requires to be. I dont think Rooney appealed for a penalty and was just as surprised as everyone else it was awarded.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Defoe offers goals"... Enough said.
    One of our failings at WC2006 was a lack of someone who posed that clinical threat in front of goal.
    As Defoe offers that threat now, he and Rooney should be given every chance to get it right ahead of South Africa - I'm assuming we'll be there!

  • Comment number 13.

    matt1389: "Qualification isn't an issue now and it's better to test it against Croatia now then as a last ditch attempt at the WC."

    Remember, we haven't actually qualified yet. I'm sure Capello will rightly be more concerned with sealing the deal now rather than leaving anything to chance. After that, we have the remaining qualifying games and some friendlies in which to try out different ideas.

    I would like to see Defoe get a start at some point, but as Capello observed, when he comes on in the second half, he gets goals. Why break a working system for such a potentially important game?

  • Comment number 14.

    "No problem here. Simply a poor decision as opposed to theatrics from Rooney..."

    ===

    Such glosses from the media only highlight the hypocrisy in this country. A "soft penalty" or a "dive"? To determine which, I'm fairly sure all that's required of you and the rest of Britain's journalists is a quick glance at a passport. Comparing the reaction of ITV's presenters to both dives is telling, and this article is part and parcel. We give the benefit of the doubt to English players time and again. Eduardo, on the other hand, got absolutely crucified, not only for falling to ground, but also for not telling the ref it wasn't a penalty. Didn't see Rooney complaining yesterday when the ref pointed to the spot.

    As for the word "theatrics", it matters not a jot HOW one falls to the ground without contact. Maybe some players like to throw their hands in the air like they're shot, and maybe 'proper' English players just go down without a lot of flailing. If there's no or minute contact, one is not less deceptive than the other. Both are cheating.

    It's time to start glossing it the same, or admit the double standards?

  • Comment number 15.

    I'd like to see Milner start on the left on wednesday, he offers more physical opposition to defenders then young and he's more willing to stay out on the left then the likes of Gerrard. Indeed given some of the football England played against Holland I'd be tempted to drop Gerrard out of the starting XI and go with a midfield of:
    Beckham, Barry, Lampard and Milner.

    Not a huge amount of pace I'll grant you but they are good at holding possesion and allowing the full backs to get forward. Plus it means the pace will be available from the bench when the defenders are tiring.

    Re. the striker debate, Heskey an Rooney haven't been setting the world alight together in recent matches so I don't see it as much of a gamble to start Defoe.

  • Comment number 16.

    good article - still feel our main problem, above all the others, is giving the ball away. Our passing last night was pretty poor against a very average side. Gerrard aswell as others were to blame for this, rather than keeping the ball they would much rather either attempt an impossible ball over the top or the defenders, after passing it across the back 4 for 5 mins would just punt it forward. Teams like spain suffocate the opposition by keeping the ball moving and starving the opposition of any possession. Against better teams we would be if we keep punting or the midfield don't attempt to link up the defenders with attack.

  • Comment number 17.

    RE: Post 14

    Sorry but did you actually watch the match? How in any way was that a dive? He slipped. He was awarded a penalty. Do you expect him to tell the referee that it wasn't a penalty? Who would do that especially at 0-0? Eduardo's dive was so obviously blatant and clearly an attempt to win a penalty. Rooney was slipping along with the defender. Big difference. I don't agree with Eduardo being banned when there are so many cases of diving across the world every week. But to claim Rooney isn't being accused of diving because he's English and NOT because he actually wasn't diving in the first place is pretty blinkered.

  • Comment number 18.

    About the England goalkeeping position, wouldn't Steve Harper be a good alternative. Surely if he wasn't at the same club as Shay Given for so long he would already be in the England team. Since Given's departure, Steve Harper has excelled in goal and should be offered at least a chance to become an international.

  • Comment number 19.

    Totally agree with no5 - fisty_cuffs! Carlton Cole will be in the team ahead of Heskey by the time the world cup arrives next year! His contribution in the last to games, especially against Holland have been very impressive. He works well with Defoe and needs to be teamed with Rooney to see how that partnership works out.

  • Comment number 20.

    Capello is unlikely to start Defoe against Croatia if he didnt start him against Slovenia. If he sees Defoe as an impact player, who can terrorise tired defences in the second half, then thats how he will play him. Games are won in the second half, especially international games, so Defoes' role as a second half player should be seen as critical- starting the game does not mean that Heskey is considered better or more important than Defoe.
    Its time that experienced football journalists realised that the game has developed beyond the days of one sub, and recognise that if you can make multiple substitutions over 90 minutes, then you dont need to start with your "best" eleven.
    Phil, it would be more interesting to analyse the impact of clever substitutions, than to perpetuate the myth of the starting line-up.

  • Comment number 21.

    Cole and Defoe should start up front.
    Rooney should come on as an impact substitute should we need someone "honest" to win a penalty later in the game.

  • Comment number 22.

    The Rooney "Dive" that certain users appear to be jumping upon (do I hear a bandwagon) is nothing of the sort, and its only the current climate that has caused those blinkered among us to miss the fact that yes, Rooney slams his hands down, but if you lip read well enough you can see he is not appealing for a penalty, he is frustrated at being pulled up for the foul he knew he had committed! He had his back to the referee so only heard the whistle, but couldnt see which way the decision had gone. He knew he lunged at the defender in an act of petulance, and anyone who watches Rooney frequently enough knows this sort of reaction is common place when he gets fouls given against him. Rooney was as surprised as the rest of us to see it given the other way when he turned round and saw the finger pointed to the spot, someone stop that bandwagon...

  • Comment number 23.

    To IronSmon...Carlton Cole and Jermain Defoe to start? Does this mean to the exclusion of Wayne Rooney? Sorry. To leave Rooney out of any England side would be madness...simply will not happen. Crotia's players would be dancing in the streets at such a prospect.

    What other areas of concern do England fans have at this stage of the qualifying campaign?

  • Comment number 24.

    am i the only one that would play c.cole instead of heskey especially if defoe doesnt start (which is pathetic to be honest) i mean cole has the same figure as heskey and has a better eye for goal and better with his feet but i would be shocked to see if defoe doesnt play with rooney

  • Comment number 25.

    Defoe should definately start, how can Capello start with Heskey who has scored once from playing 374 minutes when Defoe has scored 3 in the qualifying campaign all from coming off the bench in 104 minutes.

    Heskey is over rated and is not good enough to play for England.

  • Comment number 26.

    The Rooney "Dive" that certain users appear to be jumping upon (do I hear a bandwagon) is nothing of the sort, and its only the current climate that has caused those blinkered among us to miss the fact that yes, Rooney slams his hands down, but if you lip read well enough you can see he is not appealing for a penalty, he is frustrated at being pulled up for the foul he knew he had committed! He had his back to the referee so only heard the whistle, but couldnt see which way the decision had gone. He knew he lunged at the defender in an act of petulance, and anyone who watches Rooney frequently enough knows this sort of reaction is common place when he gets fouls given against him. Rooney was as surprised as the rest of us to see it given the other way when he turned round and saw the finger pointed to the spot, someone stop that bandwagon...

    --------------------------------------

    Well if Rooney didn't think it was a penalty he should have told the referee so. But he didn't, so he is guilty of deceiving the referee = 2 match ban thank you very much.

  • Comment number 27.

    Very good article.I think Defoe should start and it was very clear ( at least to me) that Beckham was really missed. I hope that England win the world cup and that beckham would end his international career by lifting the best sports trophy in the world,,,He has worked very hard throughout his sporting life and he deserves better...

  • Comment number 28.

    It seems there are a lot of naive people out there calling for Defoe to start against Croatia. I don't disagree that he is in good form and looks full of goals. But football is a team game. Put simply, the combination of the 11 players who operate together most effectively is the team that should be selected. And Capello is shrewd enough to ignore the media hype and the short-termism and select the best team. that means Heskey ahead of Defoe. In fact, it probably also means Carlton Cole ahead of Defoe.

    Let's not forget that the system which Capello has got this England team operating well enough to win 7 straight qualifiers relies on a target man up front, which allows Rooney, Gerard and when playing, Walcott, to come into the game at the sharp end. I would be extremely surprised if he decided to ignore the success that he has achieved in favour of the simplistic thinking that says Defoe will guarantee the team more goals if he starts: it's simply not true. I don't doubt he will get on at some point against Croatia, but his effectiveness may well be as a substitute once there are tired legs and hence more space available for him to exploit.

    The best managers are the one's who know their own minds and stick to their principles. Perhaps McLaren may have been sufficiently swayed by the hype to start with Defoe, but Capello? No chance.

  • Comment number 29.

    Don't change a winning team!! I don't think Heskey and Rooney have ever started for England and not won. Croatia couldn't deal with Hesk last time they played and Defoe IS our only impact striker. The (loss of) shape of the England team and lack of options in the 2nd half yesterday illustrated why Capello starts with Heskey. Defoe's a better striker, Heskey's a better team player and brings out the best of Lamps, Rooney, Gerrard et al. That's more important. Cole...decent striker in a purple patch. Don't think he'll ever amount to anything much better.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    re. Split at 22, quite right... further, before anyone wants to try the "should have told the referee" argument, Rooney's job is not to question the referee's decision- other circumstances could have led to the call and indeed although Rooney routinely shrugs off shirt-pulling as a part of the game, it is still a foul and perhaps this referee took that line as one to be tough with- nor is it the referee's obligation to tell Rooney why he gave the penalty...

    Phil, to answer your follow-up, the greatest concern has to be the ease with which the England right flank is penetrated, not just the frailty of Johnson's defensive skills (Ashley Cole on the left demonstates the balance between attacking penetration and smothering defense in those dangerous edge-of-the-box/endline crossing scenarios), but also the ability of other teams to initiate attacks down the right from midfield (ie. not Johnson's primary responsibility unless he is tracking back from an attack)- whether one appreciates Beckham's role in the team or not, defensively he has the ability to plug that gap when opposition attacks are initiated from their defensive third- Rooney on the right and/or patrolling the centre circle serves that same purpose too but with him in a more central role, the midfield have to shoulder that responsibility, hence why Defoe with Rooney is a smart defensive move- Rooney deeper, Defoe with penetration...

  • Comment number 33.

    Fabio Capello is one the most experienced managers around, before the game he said that he will be fielding his strongest side and fielded Heskey up front with Rooney, England won with relatively little trouble, so why change the winning side? I'm a spurs fan and love Defoe to bits but I would much rather see him come on, score a winning goal and see him take the plaudits than start the game, have little impact and get subbed and englanmd lose?

  • Comment number 34.

    My team against Croatia would be:

    GK - Green - only because he has played the last couple of games so he can grow in confidence.

    RB - G.Neville - had enough of Johnson's poor defending costing England goals. All the Slovenian attacks came from their left side. Neville is solid defensively and even though isn't as good getting forward as Johnson, I would rather Neville was at right back for me.

    LB - A.Cole - best left back in the world for me and man of the match last night.

    CB - Terry - Captain. Rock-solid.

    CB - Upson - Comfortable at the back, good in the air and played so much better than Lescott.

    RM - Beckham - As we are playing with a big man up front we need someone who can cross the ball effectively and no-one can do that better than Beckham. Whilst SWP/Lennon/Walcott are all fast they lack the ability to whip in a good cross when they beat the full-back. Plus Beckham doesn't waste possession and knows how to keep the ball.

    LM - Milner - Great at crossing with his right foot and just as good with his left and also isn't afraid to use his left foot rather than cutting inside on his right all the time like Young. And he has performed better than Gerrard.

    CM - Barry - Still think until Hargreaves is fit Barry is the best holding player in the squad.

    CM - Lampard - Consistent, holds onto the ball better than Gerrard and is also better at set-pieces. Needs to get forward a lot more though.

    ST - Heskey - More experienced than Cole and is good at linking up the play from midfield and with Rooney.

    ST - Rooney - Poses a genuine threat and is one of the best performers in the side.

    Bench:
    Robinson - Would have started for me but hasn't played an England game for a while.

    Johnson - Whilst poor defensively he is good attacking and maybe be able to hurt tiring defences in the second half plus Neville would struggle with a full 90mins.

    Cahill - Deserves at least a chance to show what he can do. Maybe not in this match but in future friendlies.

    Carrick - Can come on in second half and steady the passing in the second half.

    Lennon - Would devastate defences in the second half.

    Defoe - Half-time sub as his pace and sharpness in front of goal is best suited against a defence tiring physically and mentally. May have to settle for a role as an impact player. Still needs to challenge with Owen for a seat on the plane to SA 2010 throughout the season.

    Cole - Can bully defenders and poses more of a goal threat than Heskey.


    That is the team I would play against Croatia. That team would get the result we need to qualify then we can experiment with players once we hae done.

    Lastly, regarding the penalty, the referee is soley at fault for a bad decision rather than Rooney trying to win a penalty or a foul by the defender.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think Capello's concept to use Heskey as a battering ram then follow with Defoe shows his sophistication. It's not unlike the idea in baseball of a starting pitcher followed by a closer to get the final outs. Heskey softens up the opposing defense then Defoe brings the heat late in the game. And it seems to be working. Is this analogy too much of a stretch for football purists?

  • Comment number 36.

    Why all this talk about who should start with Rooney? His penalty-winning antic in the first half made me so embarrassed to be English, let alone all the misses.

    If Capello gives a damn about picking those on form then Defoe and Cole should start. Cole can play like Heskey except he can score too. As for Defoe there is simply nothing more he can do to get in the side. He's improved his all-round football; he can hold up the ball, bring others into play, beat defenders and score from inside and outside the box.

    Capello should turn his attention to the back instead; Green hardly commanded the area, Johnson can't defend and Upson seemed to have his brain removed at half-time.

  • Comment number 37.

    Defoe is clearly on great form, but the partnership I'm more excited about testing is Rooney and Carlton Cole. Cole is like Heskey, but only a real goalscoring threat too. He is strong, tall and powerful - so can do the same job as Heskey - but also fast, with the ability to beat players and score great goals.

    For me it's a no brainer that if Capello likes a Heskey-type player to partner Rooney, that he should give Cole a try. Sure, Rooney and Defoe could be potent, but I personally think, perhaps unconventionally, that Rooney and Cole could be a scintillating partnership!

  • Comment number 38.

    Are Arsenal fans going to spend the next six months hijacking every discussion to demand that someone be banned for 'diving'?... You'll change your tune when an Italian dives in the World Cup semi-final to win the penalty that knocks England out. After that, Eduardo won't be able to show his face in North London.

    As for Defoe, he is definitely effective as an impact player but should be given the chance against Croatia to see if he can be equally effective from the start. I'm not sure I buy all this stuff about Heskey 'battering defences for an hour'. Is this all in our minds? When we lose, we'll suddenly focus on the fact that Heskey doesn't actually score or create goals.

  • Comment number 39.

    And the other suggestion I have, possibly an unpopular one, is to try Rooney in central midfield, with Cole and Defoe upfront.

    I'm not entirely sure who else would play in midfield, because you'd need the defensive mid such as Barry or Carrick, and then what about Gerrard and Lampard? Surely they have to play. But still, I think Rooney would be devastating in central midfield, running the game and slotting balls through, and also scoring lots of goals like Lamps and Stevie G do!

    Thoughts?

  • Comment number 40.

    I seriously doubt Defoe will start, he has allready been cast as an impact player by Cappello, and when a manager decides what type of player you are, he rarely changes his mind.
    Witness OGS for United, almost gaurenteed to score every time he came off the bench, but play him from the start and he'd never do it, no matter how many he scored as sub, after a while he never got to start (unless someone else was injured) I feel Cappello has cast Defoe in this role.
    As for Heskey, players and managers love him for his work ethic, it is the same reason why UTD fans loved Tevez, despite his lack of goals (he had his fair chance first season, and got all of 10) and why now city do too, the thing Fergie realised though is that Rooney doesn't always play well with such a player, hence he wasn't too fussed about Tevez leaving, Heskey is the same sort of working player (although not as skilled on the ball) but Cappello seems to think he can play with Rooney, it is one of the few things I believe he is mistaken on, You don't need two physical forwads running everywhere, they often infact cancel each other out, exhibit A would be the first half last night! However, as I believe that Defoe has already been "typecast" other than Heskey there aren't many options, unless Owen starts playing and scoring regularly at united with Rooney, in which case, start them both, Defore and Heskey on the bench.

    My main concern though is Johnson/Keeper, our keepers aren't all that and Johnson needs to realise he's a defender and start acting like one, if he plays like that against a bigger team we'll get murdered. there's nothing wrong with getting forward in support if someones covering, but you have to track back and you should only go forward when your whole team is pressing, when the opposition are under the cosh, he isn't Roberto Carlos (in his prime) but seems to think he is. Big worry

  • Comment number 41.

    My comment (30) was refused because I made a remark that Frank Bruno would go down (knocked out) pretty eaily. Wow! Has the BBC become that PC? Ok he was Harry's favourite but I was factually correct.

  • Comment number 42.

    Capello is being very smart with the way he's using Defoe. It makes sense to play him in the second half because his searing pace will be put up against a slowly tiring defence. That will get you goals from Defoe. We saw it against holland and Slovenia, it works. Having said that, heskey and Rooney should start against Croatia, and I would like to see milner and Lennon start on the wings; they have also been in stunning form and could provide the balls Rooney needs to score. This will get england goals against Croatia, and tire their defence too, which would be perfect to play Defoe on the pitch.

  • Comment number 43.

    yes start the players who are on form. all this talk about the 'long-term' is what gets England all the way... to the quarter finals every time and then boo hoo we get our arses kicked again and again.

    the only way England is ever going to 'lift the trophy' on the World stage is when we start playing with fire, with inspiration, speed, creativity - things the best teams possess - the teams who win the world cup - and not relying on set-pieces which may or may not come our way.

    we do have players like this (Walcott's hat-trick against Croatia) but we are tied to this old-boy system it seems and we do not have confidence on the world stage.

    i say play the younger players who aren't tainted with that England-at-the-World-Cup mentality and let's see some World-Class creative, exciting football because until we start playing World-Class football we won't be holding no World Cup.

  • Comment number 44.

    When Capello took the job he seemed to pick his teams on merit and didn't follow the media hype (apart from Beckham). Compared to his predecessors his line-ups have resembled a "team" and not a collection of talented individuals with overblown reputations.

    If that was still the case then players like Milner, Cole, Lennon and Defoe should have a good case to make the starting eleven. However I don't think he's one to make wholesale changes now the finishing line is in sight. I'm a Spurs fan but I think although Defoe deserves to start, I'd keep him on the bench to make an impact in the second half - this would also keep him fresh for United on Saturday. If he was going to make one change than I'd like to see Cole start instead of Heskey, he fits into the existing system but has got more goals and tricks to offer. Hopefully we'll qualify on Wednesday and the squad that Capello takes to SA will be based on England's best players this season and that the "fringe" players will be pushing the likes of Gerrard and Beckham for their places.

    As for the penalty, there's no question of it being a dive but unfortunatley we don't live in an age where Rooney was going to turn around and tell the ref there was no contact. I know I'm being naive but in the time it took get the injured player off I was kinda hoping he would put things right.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think some people are not seeing the bigger picture. What Capello has done over the last season is create a strike force for the World Cup that has seen the 4 most likely if fit, players go to South Africa with an idea of the sort of role they will play. He's gone for Rooney and Heskey as his first choice, and then Defoe and Carlton Cole as his second choice front-line, with the likelihood that Defoe will come on and score goals when defences are tired.

    It makes perfect sense to me, especially as if we qualify for the knockout stages when space is created through tired legs. Defoe can come on and score. He is still a little petulant and I suspect that is why Capello is not making him first choice. Think of the system rather than the individuals. That's what has been England's nemesis for years - when we try to accomodate players rather than make them work for it. Whilst Heskey isn't Luca Toni, he is generally considered to be unplayable when at his best, and is an important cog for an England side that is shaping up to be a real contender.

  • Comment number 46.

    Leaving Rooney out of the team?! sorry but not for a second would i even consider it, hes head and shoulders above the other strikers we have and the staring role he is going to play for man united this year will only help to improve him!

    I think i would probly start with Heskey upfront with Rooney as its tried and tested but maybe bring Defoe on around the 60 minute mark.

    Also something that needs to be taken into consideration for the WC2010 is the fact a certain Joe Cole will be hopfully returned to full fitness and when hes fit and playing, he will be a starter IMO!

    if all fit and playing....

    James
    Brown-ferdinand-terry-Cole
    Cole-Lampard-Barry-Gerrard
    Rooney-Heskey

  • Comment number 47.

    One thing I admire about Capello is there is no favouritism! Keegan always went for favourites like Adams, Mcmanaman etc. Sven got rid of all the deadwoow but he always picked Beckham despite his form.
    Capello picks on form rather then the toyboy player. Owen's not in the England squad. Why? His form aint good enough, if he starts playing well and scoring - he will be back in the England setup. For the Croatia game I can see a Rooney and Defoe partnership and deservedly so!
    Lets hope we do the Croats over, last year's Wembley defeat still burns a hole!

  • Comment number 48.

    Who plays up front is no the problem for me, although it haas to involve rooney, our most creative, and dangerous player. The problem for me is still the same as it has been for a while. Midfield. I used to get annoyed at the defence for lumping the ball forward but now I know they are being forced into this by the midfield. Whether it's Gerrard, Lampard, Barry or Carrick who recive a ball from defence to their feet they will always pass the ball backwards under the slightest bit of pressure from the other team. Until our midfielders gain a little composure and take responsibility to hold onto the ball for a few extra seconds and trying to work something instead of passing it back,we'll never win the world cup. I don't care if a player gets caught in possession as long as he's trying to do something with it.

  • Comment number 49.

    Couldn't we just stick one of Defoe or Rooney up front and let the other one play at right back?
    ;)

  • Comment number 50.

    Rooney and Defoe up front, don't see anything wrong with that!

  • Comment number 51.

    clinical finish from defoe? don't think so! he was going for the opposite corner until a heavy deflection left the goalkeeper helpless. not taking anything away from him though, its nice to see a striker actually shoot

    if england choose to use heskey becasue of his battering ram potential as opposed to goal threat we might aswell use carlton cole - he's bigger than heskey, plenty more skilful, and propably poses more of a goal threat as well as a bonus!

    lastly not sure about lennon over wright-phillips, yes lennon is in a very hot streak in the premiership but as we have seen the premiership is very different football to international football - more space more ocunter atacking less technical skill - hence why england generally fail at international football - its a whole other ball game. a winger might get to the by-line just once in an entire game, therefore quality is a must - not sur elennon is reliable enough just yet ...

  • Comment number 52.

    How come the topic of your article is not about the fact that in three of our domestic games, home players stand accused of DIVING!! come-on Phil have the cajones to speak it as it is.... our players are just as dirty, are just as cheating, are just as low down, conniving, hypocritical, lying, bunch as shock horror! all the other players in the world.
    Will the media admit it, or UEFA do anything about it??
    Of course not...
    Disgusting double standards..

  • Comment number 53.

    Capello won,t change Heskey for Cole on Wednesday no way but hopefully after qualification is confirmed Cole should be used in all future games has he is a better finisher tha Heskey and just as good at holding the ball up and bringing others into play.

  • Comment number 54.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    As much as Heskey provides a good outlet for holding the ball up to bring other players into the game surely he's our plan B player and the guy we bring on when we need a physical prescence (same as with Cole).

    Defoe and Rooney are on fire and in my eyes are the first choice strikers. We may lack a little more physical threat but with the inter-changing of passes between Rooney and Gerrard we could really use a sharp striker who will be ready to pick off the stray balls or run into space. Gerrard, Rooney and Defoe are by far the attacking threat of our side and Heskey just lacks that clinical edge infront of goal.

    Capello will probably still go with Heskey for the lack of shape but there is no real formula for a perfect strike force (i.e. 1 big lad, 1 small quick). Yes that can work but at the end of the day it's about the quality of the strikers and Rooney and Defoe have that in abundance as well as goals.

  • Comment number 57.

    I seem to remember that Brian Clough once refused to play someone on the grounds that he couldn't trap a ball properly. Am I the only person who thinks that this is also Wayne Rooney's problem. He has other attributes - He tries hard,has got a good shot and he chases after the ball,but often after it has bounced away off his shins. An international striker needs to have instant control over the ball and I just don't think Rooney demonstrates this - as shown again by the 3 sitters he missed from a couple of yards out against Slovenia. I wouldn't play him for England until he masters this side of his game. Next time you watch him notice how many moves break down when they get to him.

  • Comment number 58.

    I love it how you got a manager who got you your best qualifying round EVER and yet you are all here writing comments telling him how he should do his job.

    Capello Knows.

  • Comment number 59.

    What is this? Play defoe or heskey? i'll tell you who to play, the player with an IMMACULATE scoring record for england - thats right, peter crouch. Barely fails to score when he's got an england shirt on, is a top lad that one.
    And ill tell you what else, get rid of rooney. An embarrassing display on saturday, not to mention the dive (which to all you manu fans and mike dean, wasn't a dive)

  • Comment number 60.

    Phil - I agree for the most part with Tankcolin #44 and Whatfroth #45. What makes me think England may have a chance at doing really well in the WC in SA (even thinking of winning it!) is the decisions and rationale that Capello seems to adopt in his planning and application. Capello knows its a team game and is constantly thinking about the performance required on that level and whilst he is well aware that one man, be it Defoe, Rooney, Gerrard, (and a few others) could win you the game with one split second of football magic he knows this is a gamble (with unfathomnable odds) that cannot be the sole basis for a winning strategy.
    As you have already pointed out, the issues with Heskey he is almost the 'anti-striker' in that (unlike most strikers) he is not 'greedy' and will always pass to someone in a better position to score; he does not use his size and strength as well as he might (and Carlton Cole is showing on every occasion he can do this much better) however he makes an enormous amount of well timed runs that distract the opposition, he is fearless and puts himself into many positions where 'it may well hurt'- in short he makes the perfect strike partner. Although Defoe has been 'on fire' recently, so has Rooney (although admittedly he missed 3 'stonewall' chances yesterday) and overall Rooney's speed of thought is a few tenths of seconds faster that anyone else; hence (I suspect) that for Capello he will always have the 'nod' over Defoe. What Defore has shown just recently is that he is a 'contender' and so has Carlton Cole and for me that is one of the major 'strengths' of the England set up under Capello, as a manager he knows how to get the best from his players and long may that continue

  • Comment number 61.

    I always believed that Capello picked players who were on form and not because of their reputation e.g. Owen and to some extent Beckham.
    Heskey is not a form player and interestingly Villa's demise last term dirtectly correlates to when O'Neil signed Heskey.
    Therefore I can not understand Capello's logic in persisting with Heskey.
    Defoe is firing on all cylinders and deserves to be in the starting 11.
    Cole is also a player who has shown enormous imptovement and Crouch has yet to disappoint however if we're playing 4-4-2 then it has to be Defoe and Rooney.
    Croatia apart we've yet to be truly tested and when we encountered Spain we were put to the sword. And who was up front at the start of this match; Heskey and Agbonlahor.
    England under Capello have been a relevation and it's hard to diss him. However when we face class opposition we need players who are both on the form of their life and have the bottle at the top level.
    It's hard to srgue the case for Heskey on either criteria.

  • Comment number 62.

    I would play Cole ahead of Heskey anyday, he has all the same qualities and some more. Also I think the impact of Milner hasn't been given credit. Players like Rooney and Defoe (and Michael Owen) play best when the play is fluid and its players like Johnson and Milner who beat players and create that movement.

  • Comment number 63.

    Defoe is in a rich vain of goal scoring form but as a Spurs fan I've often seen him lazy and disinterested (as he was until he scored on Saturday). I was at the game Saturday and seeing Heskey close up really makes you appreciate what he brings to the side. His movement and power does unsettle defences and playing through him seems to give England more attacking options. Our real problem is our right back position as Glen Johnson is patently not the best option. I never though I'd say it but we do miss Gary Neville.

  • Comment number 64.

    Interesting to see plenty of support for Emile Heskey - and some for Carlton Cole. Wayne Rooney apart, do England fans think they have a strike force that the world's best will fear in South Africa next summer?

    And the age old question, is there still a place for David Beckham's experience? After all, his potential replacements such as Lennon, Walcott and Wright-Phillips are still inconsistent.

  • Comment number 65.

    Cappello has a very clear of how his team want to play, and Heskey is integral to that. He has always played a lightning-fast right winger (although Beckham does feature sometimes), with a target man, and rooney in the hole. Heskey's role is to give the England attack a pivot - then if the opposition defense pushes up, the Walcotts/Lennons have space in behind, or if they defend deep, Rooney has space in the hole. Defoe, however, will be playing in a similar way to the right winger in this system - looking for space in behind constantly. This will demand that teams defend deep, giving Rooney space - not a bad thing. However England's best performances have come with Heskey in the side, especially against Croatia, so he will almost certainly get the nod.

  • Comment number 66.

    I love it - Capello gives you the best qualifying round EVER IN HISTORY and you are all here telling hoe how to do his job.

    Phil, maybe that's why he gets paid millions for being national coach and you get paid tens of thousands for airing your views in a "blog".

  • Comment number 67.

    Not for me... granted Defoe is in top form in front of goal, however, we must remember that his scoring rate will not always be so high and his general play is not good enough for England. He may be worth on the bench but at the end of the day i would rather have Owen facing a one on one, Defoe is not in the same league.

  • Comment number 68.

    Re: 14

    I love you.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    Crouch and Defoe would be a better option than Heskey and Rooney based on form. Perhaps the idea of an uncertain place would get Rooney to improve

  • Comment number 71.

    Wayne Rooney is NOT going to score us to the World Cup.

    FACKT.

  • Comment number 72.

    Hi Phill, im wondering if can you translate the following sentence from your blog, into English for me?
    "Aaron Lennon had just cause to feel satisfied with his contribution after performing with greater vigour and effectiveness that Shaun Wright-Phillips when he replaced the Manchester City winger at the interval."
    I'm not really sure what this actually means...

    As for the football it was a fairly dire affait, typical of an England friendly.

    I still don't rate Heskey, Carlton Cole is on better form and poses an infinite amount more of a goal threat.
    If Capello isn't going to start Defoe then Cole should start. I'd also put Agbonlahor ahead of Heskey in the pecking order. How he hasn't made the squad yet is beyond me.

    I'm unconvinced that Defoe and Rooney will pose a threat to the worlds best teams, or for that matter to good and organised sides, of which there will be plenty in South Africa. The little and large combination seems to work best for England, and if thats how Capello wants to play then Cole should get the nod ahead of Heskey. And if he isn't starting then really there is no place for him in the squad. You being strikers on to get you goals. Heskey wont do this.

    I look forward to the inevitable Emile Heskey hatrick against Croatia on wednesday.

  • Comment number 73.

    For England to be a force to reckon with in the World Cup some very drastic improvments must come to the fore. At the moment only Defoe seems to have made a quantum leap. If he carries on at this rate he could peak at the WC to be a clear leader of the attack, the kind of striker you will only think of who to be partenered by.

    Rooney is a hardworking striker but Defoe is already more incisive. This sharpness has to be continuously honed. For that to happen he should be an automatic selection from now on.

  • Comment number 74.

    Beckham must still be a major part of the squad if not even 1st choice on the right of midfield, as you intimated Phil the other option,s are either inconsistent(Wright-Phillips) or injury prone(Walcott) Lennon seem,s to be in the box-seat in terms of taking over from Beckham now he seem,s to be finding an end product (decent cross or shot)more and more at the moment, but Beckham in the squad for sure.

  • Comment number 75.

    why has no one mentioned wes brown for the right back position as he is clearly better than johnson.
    the midfield should be milner hargreaves(barry as fit) lampard and welcott(when fit so SWP)
    also cappelo knows best as he is the man in charge and got more experience at picking teams than most of us.

  • Comment number 76.

    Capello has some serious selection headaches from GK to ST ahead of the World Cup. Heskey should be forgotten. Defoe must play based on current form even if it means Rooney must sit out some matches when he's off form. GK is always gonna be a real headache for Fabio.
    I can easily see a last 8 berth for England again but wouldn't be surprised if Fabio takes England one step further.

  • Comment number 77.

    Capello doesn't really like the way Defoe plays, but he appreciates the results (hence the 'he scores' quote). I think he also realizes that team mates are often frustrated with the way Defoe plays (because they know they aren't getting the ball back), but they can appreciate that he is going to create a bit of space for himself and then put decent hard shots on target. That's exactly what you want in the last 25 minutes, but it can be spirit crushing for the team if it isn't working for the first 65 minutes (they also stop passing to him, which wastes him entirely). He is brilliant as a sub, and Capello is absolutely right to use him as such (although maybe give him a run out with Rooney 'just to see' after we've clinched a spot in SA).
    My other suggestion would be to ditch Johnson and put in Micah Richards. This team doesn't need an RB who can score, it needs a solid backline. I would say Lennon/Richards should be the preferred right side, otherwise you have to play Milner (or Beckham?) to effectively cover for Johnson's forays. Lennon injects pass and width, which is very effective if Gerrard is playing a narrow LM. I also think he has shown himself to be the most consistent of the fast little wing players (although he, Young, and Walcott are so close that current form should be the decider).

  • Comment number 78.

    I could understand the clamour to get Defoe in the team if we weren't scoring, but a quick look at the UEFA qualifying section shows that we've scored more goals than any other team in Europe.

    It doesn't matter that Heskey doesn't score, he's not in the team to do that.

  • Comment number 79.

    Defoe scores from a deflected shot and suddenly he is the toast of strikers?! The reality is that Defoe is so seldom influential in any game that he is often he is just making up the numbers. He wastes enormous amounts of opportunities, he selfish when he should pass and shows a towersome amount of poor judgement and inability. My cocker spaniel, Tara,could score more often than Defoe and she isn't even in the squad.
    What England should be equally concerned about is the sheer lack of talent in depth in this squad-Lescott, Upson,C.Cole,Carrick are all remarkably average performers playing poorly.Gerrard and Lampard again for the umpteenth time cannot play together and shouldn't ever again.The side seems no more fluid and flowing now than when Capello took over.

  • Comment number 80.

    Wayne Rooney is NOT going to score us to the World Cup.

    FACKT.

    ......................................................................

    I take it you haven't seen any of the qualifyers?

    Take your ABU blinkers off.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    so capello is quoted as saying the players in form will play for england.
    what a load of....! why is heskey playing? does he score goals? how many assists has he got?
    opta shows very little in both fields.
    on that note, walcott has only scored 6 goals and made 9 assists in 90+ games with arsenal (opta). that is a very poor return.
    the two in-form players in this country are lennona nd defoe.

  • Comment number 83.

    It may be said already but why not start both Heskey and Defoe, Christ ! It's not rocket science, is it?

  • Comment number 84.

    TeaTimeAtHarrods:
    'My cocker spaniel, Tara,could score more often than Defoe and she isn't even in the squad.'
    'The reality is that Defoe is so seldom influential in any game that he is often he is just making up the numbers'

    --------

    It's genuinely sad when you see comments like this. I really am lost for words. Does this person watch football? To call probably the best natural finisher and poacher this country has seen since greaves and linekar and ian wright a 'waste' is a joke. he is the number one striker in this country at the moment and will outscore any other striker including torres right now. he has matured, has game intelligence and now is lethal in front of goal. he is quick, strong and sharp. rooney is a midfielder by the way, not a true striker. carlton cole is hit and miss, too unreliable and as for walcock, 6 goals in 90+ games is dire. lennon is the future, our best midfielder at the last world cup.

  • Comment number 85.

    I totally agree with footballandethics' comment. Lennon and Defoe are red hot at the moment, playing some outrageous football and performing fantastically for Spurs and England, just look at how they combined for the second goal against Slovenia.

    People still talk about Owen and Walcott as coming back into the mix and not being discounted. But I'm sorry, Owen is way past it and I can't see him making it to the World Cup in any capacity, he's lost his pace and if he can only one goal in 4 games at United, that's pretty poor.

    As for Walcott, he's still not a 1st team regular at Arsenal and whenever I watched him in the Premiership last season, he constantly made bad decisions and his finishing is still below average, as his passing.

    Lennon's crossing has vastly improved and his runs aren't clumsy like Walcott's and he's much more unpredictable for full backs. He's already scored twice this season late on in matches, which shows his endurance as he always starts for Spurs.

    Defoe is the best striker in the Premiership right now, with 4 goals already, and I've been to several games already, and i've seen his ability to hold the ball up and thread passes to other players. He's a lot stronger than he used to be and can draw fouls which means precious free kicks for England.

    So everyone listen up, WE DON'T NEED HESKEY TO START ON THE BASIS HE CAN HOLD THE BALL UP! Defoe can do that and is faster than the lump of lard who cant get any games at Aston Villa!

  • Comment number 86.

    Looking down the comments one or have questioned Rooney's ability. Stroll on, he is probably the best front player England have had since Bobby Charlton. For natural talent he is way better than Lineker ever was and will probably score at least as many goals.

    I would go with Rooney and Defoe up front with Lennon on the right wing. With Gerrard on the left that is an extremely potent forward line and would scare most teams. If a forward line change is needed I would bring on Cole because he looks on fire at the moment and would worry defenders late on.

    Early days but I think we've got the making of a decent squad. Unfortunately we are still some way off Spain and Brazil's standards but you never no.

  • Comment number 87.

    How the hell can we have Rooney and Heskey as our strike force when neither of them can SCORE GOALS!

    Guys, England needs a forward that is a natural finisher, someone who can actually puts the ball in the back of the net.

    Defoe is that, he is a constant threat, he could score the winner, he could be the player that scores in the 90th minute in the final in Johannesburg! COME ON ENGLAND, BRING IT HOME.

  • Comment number 88.

    I've mused privately about what England's forward line might do if you played Carlton Cole as a target man, Defoe, Gerrard and Rooney off him and a midfield two of Barry (holding) plus Lampard.

    That would need rampaging full backs I guess. Or would it?

    Something for when you need goals, rather than at a time where not conceding is equally important?

    Might be something for a friendly rather than the biggest game of the campaign?

  • Comment number 89.

    Good blog... glad you didn't jump on the Rooney Dive bandwagon (it would have been an easy write after his "honest" interview). Anyone who watches Rooney alot knew he thought he was busted for lashing out and was as shocked as everyone else when he saw it was a penalty.

    As for England. My main concern is, for the finals themselves.... if we make it and Joe Cole is fit, how is Capello going to deal with the age old Gerrard/Lampard conundrum. Cole's injury has allowed Capello to leave the decision to one side for now.

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    Why is this article presuming Rooney should start? He missed an absolute sitter on Saturday. I Think the question should be who partners Defoe.

  • Comment number 92.

    re #89

    Lampard has recently shown an incredible amount of discipline, both for club and country. Gerrard seems a tad "out-of-sorts", again for both club and country. Once Joe Cole is MATCH fit, bring him in for Gerrard.

    I really have been pleasantly surprised by Lampard.

  • Comment number 93.

    I agree with many posters who rate Carlton Cole above Heskey and Defoe.
    His skill pace and awareness are way above the others and he has blossomed under the new West Ham regime.He is on the same wavelength as Rooney which is a must for SA.
    Defoe is scoring now, but he can and will lose his touch overnight as he did before when an England 3rd - 4th choice player. Heskey is a hard worker and a plodder, he doesn't score enough for a player of his power.
    As for right back, Johnson will lose out to Wes Brown when he is fit or Hargreaves, who can play anywhere and will again for England.
    Lay off Rooney.

  • Comment number 94.

    Its ridiculous that Wes Brown isnt being mentioned as Right Back...in the past 2 years he has been the most solid English right back in the premiership, when manchester united won their treble and double he was at the core of it. The defence will be perfect if you have players that play together for their own club sides...look at the spanish team they have puyol/pique in the middle.

    England should have Brown - Ferdinand - Terry - Cole...solid defence that understand each other well. Goalkeeping wise, unless foster/green show consistency in their club games they dont warrant a place ahead of James.

    My midfield Attack would be to have one main striker and 2 defensive players...with the rest roaming around with freedom:

    ----------------- Barry ---- Lampard ---------------

    ---- Lennon ------- Rooney ------ Gerrard ---------

    -------------------------- Heskey ------------------

    Defoe as super sub.... rooney/gerrard/lennon allowed to roam freely..getting behind heskey who is a target man.

  • Comment number 95.

    If you compare us to some of the sides that will most likely be present at the World Cup, then I think it's hard to think of perhaps more than 4 or 5 sides that have a better strikeforce. Defoe would I reckon make most WC squads. True, we don't have a Torres or Villa, but they are the exception to the rule. Rooney is genuinely respected throughout World football, and don't forget that we have Gerrard and Lampard. We've got 4 or 5 genuine world-class players in our potential squad, and given that we're playing as a team compared to the shambles that was 2006, there's no reason why we can't challenge.

    There are weaknesses in all the major teams that will be challengers - Spain have no real decent rightback or leftback, yet they're being tipped as potential winners. Brazil lack a proper world-class striker , Argentina or Portugal might not even qualify, Italy are too old, Germany not strong enough. France are inconsistent as are the Dutch and the Russians. People complain about our keeper, but there are only a couple of world-class keepers - Buffon, Cech and Casillas. We lack a great rightback, but hell we've got Rio Ferdinand, Cole and Terry etc etc.

  • Comment number 96.

    i agree, the main question should be this:
    now that we have decided lennon is the best right mid option, who do we partner defoe with?

    defoe is teh best natural goalscorer this country has produced since greaves and linekar. to omit him and take a heskey or a cole who are both not reliable goalscorers or intelligent footballers would be criminal.
    its as logical as can be.
    even rooney doesn't score enough. midfielders score more.
    defoe is our no.1 option. simple.
    THERE IS NO ARGUMENT. IF HE SCORES, HE GOES. FOOTBALL IS ABOUT GOALS AND RIGHT NOW HE IS GOALS. SIMPLE.

  • Comment number 97.

    chakdey01-Wes Brown is without doubt the worst player in the football league. the fact that he can put on a Man U or England shirt without some measure of disbelief is beyond comprehension. he has created so many chances for the opposition that perhaps he should play for them.I find it unbelievable that his total lack of talent, creativity and positioning hasn't already been turned into a 'Wes Brown Vaudeville act" playing in Vegas and the West End. he is truly calamitous.The same applies really to Defoe-those on this post who support him are the fruits of blinkered Tottenham scribes so it really counts for nothing. He is truly talentless and more often than not a thorough embarrassment in front of goal -the fact that he is the leagues top scorer suggests more about the luck he is having (none of his goals have been truly instigated by his own talent) and the opposition switching off knowing he has the ball (generally that means there is not a lot happening when he has possession).

  • Comment number 98.

    Sorry to say but it wasn't a penalty.

    The football is round sometimes it rolls your way and the other times rolls in your favour.

    Had the penalty been awarded in favour of Slovenia, it would have been a heated discussion by all you fellow bloggers. (Cheats, conspiracy theories, Platini hates English clubs...)

    I will be reminding you of this penalty in the near future when a dubious decision goes against a English side!

  • Comment number 99.

    I think people are getting very carried away with Defoe's recent form. I've never heard people waxing lyrical about Defoe before, but 4 good games for Tottenham and suddenly he's a world class striker, and who should partner him for England?!

    Personally I agree he's a good player, and on great form - maybe deserving of a start. But I do agree with Capello that Heskey starting, and Defoe as a 2nd half impact player seems to work. Why change a working formula?

    And also, I still firmly believe Rooney is key to England's attacking options, and it should still be a case of who partners him. A few weeks ago his recent form for England was 10 goals in 7 games - a fantastic return. Yesterday his finishing was off... if it hadn't have been, he'd have had a hat trick. So yes, for me it's still about Rooney upfront. He is world class, and the link we need between a front man and midfield.

  • Comment number 100.

    Post number 97: What a ridiculous over-exaggeration. Defoe is very talented, and Wes Brown is a very good, solid right back. What you write is not only ludicrous, but your farcical and laughable exaggerations (eg "Wes Brown is without doubt the worst player in the football league") make your whole post lose any credibility. Come on man, wake up!

 

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