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Time for England to trust Joe Cole

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Phil McNulty | 13:44 UK time, Monday, 8 September 2008


Joe Cole was once described by Jose Mourinho as "a player with two faces - one beautiful and one I don't like."

Mourinho saw the unacceptable face of Cole in October 2004, when he accused him of neglecting defensive duties and effectively reducing his own team to ten men after scoring Chelsea's winner against Liverpool.

So Cole was back on familiar territory in Barcelona on Saturday when England coach Fabio Capello showed his grasp of English can cross the training ground to the shop floor, with poor Joe in the firing line again.

We got the Beauty and The Beast of Cole according to Capello - but he still showed enough to suggest England will need him in the World Cup qualifier in Croatia on Wednesday.

Cole had lifted England out of a trough of mediocrity with two goals that ended Andorra's stubborn, not to mention very physical, resistance and yet he was still on the rough end of his coach's tongue.

So what is there not to like about Joe Cole? Not a lot as far I can see - either as a footballer or a personality.

He is refreshingly positive, an avid student of the game, and still possesses the boundless boyish enthusiasm and ability that had him marked down for great things from as long ago as many of us can remember.

And there certainly is no air of the big time about him.

I recall him asking a journalist to introduce him to Terry Butcher at the 2006 World Cup. He wanted to thank Butcher personally for words of support on this website, but preferred to get someone else to make the introductions rather than disturb the former England captain himself.

And yet he has been subjected to what psychiatrists strangely term "tough love" from Mourinho to Capello - and even new Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari does not seem entirely convinced by one of England's most naturally gifted individuals.Cole should be certain of his place in Zagreb after he was the match-winner in Andorra, and yet he (like everyone else to be scrupulously fair to Capello) must wait until nearly match time to hear his fate.

Yes, Capello's trained eye spotted flaws after Cole scored twice in Barcelona, with his crime being guilty, along with Wayne Rooney, of leaving Emile Heskey too isolated as England tried to add a little lustre to their goal difference.

Capello is absolutely right to call out anyone he is unhappy with, publicly if he wishes. Indeed it is a welcome antidote to predecessor Steve McClaren's star-struck approach to his top players.

But, with England knowing the ramifications of defeat in Zagreb could be long-term, it is the perfect time to put total trust in Cole. Take him for what he is.

He gives England a thrust, guile and technique they lacked until he arrived against Andorra, and his unpredictability will give Croatia a problem that might just put them on the back foot.

Joe Cole

No-one is suggesting Capello must guarantee Cole an endless run of games.

This is a luxury no-one should, or will, enjoy under this regime, but Cole looks like he would benefit from an arm around the shoulder approach and the security of feeling that his coach has complete trust in him.

The smart money is on him getting a left-flank role - and as the scorer of England's last three goals it is only right that he should get it .

A bigger decision for Wednesday awaits Capello on the opposite flank, where Theo Walcott's lightning pace will vie with David Beckham's vast experience.

Walcott also paid a visit to the media on Monday. He is a 19-year-old, who possesses a frightening confidence, calm and self-assurance.

And he played as teenagers do against Andorra. He was pacy, brilliant. inconsistent, but was full of life and threat.

Some good and some not so good - all done while being the subject of a right old buffeting from Andorra's would-be "Chopper Harris", a chap by the name of Tony Lima.

If fortune favours the brave, Capello will try his luck on Walcott rather than fading Beckham, but conservatism may rule the day and give the former captain another outing on the big stage.

England's good news came in the shape of confirmation that Rio Ferdinand is fit to fly to Zagreb after training and suffering no reaction to a problem with his neck and back.

Capello must hope he is fit, especially after declining the opportunity to pick Jonathan Woodgate.

And this is because Everton's Joleon Lescott, an outstanding club performer, has yet to show any signs of transferring that form to his England appearances.

Alan Hansen has a phrase about one of the most elusive, and yet most vital, commodities in the modern footballer's make-up.

"Confidence - where does it come from and where does it go to?"

In Lescott's case, we know where it goes - he leaves it behind the moment he joins the England squad, as does Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing.

These are two very good players, Everton and Middlesbrough supporters will rightly extol their virtues and both clubs would be knocked down in the rush if they went on sale, but put them in an England shirt and self-belief drains from them.

It has to be confidence - and if Capello has that confidence in Joe Cole he might just make the difference in Zagreb.

In other news, there is some dismay among those of us making a 6am departure for Croatia on Tuesday. It would require something approaching an all-nighter to watch Andy Murray play Roger Federer in the US Open tennis final.

Still, duty calls and we will just have to dream of a straight sets victory for Murray.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I was disappointed for Downing on Saturday. He'd rightfully earned his recall after going away and working on his game fairly quietly and putting in some excellent performances for Boro last season and the start of this. Things didn't quite roll for him, and yet he's once again being made the scapegoat, which seems a bit unfair.

    There are far more experienced players in the side who should take responsibility for the perceived bad performance in Barcelona. Having been there myself last time around, I can fully appreciate that, actually, the performance this time was a marked improvement. Still not great, but Andorra were always going to be a pain in the proverbial.

    Wednesday is obviously a completely different kettle of fish. I'd expect, as you rightly say, Cole to replace Downing, simply as he's a better player. It's no slight on Downing's part, it's simple ability and performance ratings. Cole is in form for England, Downing has no confidence after his previous run of games in the side where he was the boo-boy.

    I'd expect us to go with a fairly conservative approach in terms of the formation and attitude. However, I also expect Walcott to be in the side because he is the only player capable of making that break out of a defensive situation to put the opposition on the back foot, and it's a situation like that coupled with determined defending and probably a slice of luck that is going to win us the game.

    While Beckham has a cool head on his shoulders and has vast experience of this sort of situation, I just don't think he has the legs for this sort of game anymore. It's not as if we're going to be camped in their half for long periods where we can make use of his set-piece ability.

    My XI:

    Brown - Ferdinand - Terry - A Cole
    Walcott - Barry - Lampard - J Cole

    Rooney may even play as an orthodox left-sided player, which would then give Cole a bit more freedom in the middle. I would love to drop the technically flawed Terry, but there's more chance of me being picked than Terry being dropped.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well you obviously seem to know Cole better than anyone else, so why are you asking this question?

    Nevertheless, if you want an answer, I ued to like Cole a lot when he was at West Ham - he looked to be able to produce everything an all-round player of his ability should do.

    What I don't like about him now, is that since his move to Chelsea he does seem to have taken on some of the 'big time' airs that you say he hasn't. He has unfortunately taken on the arrogance that runs through the Chelsea camp, and it comes out in his play when he decides to do things his way, at the expense of the team, hence a roasting from the managers. I saw him in action at the Tottenham v Chelsea 4-4 last season, and he was tremendous in putting Chelsea up 4-1 and then decided he had done enough and we know what happened next...

    Can't fault his ability, can question his temperament/attitude.

  • Comment number 3.

    It was Andorra that young Mr Cole scored against...............most of the time that I've seen him play for England and Chelsea he runs down "blind alleys" and must at least equal Scholes in the ability to lose the ball.
    Stewart Downing a "very good player " ? Not what I've seen for England or Middlesboro . He is not of international standard, confident or not.

  • Comment number 4.

    Right now Joe Cole is our most talented creative and unpredictable midfielder, just behind Steve Gerrard. As far as I can tell he is also the hardest working and one of the most passionate and yet he get's stick from Managers. It's as if he is an easy target because unlike Rooney, Lampard and the lofty Gerard he doesn't spit his dummy out at the slightest criticism. My advice Joe is start spitting your dummy out like Rooney. You are one of a few who have earned the right. At the moment neither Rooney nor Lampard deserve a place, nor does Downing who would struggle to get in my Sunday team. We have a striker problem and there is absolutely no doubt that Michael Owen remains our most effective goal getter.

  • Comment number 5.

    "must at least equal Scholes in his ability to lose the ball"???

    Scholes is probably the best English passer of a ball in the Premier League! The national team would be a much better side if he came out of retirement.

    As for Cole, he's been England's most consitent player for the last 3 or 4 years. Theres nobody else in the squad who offers anywhere near the amount of flair and creativity he can offer, and he can play anywhere across the midfield or as a second striker. He should be one of the first picks as far as I'm concerned.

  • Comment number 6.


    Want some milk with that first sentence?

  • Comment number 7.

    Good piece other than the stuff about Lescott. He is not as good as people make out. Constantly out of position and can't read the game. It is his goals which made people take notice of him, yet Moyes deployed him at left back for the majority of last season as he realized that he goes to sleep defensively.

    Anywayz i agree about Joe Cole. Without the guidence of Mourinho we would never have seen his potential but he has matured into a very good player who can produce moments of magic out of nothing.

    My final point is about Wayne Rooney. I am a Man Utd fan and Rooney has been my favourite player for the last few seaons. However every year he keeps picking up little knocks and it has held him back. This year i thought he would have learnt from that and keep himself in shape throughout the summer ready to prove himself but this has not been the case and i hope Capello and Ferguson drop him to teach him a lesson. He feels he is in the comfort zone but with Berbatov coming in Ferguson can now afford to drop him.

  • Comment number 8.

    Never forget his goal in the world cup pure class.

    Mourinho was about to sell him and he was demoted to the subs bench behind Duff and Robben and he went on a blistering run of form coming off the bench to score goal after goal, game after game.

  • Comment number 9.

    Comment By Phil McNulty

    So what is there not to like about Joe Cole? Not a lot as far I can see - either as a footballer or a personality.


    You obviously havent met the guy away from football, he's just another typical English player of the so-called golden generation who has his head stuck so far up his own backside. I'm glad I no longer have to deal with these arrogant footballers who think they are Gods gift.

    I only hope that once this lot of pampered prima donna's dont leave a lasting impression on the next upcoming lot of English youth, but dont hold your breath.

  • Comment number 10.

    My England team ATM would be:


    A.Cole Rio Terry Brown

    J.cole Lampard Gerrard Bentley

    Rooney Agbonlahor

    2 probelems : Rio - injured, Agbonlahor - U21

  • Comment number 11.

    Cole should defo start for england. By far our best performer over the last 3 years. The fact that this is up for debate worries me slightly.

    As for Beckham VS Walcott. For me its another no-brainer. Beckham is far, far to slow now. Against Andorra, if we had played a target man, Beckham probably would have caused them all sorts of problems, and got a couple of assists. Against a team that will actually come out and attack us, Walcotts pace on the counter attack would be far far more usefull. If you give Walcott space to expose, he can devastate teams.

    But to be fair, i think either will be kind of irrelevant, because if we stick with Barry and Lampard in the middle, Croatia will run rings around them anyways. Barry is a good midfielder, but he is not defensive enough to make up for Lampards inability to do anything other than creep up on the edge of the box and shoot.

  • Comment number 12.

    "So what is there not to like about Joe Cole?"

    Simply that he takes away from his positive football contribution by being one of the worst divers England has ever produced. I'll never forget th match against Liverpool back in 2005 when he went to ground and was looking directly at the referee with a smile on his face before he actually hit the turf.

  • Comment number 13.

    Joe Cole can be awsome, but also wholly undisciplined...Mourhino got tough with him and after a while he responded very well and we really saw the best from him in a long time...

    Last season when Greenback was at the helm his temperament and focus was terrible, but he is undeniably talented...maybe it's the type of coaching that he needs...

    My first 11 would be...


    Brown Ferdinand Terry Cole

    Bentley Barry Lampard Cole

    Walcott Rooney

  • Comment number 14.

    Much as it grieves me to say it England
    will NOT QUALIFY for the World Cup
    with this very 'MEDIOCRE' team.

    Our options are limited particularly in
    Midfield and up Front.

    In the past the limitations of our technical
    and tactical play have been compensated
    by physicality and passion. Even in these
    areas we have fallen away.

    Andorra are in essence a 'semi professional'
    team whose players are playing in the main
    for teams in the third division of Spanish League.

    Most of our top Premier League Clubs could
    put out their reserves or even youth teams
    and beat this bunch.

    Yet England struggled to make an impact for most of the game.

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

    'He gives England a thrust, guile and technique they lacked until he arrived against Andorra'

    That England needed one man to give them these qualities against this opposition shows how low we have slumped.

  • Comment number 17.

    I must say I wholeheartedly disagree with saying that there is nothing to dislike about Joe Cole, as much as a talented goalscorer (I remember the magic goal he scored in the world cup) he is also bolshy and petulant in front of referees, anyone seeing his shirt-pulling flagrations during the Champions League final would have felt shame at his poor attitude.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think Joe Cole should definitely start. He possess the natural abilty to take men on and beat them, something that not a lot of players have.

    He should start on the left flank, as he does usually. He thrives in this role because he can drift in and out of defenders as he pleases. He is not just one of these players who cuts inside all of the time.

    The only problem is, Mourinho tried to oust out some of his natural ability by forcing him into defensive duties, something that he should not be doing. He is an attacker. It's widespread knowledge that attackers, in the most part, cannot defend, and more often than no when they are told to, it ends in tears. Someone gets sent-off or commits a foul in a dangerous area.

    Granted, Cole should track back at times when the team is in trouble from, say, a fast-paced counter-attack. But not as a general rule. He should be wide on that left flank and ready to recieve the ball because if there is one English player you want to have on the ball when you are hitting the opposition on the break, it's Joe Cole.

    Capello was right to say he should have been further forward, supporting the strikers, that is his job. If I could say anything to Joe, it would be to forget about Mourinho and what he said, let the football do the talking. And Capello and Scolari should be encouraging the natural attacking flair out of him at every possible moment, because the guy is a gifted footballer.

  • Comment number 19.

    Whats tennis got to do with anything?

    Footballers are overpaid and rich, sure, but they dont usually start out that way.

    Unlike Tennis players.

  • Comment number 20.

    What i dont understand is why he doesent pick Ashley Young to start on the wing... Not as good as Joe Cole just yet but not far away! 17 assists last season which was second to fabregas! He is also better than Bentley and Downing!

  • Comment number 21.

    I'll try again -- posted twice and it never showed up!

    My starting XI, assuming all fit, would be:
    G Johnson
    J Cole

    442 diamond, Joe Cole as STRIKER, Rooney in the hole.


    Scholes? Fine player, but a liability...

  • Comment number 22.

    Certainly no-one could ever accuse Joe Cole of not giving his all for England. My one area of concern with him is that when he drops back to help the defence, he is inclined to lunge in and give away free kicks in dangerous positions.
    That having been said he has the ability and enthusiasm to be a regular on the team.

    On another point am I the only one to be hugely depressed to think that Heskey is among our top 4 or 5 strikers ?

  • Comment number 23.

    Oh I forgot to add THERE IS NO SUCH THING IN FOOTBALL AS AN ASSIST !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    As the co-president of the "any but Beckham club" of course McNulty is going to love Walcott's incredible pace on the right. But like Lennon, Wright-Phillips and others before them, if the last ball isn't there, it is all for nothing.
    Capello likes players who follow tactical directions and execute his game plan. That is why he continues to pick Beckham. He does what he is told out on the field. In contrast, if this was a club team Rooney would be dropped next game. Let's be honest, Beckham was the bright spot against Croatia last time out and he will get the start.
    As for Cole, he didn't start against Andorra because he doesn't follow directions, he will need to do so if he wants to continue being part of the England team.
    Capello is trying to build a cohesive tactically minded team and it's probably England's best chance of bringing home a trophy, individual talent will not get it done.

  • Comment number 25.

    Fair comment about the Cole dive, but I don't recall too many lately.

    What I particularly like about Cole is his genuine love of football. He will talk about other teams he has watched and players he has had a close look at to see if it will help him with his game.

    It is not just a very well paid job for him, it is something he has a genuine passion for.

    On the point about Stewart Downing, I hope no-one thinks I was singling him out for criticism.

    I actually feel for him in the same way I feel for Joleon Lescott. They are both so much better than they have shown for England, but sometimes it just doesn't happen for certain players.

    Fans know their own players, and Lescott was voted player of the year by Everton fans last season.

    The word is he wants to play at centre-back at Everton to improve his England chances, but he has had an awful start to the season.

    He has looked an outstanding left-back at club level.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ miamitree,

    My opinion of Heskey has changed. I think he plays the Beardsley role rather well -- straight man to the star goal scorer. His strike rate in competitive games is roughly the same as Beardsley's (although PB was a far more gifted player). I also happen to think he has played well in his last few England games -- which is more than you can say for the likes of Andy Johnson, David Nugent, Peter Crouch, Alan Smith and Darren Bent.

  • Comment number 27.

    England Captain (#13) is right about the defending (or lack of) but that in itself is a non-entity.
    Indeed, is it not time to change the formation (as expressed by many)? Go for a 4-3-3 like many of them do at club level, or a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders the way France has been trying with such results. Pick from Barry/Carrick/Hargreaves to hold, use Gerrard and Rooney to switch from left to right as they both defend and have incredible work-rates and play Cole off a ball-retainer inthe mold of Crouch or even the back have Brown with Rio, Terry and Cole.
    All in all, this gives three major positives: stable back and building platform wth players that can actually play as well as tackle; hard working midfield that balances defense with creativity going forwards; and finnally: experience!! It is all well to go for the performers, we need a team that knows international and even more continental football...
    So no place for the younger inexperienced players i hear you cry? No Young, Agbonlahor or Wallcott? Think subs to come in with something different (i.e pace and ethusiasm) IF NEEDED!
    nuff said

  • Comment number 28.

    For me it has to be Ashley Young on the left of midfield and, to be honest, he'd do a better job than Beckham on the right also.

  • Comment number 29.

    Joe Cole was the best player on saturday by far...
    he is playing with confidence everytime he pulls on the 3 lions shirt
    he may not have scored against a great team, but he managed something the starting 11 players (who u think must be better than him to have stared) couldnt do. Downing was poor and therefore deserves to start on the bench and have joe cole take his place...
    Defoe is playing well for club and country whereas rooney isnt, sub him each game not Jermain....
    Walcott shone and is proving to the whole of Engalnd the talent that Arsenal saw in him.....even if it is coming a little later than we wanted......

    Joe Cole-Defoe-Rooney in a 433 formation!!

  • Comment number 30.

    to solve a argument between people why dont we play both walcott and beckham? its a easy solution .. not that it makes a diffrence its not like capello comes on this and reads what we have to say is it. but if we play both walcott and beckham we'll have pace for the break with beckhams passing crossing and dead ball game its simple play a 4-4-1-1 with walcott playing jus behind the top striker and beckham on the right with Cole on the left dont get me wrong but downing is a really good player but may he be a better player if he played with world class footballers week in week out?? who knows capello likes something he brings to the team maybe us english are jus not patient enuff and jump on peoples backs way too fast !! SupaLATD

  • Comment number 31.

    Defoe, Lampard, Terry and Downing are not international class and should be nowhere near an England shirt.

  • Comment number 32.

    To those who suggest Cole does not follow instructions - do you think he would risk that again after the dressing down he got from Capello?

    I don't.

    Good point about Aston Villa's Ashley Young. Capello will need to discover at some point whether he can make the jump from club to country. Good player.

  • Comment number 33.

    LOL @ team line-ups with Ashley Cole in them. This guy along with Lampard is the most ineffective players on the England roster!

    Seriously, what has Ashley Cole ever done apart form let players get passed him as if he wasn't even there?

    Also, he is not good going forward and you can tell that other players hate his game because they are always running back to cover the position he abandons far too often during a single match.

    To be honest, England need to chop the stars, because they are not good enough. The following players should not be in the England squad at all:

    Ashley Cole
    John Terry
    Frank Lampard
    Wayne Rooney

    Out of these 4, only one should be considered for another try - Wayne Rooney, if he plays like he did for everton and in Euro 2004. However if he never gets that game back again, then his England career should be stopped short. You can't rely on past individual performances.

  • Comment number 34.

    Phil Cracking Arcticle. Absolutley Spot on Joe Cole has always offered a different dimension.

    I also think a bit more time with a Mr Rooney could also do great things.

    Although the only tiny item I would have to disagree with you about. A young Scottish Tennis player was asked on Talksport Which team he supports at the Euro's

    I also think after his hat trick in the Charity match Bring back Shearer (I wish).

    The answer was anyone but England. I hope this eases your dilemma Come on Federar Come on England

    James, Brown (Should be Richards), Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Barry, Cole ,Rooney, Heskey

  • Comment number 35.

    "Capello likes players who follow tactical directions and execute his game plan. That is why he continues to pick Beckham. He does what he is told out on the field. In contrast, if this was a club team Rooney would be dropped next game. Let's be honest, Beckham was the bright spot against Croatia last time out and he will get the start"

    Beckham doing what he's told on the pitch???? you are joking arent you???? i cant imagine any coach demanding that the right sided midfielder moves central virtually rendering the other cm's obselite

    hmmmmm then again with capello you could expect it. totally overrated as a coach. come back sven all is forgiven. hang on it was our fault wasnt it...........BUGGER

  • Comment number 36.

    Phil the problem with Cole is, in the words of Bon Scott, he takes a 'touch too much'.

    Seriously, I think Capello rates Cole as one of, if not our best player and is trying to get the best out of him. Just as Jose did by denying him the assurance of a first team place. A Joe Cole fighting for his place is a dangerous Joe Cole. He wants to play.

    We don't have Robben as competition though... but it may still work.

  • Comment number 37.

    JC surely deserves a start in the England setting more especially after SD poor first half showing......

  • Comment number 38.

    Cole is a clever footballer and thanks to his time at Chelsea is clearly football 'savvy' too. It's that quality all Argentinian internationals have, called the 'dark arts' at it's most extreme and it gives our boys their palpable inferiority complex at international level.
    If Walcott gets savvy too (and the signs are he might be capable) we could think about wiping the smirk off the face of Bilic and his boys.
    Get them both in and tell 'em to be as dark as they like.

  • Comment number 39.

    Touch Too Much...I see what you've done there J?hingsen.

    I can only hope my argument about Cole making the difference isn't shot down in flames.

  • Comment number 40.

    Yeeeeeeeeeeeeees, the goal scoring attacking Rio will treaten the Croatian goal on at leeeeast 2 occasions (corners!).

  • Comment number 41.

    Maybe Capello was just trying to send a signal to the squad. "See lads? You can be the star player on the night and STILL get told off by me! I'm in charge here!"

    I heard Fergie used to do that at Man U, arrange 'fake' tellings off with his star players to strike fear into new, younger signings.

    Call it a hunch, but Cole WILL start against Croatia...

  • Comment number 42.

    I often wonder why Joe Cole is not used as an impact player (supersub) with 15-20 mins to go.

    Surely the use of JC as a sub in either a direct striker replacement or as an additional striker role adds a dimension to England where the result in Zagreb can be the difference between a loss, win or draw. His speed and determination could be the difference when Croatia become a little lead footed

  • Comment number 43.

    Rooney is one my current great frustrations. He should play so much better for England than he does.

    No-one in their right mind can doubt the talent, but could it be with Cristiano Ronaldo such a devastating force at Manchester United, Rooney's game has been affected?

    Maybe he has become too much of a team player, too unselfish.

    I would love to see a return to that wonderful free, untamed talent we saw in his early years.

    The talents is there. Let's see it.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'd quite like to see Joe Cole play instead of Rooney. Cole performs for England, Rooney hasn't been doing that for some time.

    Then we could try Young on the left.

    The only problem I have with Cole and Beckham both playing is that they both drift into the middle from out wide which makes our side very very narrow and congested

  • Comment number 45.


    I agree that Rooney is frustrating for England, However, is it not a case that he appears frustrating due to the lack of service by other team members. Whereas at club level , the ball is pushed around more frequently and the probing allows Rooney some success, which is distinctly lacking in the England setup.

    Has not Sir Alex pointed out that he plays Rooney in a Role that is not best suited to his talents? - the very same role that England push him into?

  • Comment number 46.

    Joe cole is good but i think ashley young should be in for his final ball. you have to drop rooney, just not performing. walcott has pace but again no final ball, beckham for me everytime. good final balls are crucial if your playing heskey and (god knows why not) owen who are both good in the air.

    My 11:


    G.Johnson Ferdinand Terry A. Cole

    Beckham Barry Lampard A. Young

    Heskey Owen (why capello??)

    can bring joe cole and walcott on later where their pace and trickery will be useful against the tiring croatians.

  • Comment number 47.

    Joe Cole is an enigma. I agree with most comments in this blog but must qualify this by saying that Joe can be his own worst enemy. He is skillful, he can pop-up and score, especially in the box, he can cause damage on the wing or midfield by making space for himself. All good points, BUT how many times have we seen him go it alone when other players are better placed, or lose the ball when trying something fancy.
    If Capello wants a player to fulfil a role and constuct a team based on roles, then JC could be a liabilty for 50% or more of the game as he just does what he wants. Rooney is anothe player who does not follow the plan.
    However the unexpected is whatever makes them the players they are though, and turning them into robots is not the best way to utilise them.
    This is the dilemma of all who manage them, you need to take the rough with the smooth.

  • Comment number 48.

    Sorry #5..........
    I would respectfully disagree. Scholes can certainly score and pass, but he makes up for that by giving the ball away and by giving up free-kicks in the most dangerous positons, around the penalty area.
    Joe Cole is more of the same, a lot of flair step-overs etc., but ends up losing the ball to the defender or making a poor pass. If you haven't seen either one, or both, doing that you must be wearing rose coloured glasses !

  • Comment number 49.

    I think Rooney should stay where he belongs and play as a loan striker up front. He shouldn't be allowed to drift back into midfield. Cole should play and start in a supporting striker role, playing just behind Rooney but with his ability should be given free reign in the opposition half to drift wherever he wants.
    It's essesntial that England have some players who can run at the opposition with the ball and have a good turn of pace and control. Never mind Bentley and Beckham, Walcott and Shaun Wright Phillips should be first choice right midfielders, like Cole they have the ability and fitness to shake up and physically trouble opposition players, making them work and tiring them out by making them chase the ball and make tackles. Andorra were no doubt helped and had time to get half of their squad behind the ball because players such as Beckham and Lampard dally on the ball too long and play pointless passing moves!!
    These normally end in James taking the final touch and blasting the ball back up the pitch or in Paul Robinson's case, the ball going in our own net!
    If you were in the Croatian defence or midfield who would you rather face? Two unpredictable, pacy and enthusiastic players in Joe Cole and Walcott, or two trying to be flashy, posing, slow and negative players such as Beckham and Lampard?

    I would choose the latter to play against. Unfortunatley Capello may do the same. Boring.

  • Comment number 50.

    To all those people saying that lampard is ineffective, useless etc etc - i seem to recall not too long ago him being voted our player of the year. Call me cray or something, but wouldnt that mean he played amazing etc? Fair enough, his performances havent been great recently; but then, show me an english player who has consistently put in a good performance for england?

    There are 11 players in a football team, and it takes alot more than the shortfalls of one to lose a game. Never thought id have to stoop to an under 6 sunday leaguer's level to explain whats wrong with england football but there you go.

  • Comment number 51.

    I'm sorry but Lampard being voted player of the year explains what's wrong with England football.
    Granted there are 11 players on the pitch, Lampard is obviously considered an important one of those, one to lead by example if you will. But he never really delivers playing for England. Undoubtedley he is an amazing player and talent, therefore should rightly be expected to take this on to the pitch for England but he doesn't, so there you go.

  • Comment number 52.

    i like joe cole and i like his attitude, but not all the time. his attitude could make him want to do better and thats why hes scoring goals because he knows that he needs to fight for a place in the team. hes one of the few players that is trying his best and he shows true english spirit. come on joe cole, get yourself another couple of goals against croatia.
    i wish rooney would go back to his no nonsense, get out of my way because im better than you self because he wanted back then to get goals and get past people but now hes not doing that. GET ANGRY ROONEY AND GET SOME GOALS BECAUSE YOU ARE A BEAST!!!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    Cole is a great player. We need him on the left if we stand a chance.

    He plays with pace spirit and flair. People saying he is arrogant and does things his own way?.... arrogance is just his self belief and self confindence he knows he is good and can change a game. So that is what he does.

    Capello wont last long we should of got in Redknapp i like him as a manager. If capello hadnt left out some players our best team would be:





  • Comment number 54.

    Capello may be right to pull up JoeCole but he has to be careful not to damage that enthusiasm that wins matches. Without it Cole would never try some of the things he does. Much better that than the whingeing arrogance of Gerrard and one or two others.

    Start with Cole definitely.

    I would also start with Walcott. He is a long way short of the finished article, though I think he will be one of the greats in time. The thing he does is shock opponents with his pace before they can settle into a game. It would help if strikers managed to net some of the chances. After 30 minutes if there is nothing to show for it bring on Beckham.

    One other positive about Walcott - he wants to stay on his feet no matter who is trying to kick lumps out of him. Cole and Gerrard, not to mention Ronaldo, Drogba and Van Persie can learn somethng from this kid.

  • Comment number 55.

    Jo Cole could be the new Lampard (might even be better) And anyway he was always trusted both at england,west ham and especially at chelsea

  • Comment number 56.

    joe cole is amazing, does anyone remember when he scored that wicked goal against i think norwich city??? he went round a few people and then got back up from a tackle and smashed it in the top left hand corner of the net. that was great! that was determination and he is really something. hes not someone who falls over easily and exaggerates like maybe ronaldo sometimes but not as much or mascherano in the olympics or whoever. hes an excellent player

  • Comment number 57.

    its a crap squad, though you can hardly blame capello after the benitez-gerrard situation. i thought the FA could have done something about that? been unlucky with injuries to micah richards and gerrard (is gary neville ever coming back), i don't understand why owen's not included and why there is only 4 strikers (one of them not even proven!) surely agbonlahor should have been after the first premiership game of the season and what about james milner and ashley young?

    don't know why robinson is still in there when you have carson and kirkland available.

    england must improve if they're going to beat croatia and qualify!

    i think the FA should put a restriction on the amount of foreign players and say there must be at least 5 british players in each team and 3 legible for england. arsenal will be gutted!!!

    my england dream xl


    richards terry ferdinand a-cole

    barry hargreaves

    walcott gerrard j-cole

    Rooney Heskey

  • Comment number 58.

    I echo others in their hope that Downing will be given another chance in the future. Without Downing, I think Boro wouldn't be half the side they are and I feel part of the reason why he fades so dramatically for England is that he just hasn't been given a chance to get used to the England set-up. England need a left winger.

    As for Wednesday night, it seems to me that, unfortunately, Fabio will go defensive in a quest to secure a draw. Winning will be a bonus, not the aim.

    For one thing, I do not think that Lampard deserves to start. He, quite simply, isn't good enough.

    Beckham? I DO think he is an option, but certainly not on the right (or any other position requiring movement or pace). For me, Beckham would make make for an ideal holding midfielder - disciplined, good passer, good tackler. Barry as the attacking midfielder seems to be a tantilising option, and one we should consider long term if Gerrard and Lampard continue to underperform.

    Brown should start, because I see Johnson as the permanent option during this qualifying group, I just feel that we need stability with those at the back.

    So, my XI:


    Brown---Ferdinand---Terry---A. Cole


    Walcott---------------------------J. Cole




  • Comment number 59.

    Jonathan-robards just to point out tht a football team contains 11 players and not 12.


  • Comment number 60.

    re : no 57.

    nice team, but didnt realise we were allowed to field 12 players.... maybe thats our only chance of winning

  • Comment number 61.

    Cole should start, he may not be a proper left winger, but he's creative and there aren't many who would try a 30 yard volley in a world cup, he's consistently good for england and considering downing's recent performance and ashley young has been ignored, is there any better choice?

    I'm not sure about the midfield, some would say a five would be stronger against croatia - but in england speak that means a 5th defender and one up front - and therefore an isolated striker, even if it is heskey, which it won't be because rooney will not be dropped - there's also limited options in midfield, unless you dropped rooney to the left and put cole in a free role the only option is barry, lampard, bullard in the middle - not sure how that would work

    personally i think we should keep rooney anyway, as long as he's not alone up front he's got the best chance of cutting up croatia's back line, so put him behind defoe or heskey, maybe bullard and barry together in the middle (it's gonna be lamps and barry anyway)

    then the right wing - walcott was the odd choice against andorra - a team that gives away a lot of free kicks and not a lot of space in their own half probably called for a delivery specialist (which is all beckham is) rather than a pacey young whippersnapper who will get into space - i think his starting was a test for croatia, so i would expect him to start on weds - we need someone who can keep the ball and move it down the channel, not more long balls

    at the back - obvious, just put wes brown, the better defender, in for johnson

  • Comment number 62.

    I feel that, while Lampard hasn't done it for England for about 3 and a half years, Gerrard has never won a big match in the national shirt. I remember Lampard's extremely good run of form around Euro 2004, and in the early stages of qualifying for the World Cup in 2006, though he fell away pretty sharply during that tournament. In his run of form Lampard could justly point to some games in which he can say he made the difference in England's favour. Gerrard, conversely, has only won two games for England in my opinion; in Andorra last time and in that friendly against the USA at Wembley. Both of them, for whatever reason, don't perform any more for the national team, and we have to remember one very crucial fact: England won the World Cup when they dropped their best attacker, Jimmy Greaves, because he didn't fit into the team. I think a midfield of Barry and Hargreaves, with Cole on the right and Ashley Young (how can Capello possibly think Downing is better than him?) on the left. That is a midfield that can win matches for the team, not a bunch of individuals who don't quite click. Also, though Owen is a much better headerer than he is given credit, if you play Owen and Rooney there should be no temptation to play moronic long balls.

    My team:


    Johnson Terry Ferdinand A. Cole

    J. Cole Hargreaves Barry Young

    Owen Rooney

  • Comment number 63.

    62 - jimmy greaves was dropped because of injury

  • Comment number 64.

    Tarquin - point taken, but while he may have been dropped because of injury, when he came back to fitness he was kept out of the side.

  • Comment number 65.

    Cole is a busy little player who twists and turns, huffs and puffs, and then looses the ball. Every coach/manager can see that and will get irritated by it. Joe Cole will be remembered as the player who took the element of surprise out of the step over. A Cole step over is as predictable as can be.
    Question is whether he is the finished product. If he is, then he is detained to starting from the bench. Not good enough to start for me.

  • Comment number 66.

    Critisizing Heskey as one of the best 5 strikers is pretty pointless as lets face it we aren't exactly blessed with depth. I've been as guilty as anyone of having a go but he does a job. we've tried picking the best 11 players and see where thats got us. Perhaps its time to genuinely have a team.
    If owen was 100% drop rooney (and i'm a man u fan) to the bench. Same with lampard if gerrard was fit. we would at least have a stronger bench that could change a game. (On paper at least)
    Incidently ashley Cole has been poor since he joined chelsea but who else do you play? Joe cole should definately play. He may have some issues at times but at least he tries.

  • Comment number 67.

    hard to beat-stop taking the michael.Beckham a "good tackler"?Beckham, "disciplined"?Beckham in a role he so disgraced against Northern Ireland under Sven?God help us if thats the limit of your imagination.

  • Comment number 68.

    He saved England from utter embarassment. ets just see here on paper it reads Andorra 0-2 England and the goalscorers Joe Cole (2), imagine if they'd not have won that, they'd have dropped five places in "the fifa world rankings" and had been considered a pushover, I am not an England fun, a true Scot living in England (don't remind me of our result) even I know that playing Joe Cole is only the sensible thing to do!

  • Comment number 69.

    5TournamentFloplegend -

    There is a reason Beckham keeps getting picked - it's because he follows instructions, certainly not because of his blistering pace. However, there's no doubt that had Carrick or Hargreaves been available then they would be in the role, if not both of them starting. Reo-Coker is also worth a shout in this respect.

  • Comment number 70.

    Joe Cole is one of our more talented players. If the problem is his lack of desire to fit in with some rigid tactical plan, then construct a formation that allows him to play.

    I remember that Sir Alf Ramsey had a problem with Bobby Charlton in that he DIDN'T want Bobby to track back but Bobby kept falling in line with Peters and Ball rather that stay up-field behing Hurst and Hunt..

    Well let Cole play in that attacking midfield hole type position behind a front two - say a 4-1-3-2 formation like England used to play with Cole in Charlton's role but playing more as Ramsey wanted.

    Play a typical back 4 but with emphasis on wing-back skills for the full-backs to provide width (like Cooper and Newton used to do). Give Hargreaves the role of defensive screen, play some LCM and RCM say Barry and Gerrard. Put Cole in the hole and have a standard 'little and large' show up front with Heskey and Rooney( or Owen but not both).

    Defending with 7 is reasonable. On a side note playing Gerrard, and Lampard in the same side does not work. Capello please don't do it anymore - and Beckham was great in his day but he's past it. Sorry he just is.

  • Comment number 71.

    Love Joe Cole. I personally think he's not only one of the Premiership's most inventive players but one of Europe's too.

    He should start on the left with licence to roam.

  • Comment number 72.

    hard to beat,i very much doubt instructions to beckham for that czech match included giving the ball away at every opportunity nor losing shape once again as he always does with england.i wish someone had given this 33 year old "instructions" before he brainlessly gave the ball away to croatia last november to cost us our place.He is incapable of following instructions,thats what infuriated people about him so much when playing for england.He had no positional discipline,aimlessly wandering all over the park and his lack of technical quality on the ball is absolutely astounding when you consider the cr$p thats spouted about his ability.I knew the guy was limited but when you actaully see him in the flesh you realise just how ludicrously reliant he is on one part of one foot to be able to hit the ball cleanly.If hes picked and the opposition hurry him then just sit back and wait for the carnage to follow as he surrenders posession and gets completely overrun on the right.If i was bilic id be telling my left side player this isthe chance of his life to tear into a player who has no right to take to the field at this level anymore.

  • Comment number 73.

    I believe firstly that Phil is exactly right about pretty much everything in this blog.

    Secondly i believe that Stevegrant1983 knows absolutely nothing about anything... How can you say that John Terry is too slow for internationals when week in week out he dissects the skill of players from al around the world. Steve you are the only person i have met to believe strongly that John terry is a bad player... And your evidence is pathetic. You are also completely wrong about Joe Cole and Stewart Downing. I think you are one of those people who loves the sound of their own voice and loves creating controversy, whether you believe in what you are saying or not. if you have ever watched MOTD you will have seen the crew analyse and admire john terry's performances for as long as i can remember.
    your opinion is would be nullified by any pundit or commentator that i know.

    And also, john terry is a player who puts his heart and soul into every match he plays, be it for country or club. (ferdinand sing national anthems?????) Terry has a superb left foot, which many players nowadays do not possess, his ability to intercept and to make tackles is unbeatable and just look on youtube for his goalline clearances. Right Place at the right time

    im 15 and even i can understand Football

  • Comment number 74.

    I can't believe the amount of biased rubbish I've encountered from the comments people have made in this article, this is surely reflective of why England are more often than not producing average performances, because each player is always expecting the drop from the obviously split biased fans. It's about time everyone started to get together and forget about club football when England are playing, making England their favourite team on the day they are playing. England fans are too arrogant these days.

    Yes, sometimes players don't perform their best, but this is human! Every footballer does this. No footballer is invincible, but every footballer deserves the chance to fight for their country when they hit the highest level.

    Every Englishman should support every England player, no matter what team they play for, or what team the fan supports. Every team is guilty of having biased fans when England play, and fans should consider the effect of their actions when they're biased. When the fans start "throwing the dummy out", you're only going to influence the players in this way. Show some enthusiasm for every English player representing England, and we'll start noticing a difference. It's not just the players that need to put themself out, it's us fans too. Get yourself together England, show some true belief and unite to make us the force we should be!!!!

  • Comment number 75.

    These points about Rooney's form-

    For Manchester United he has produced big performances over the last 4 years. I don't think its a case of being overshadowed by Ronaldo, or having to do the donkey work for Ronaldo. It's nothing to do with Ronaldo, full stop. We're talking about England and why Rooney can't perform consistently for that team.

    It's Rooney's responsibility to make himself a better player and pick the right options on the field. It's also his responsibility to make sure he looks after himself on his summers off. He is still the player that everyone saw at Euro 2004, after all he wasn't a prolific scorer for Everton when he was there.

    One issue is that Rooney hasn't worked on his weaknesses- his heading ability is not the best. Teams have got wise to him.

    Second is his general fitness. I get the impression he is like Ricky Hatton- he enjoys a fag and some junk food, and then attempts to burn it off in training and by going 100 miles an hour in matches. That takes its toll. It also takes a while to get rhythm and form when you do that. Rooney tends to score his goals in bursts when his confidence is high and his physical condition is good.

    Thirdly, and most importantly- since Euro 2004 England have not been a great side. Rooney gets more of the ball and more chances to score with Man Utd than he does with England. Not many of England's star players have played consistently well since Euro 2004.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think also, in Man U, the relentless and multi-directional nature of the attack means that his instinct to chase down balls is useful. For England, which has a narrower channel of attack, he needs to stay in position more than is his instinct.

  • Comment number 77.

    I'm no Blues fan but England lack players who can run and beat the opposition.
    Cole can do this is spades and this unnerves the opposition in both midfield and defence.
    We might have others who can, or could do this, but stick Joe Cole on the field and he gives you options.
    I don't like lambasting England but I wish I could see some real signs of improvement under Capello.
    The only green shoots are players like Cole so it's puzzling why a player who can unlock defences is not an automatic choice.
    With Cole in the first XII against Croatia we have a chance.

  • Comment number 78.

    Joe Cole has been the best England player in internationals over the last four years and is the only England player with exiting skill and flair. so Fabio Capello must be deluded to not give him a starting spot.
    Im a man united fan and I still believe this.

  • Comment number 79.

    Not a great topic for a blog.
    I don't think there is anything more to add to blog 253 on 'England must raise their game in Zagreb'.

  • Comment number 80.

    ~74 - well said m8, well said.

  • Comment number 81.

    Another, perhaps ludicrous, point to the 'joe cole starting' saga - perhaps capello WANTS him on the bench so if things are going wrong or not working (like in the andorra game) he can bring him on as a very effective match turner. I think about half his goals for england have come as a substitute as well. Also, we've never lost a competitive match when hes come on as a sub.

    Personally, i reckon he should start because he's a brilliant attacking player - but based on the stats, maybe capellos right not to start him?

  • Comment number 82.

    I pray that Capello has taught this England squad that if they score a goal first away from home, they should not then all retreat to their own half and invite pressure on themselves. Rather, they should stay in their positions on the pitch and seek the second goal. Capello knows what he is doing I think, and this habitual tactical naivity by England was the reason he gave Joe Cole and Rooney a rollicking in the game against Andorra, as both drifted deep into midfield after we scored 2 goals, isolating the striker up-front.

    We simply CANNOT keep making this error, I've seen it so many times I have gone mad. One glaring example was the Russia away game. We scored, we were on top, but then something happened where all 10 of our players decided it would be best to camp themselves around our penalty box and begin blasting the ball up in the air away from them into the opposition half, and not suprisingly the Russian's weren't going to go away and they all pushed right up the pitch and inevitably scored 2 goals and beat us. When will English managers learn that hoofing the ball in the sky aimlessly is not a technique used by any developed football nation, and certainly those players who cannot place the ball accurately from distance - such as centre backs and full backs - should be discouraged from kicking the ball into the clouds.

  • Comment number 83.

    We need J Cole nobody can do the job he can do Cappello panicked after the first half and had to put Joe on lets see what happens on Wednesday

  • Comment number 84.

    #77 - "with Cole in the first XII against Croatia we have a chance"

    Problem with that is mate we can only field 11 (XI).

  • Comment number 85.

    So england slag off Andorra for being negative and now propose doing the same against Croatia. Hmmm.
    But getting Joe Cole, who isn't the most expensive penny in the money box to impart this information suggests he is being used to upset the opposition's plans.
    I don't think, however, that Croatia will fall for it. One look at beckham in the line up and they'll be too busy laughing.

  • Comment number 86.

    What I don't like about him now, is that since his move to Chelsea he does seem to have taken on some of the 'big time' airs that you say he hasn't. He has unfortunately taken on the arrogance that runs through the Chelsea camp


    Oh shut up you green eyed ponce!

    Bringing Chelsea into this just exposes you as another sad and jealous imbecile.

    We are talking about J.Cole the England player and not the Chelsea player. Cole has got to be one of the nicest, genuine and professional players in the game. He never spits out his dummy like others to mention and shows a top attitude. What is more important is that performs for his country. He is arguably been England's best player for some time. If any player deserves a role in the team it is him.

    Since joining Chelsea he has matured into a top player with more importantly discipline added to his game. At West Ham he was a show boater and didn't work as a team player at times. Now he is a decent team player who can at times show the skill that other England players consistently lack.

    I think joining Chelsea has enhanced his career and made him into a better player, especially for England.

  • Comment number 87.

    mighty morphin power rangers - you claim that Rooney shud be given another chance based on the merit of his Everton days and more importantly euro2004.

    That was the last time he scored competitively for England. You lambaste lampard as not being good enough despite the fact that he has scored since then competitively, he was our top scorer at euro 2004 and got our opening goal against France in a dogged display in which i remember the magical Rooney was not playing oh so well. Surely this merits another chance for him.

    But of course it doesn't - not when the woeful Gerrard is near the team. We do not need his 30 yard shot(that has once payed off for him) go high and wide - when England are losing with a minute to go. We could also have done without his miss from 2 yards against Russia a shot we can all comfortably say Lampard would have got rippling the back of the net.

    All of the national newspapers said that Lampard, Cole and Walcott were our best players on Saturday night. People who were ACTUALLY AT THE GAME made those decisions not deluded fans sat in their armchairs with nothing positive to say. People who also think that all the England players have lost their passion for the shirt. If that was the case they would all be like Carreghar - an embarrassment to our nation.

  • Comment number 88.

    that comment was directed at #33 in case you are wondering and a point i wish to put in the same vain as #74- very very good point

  • Comment number 89.

    Joe Cole got the "arm around the shoulder treatment" from Steve McClaren... It didn't work half as well as the "tough love" treatment he's getting from Capello and Scolari and used to get from Mourinho... He's scored England's last three goals... Maybe three of the best managers in football aren't wrong after all...

  • Comment number 90.

    rooney should be dropped, walcott should play behind heskey, and Beckham should play.

    With pace to suport heskey, and precision passing (and not forgetting a deadball expert)

    I like rooney, and the fact he gives everything, but you need to take on board tactics else you will be counter productive, like against andorra.

    I think Glen Johnson is a better right back than wes brown. He makes less blunders and is a much more attacking player.

    My line up would be


    Johson Terry Ferdinand Cole
    Beckham Lampard Cole

    Long term I would prefer Ashton up front, with Gerrard in place of lampard.

    Crouch for all his height cannot challenge and head the ball without fouling, and Rooney needs to get himself sorted out, to recapture the form like in the world cup.

  • Comment number 91.

    Mr McNutty, im going to have to defend Rooney here, how can you possibly say you are dissapointed with the lad? He is still a young prospect and was coming out of a serious injury in the last competition in which he was pressured to play and did not perform. I am sure he, along with J.Cole are are best talents. At his age he should have players around him to help him out. Please Mr McNutty don`t turn the criticism that way when England are lacking 4 mature players at least who should be starring in their roles. Mr McNutty with all due respect, let`s look at what is fundamentally wrong. It is not Wayne Rooney, who should be a youngster making a name amongst an already elite team. Or Walcott or even J.Cole for that matter. Where are the men??? That is my sure, very very sure, that if the likes of Rooney, Walcott and J.Cole had Shilton, Adams, Shearer, Platt in the side we would be laughing, they don`t so leave them alone!!! It always seems to be a generation game with England...this isn`t the case with countries bigger than ours, our society dictates our mentality and physique...we need 11 blokes on the pitch, and lets admit it we cant provide that! Unless we formed a British team, I cant see happening, so let`s leave the young un`s out the picture and admit, our men aren`t good enough. If Rooney, who is not a Shearer or a Lineker as of yet played alongside one of these legendary players it would be a different story. The poor lad has to play next to Jermaine Defoe. Im laughing right now. And please Mr Capello, (I`m a Villa fan not a Man U fan) but get Hargreaves in the midfield to free Gerrard. NO BARRY...NO LAMPARD...NO ASHLEY COLE!

  • Comment number 92.

    My team:


    G. Neville



    lets make do whilst we can!

  • Comment number 93.

    i do understand what you say about ronaldo...but he did the last EUro tournament, rooney is in aura of him but that is MAn U`s probs not Englands, within the England set up, there are nobody as talented as Rooney that can or that will understand him.

  • Comment number 94.


    'Much as it grieves me to say it England
    will NOT QUALIFY for the World Cup
    with this very 'MEDIOCRE' team'


    This attitude is so boring now, you sound like another pundit from the papers. You know what is really 'mediocre'?....Your opinion.


  • Comment number 95.

    Brilliant post aka_bluepeter

    Joe Cole gets the same treatment at Chelsea. When the team is not playing well, when our midfield is completely out of the game, it is always Joe Cole that gets subbed. Lampard has not played one good game in a Chelsea shirt for over 18 months. But even Scolari does not have the guts to pull Lampard out, even when it's so blatantly obvious he is below par.

    Joe is just too nice a person , perhaps too nice for the managers, who are all too eager to blame individual players for their poor tactics.

  • Comment number 96.

    *shrug*. We've lost a ton of first games against rivals for the group and ended up qualifying. Actually we lost against Italy and Germany on home soil in the first games against each team, and went on to qualify for successive World Cups.

    I've seen the media write us off after drawing against minor teams early on, only for us to win the group. I've seen us written off in the finals themselves after an early setback, only for us to get through to the knockout stages.

    Losing to Croatia is not the end of the world, there will be plenty of games not only for us to win, but for Croatia to lose. Losing once or twice is definitely not the end of it.

    Even last time if we'd scored just one more goal in any one of four different ties we would have qualified.

  • Comment number 97.

    England will struggle to top their group. They won 2-0 against part-timers, ok 3 points is all that matters.

    But watching England is quite boring they just look so ordinary on the international stage.

    Apart from Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole the rest are just average. Croatia to top the group and England to sweat it out for best runner up or whatever.

  • Comment number 98.

    A bit disappointed by some of his insinuations of the team's prospective attitude to the Wed game. Is it me only who realises how much Croatia respected England in both catastrophic Euro 2008 games. They really expected England to run riot and break their mean defence but good old Maclaren only understood defensive play(pathetic). Which in the end gave the Croats a boost in confidence.I thought Capello would bring a different attitude but from Cole's comments, i'm not convinced hopefully his comments are not reflective of Capello's mentality.

    England players really lack self-belief in their potential capabilities. I wouldn't be too concerned if England lost 1-0 after playing scintillating attacking football because the future would definitely be bright. But drawing or losing with a defensive approach would be disastrous. The players are there but the mentality is misplaced.

    I believe Spain epitomised the importance of negating the defensive approach in their Euro 2008 triumph.

    All former England managers have really failed in this regard, hope Capello will not be added to this list.

  • Comment number 99.

    Joe Cole is a sensational, world class player. He is one of very few England players I would always pick in the side. I cant praise the guy enough. When everyone was speaking about who should become captain of England I belive everyone overlooked this guy. Yet we have seen with his interview to the press just how relaxed and intelligent he is and he knows that we have to, first and foremost, aim for a point on wednesday because quite simply - Croatia are a better team. I dont see how he wont play to be honest. And if Capello does pick a poor Stuart Downing over one of Englands most consistent performers then its time to call for the italians head.

  • Comment number 100.

    At 01:16am on 09 Sep 2008, bubblegummandroid wrote: .....Croatia are a better team...

    i disagree with you mate. i think Croatia have the confidence in their play which the England team lacks(which has also replicated to some of you fans).

    And i think A good manager will win the war against some of the poor recent showings after addressing this problem.


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