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Capello will keep England grounded

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Phil McNulty | 07:54 UK time, Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A victory from nowhere against opposition with plenty of previous for beating England - inspired by a hat-trick from a player with the world at his feet.

The last great false dawn of English football was that famous 5-1 win against Germany under the guidance of Sven-Goran Eriksson and inspired by Michael Owen's treble in September 2001.

Fast forward seven years to Zagreb and England are beating Croatia, the team that ensured they spent last summer at home instead of Euro 2008, 4-1 with Theo Walcott announcing his arrival on the world stage by repeating Owen's feat.

I was at both of those games and saw how the rampant optimism of Munich became the disappointments of Shizuoka, Lisbon and Gelsenkirchen under Eriksson.

So can Fabio Capello do things differently and transform an unexpected victory into tangible success?

I can recall sitting in Munich's Olympic Stadium with a sense of growing bemusement as England goals flew past Oliver Kahn with monotonous regularity - and there was a similar feeling of being present at something very special in Zagreb's hostile Maksimir Stadium.

It was as outstanding as it was unexpected.

Now the trick is for Capello to build on this new opportunity and try to eventually navigate England into footballing territory that proved beyond Eriksson's compass.

And he can start with the two games against Kazakhstan at Wembley and Belarus in Minsk - although the second assignment could yet prove one of the most difficult in England's World Cup qualifying group.

Capello's reaction to a landmark win in Zagreb was trademark stone-face. No new dawn. No brave new world.

And rightly so.

If Capello wanted to snuff out any signs of premature euphoria in its infancy, he could not have done it better with a straight bat performance that made Sir Geoffrey Boycott look like a schoolboy slogger.

If England got carried away after Munich - and it was not only the players - there is no chance of a similarly self-congratulatory tone under Capello.

Indeed, he described the win in Croatia as "nothing" - which is taking the art of under-statement to extreme levels but gives an insight into the Italian's hard-nosed approach.

Business is business with Capello. He does not do sentiment and will not waste time basking in a glory that has already come and gone.

The three points in Croatia were welcomed, but have probably already been consigned to the back of Capello's mind.

And just to confirm this single-minded approach, he once again raised some eyebrows by leaving Owen out of his squad.

Fabio Capello

I, and plenty of other England observers, were mystified by Owen's exclusion from the squad for games against Andorra and Croatia.

And while six points deliver a measure of justification, I still feel Owen should have been in that squad and he should be in this one.

BBC Sport experts Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson were spot on when they gave their verdict on Match of the Day 2.

They examined England's strike force of Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Emile Heskey.

Hansen said: "If you look at the four forwards in there and take Wayne Rooney out of the equation, Michael Owen is better than the other three."

And Lawrenson added: "If England need a goal with 20 minutes to go in one of the two games, surely you would want Owen on the bench."


I would have left out one of Crouch or Defoe to select Owen.

I am not advocating a place for Owen in the team. The players who did so well in Zagreb must be retained, but he surely has to be a fall-back option on the bench.

England are not so blessed with attacking riches that they can leave their most reliable goalscorer at home. Time will tell if Capello simply wants to see more from Owen or that he just does not fit his bill.

There have been question marks about his fitness and form, but this does not seem to have affected David Beckham's selection, who is likely to become even more of a peripheral figure with Walcott now laying claim to a right-flank role.

Expect Capello, who comfortably out-manouevred the much-admired Slaven Bilic in his own backyard, to be urging England to forget their first six points in their World Cup qualifying group and concentrate on the next six.

After watching Capello in close-up action, he is not as in thrall to England's players as Eriksson was before him. This is a major plus.

It was one of Eriksson's serious flaws, a failing that encouraged him to use some "superstars" when they were clearly unfit in major tournaments - Beckham in Japan in 2002 and Wayne Rooney in Germany four years later being prime examples.

Despite my own reservations about his continued inclusion, I would never accuse Capello of picking Beckham (or anyone) out of sentiment. He must feel he will serve a useful purpose at some point.

As for England's team, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is back after injury and it will come as a surprise to no-one that I feel he must be instantly re-instated.

He could be restored alongside Frank Lampard in central midfield, even though the effectiveness of what should be a world-class pairing has been a constant conundrum for England managers.

The alternative would be to play Gerrard on the left as a straight replacement for Joe Cole and leave the central partnership of Lampard and Gareth Barry undisturbed after their success in Zagreb.

The idea of Gerrard on the left is a contentious one, with both Jamie and Harry Redknapp almost going into meltdown after he played there with little success against the Czech Republic at Wembley in August.

Capello stuck to his guns in the face of criticism then, so I do not expect him to have any qualms about putting him back out there for these two games if he feels it is in England's interest.

I actually detest seeing him stuck on the flank, but one thing is certain - Gerrard has to play.

The day of decision about Lampard and Gerrard will come when everyone is fit and England face opposition from the truly top bracket.

It is not a decision Capello has to make yet, but England have not yet shown they are good enough to leave men like Gerrard's undoubted calibre sitting on the sidelines.

What Capello will use from the win in Croatia is the huge confidence gained, but he will temper that with the brutal realism that is his hallmark.

If anyone in the England camp shows signs of getting carried away, Capello has shown enough to suggest it will be swiftly stamped on.

But if anyone is tempted remember Munich.


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  • Comment number 1.

    There is one thing i dont understand and that with his fine form ashley young is still left out for the left position.i of all people will never question capello because hes proved so many people wrong.i believe he wants to motivate owen because he knows his talent.when owen is motivated he will move to a club with more stabilty and in that way get regular notice from the gaffer.newcastles situation has hampered his cgances but owen will get in the team very soon.

  • Comment number 2.

    a very good and balanced article. as for the owen point, i believe capello made a mistake in leaving him out this time. with no j.cole to spark the game up and defoe and heskey hardly goal scoring machines for england, we might struggle against belarus away. however, in capello we trust and admire and lets hope for 12 points from 4 games.

  • Comment number 3.

    To be fair to Cappello I can see his reasoning with owen. He wants a squad who are winning right now, it is a mix of the individuals form and their club form to make sure he has a full squad with the right mentality. It seems like this is something England have lacked over recent years and so I welcome his efforts to try and identify and fix a problem not previously dealt with.

  • Comment number 4.

    Firstly - those goals that flew past Oliver Kahn, were not in the slightest bit monotonous! I'm sure you weren't sat in the stadium yawning as England thrashed Germany Phil. I really don't understand that comment at all.

    Secondly - why must Gerrard be re-instated? England have persevered with Gerrad and Lampard in the same team for years, with no success and a plethora of poor performances. I don't think it's a coincidence that their best performance in years came when Gerrard didn't play. I don't doubt that Gerrard is a class player, but it has been proven many times he can't play in the same team as Lampard, and after Lampard's performance against Croatia he deserves to keep his place.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tell me - what was monotonous about watching five goals going in against Germany?

  • Comment number 6.

    No Phil, Gerrrard doesn't "have to play". We're playing Kazahkstan, not Brazil.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think he was being sarcastic about the '[monotony]', kids.

    Lampard did well, but Gerrard would do better. He is a far cleverer player and Lampard offers nothing that Gerrard doesn't minus some things.

    The answer, as it was from the start, is drop Lampard, despite how good he is.

  • Comment number 8.

    A victory from nowhere against opposition with plenty of previous for beating England - _________________________________
    That doesn't make any sense Phil, and that's only the first sentance, I haven't read the rest of the article as I dread to think what that would be like if you can't word together your first sentance.

  • Comment number 9.

    Why should Gerrard be instantly reinstated? When was the last time he actually performed for England? He was captain ('fantastic') against Russia and Croatia in the Euro campaign and look how that turned out. He played shockingly bad in both games!

    Lampard played very well against Croatia, he has earned his place and deserves to play again.

    "He could be restored alongside Frank Lampard in central midfield, even though the effectiveness of what should be a world-class pairing has been a constant conundrum"

    where does this "should be a world-class pairing" idea come from? No team in the world would play two attacking midfielders as the lone CMs in a 4-4-2 formation, it doesn't work and there's no reason to think that it would. You'll never see Chelsea play Lampard and Deco alongside each other without a defensive midfielder, or Deco and Ballack or any other possible combination. For the same reason Gerrard and Lampard will never work.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Monotonous" = irony.

  • Comment number 11.

    Wait, so you're suggesting Capello use both Gerrard and Lampard for now and then make a last-minute decision when we face a top-notch team?

    I enjoyed the article Phil but that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. You're effectively advocating the inclusion of Steven Gerrard BECAUSE he's Steven Gerrard mere paragraphs after praising Capello for picking the players he think are useful for the team, not just the reputations.

    Gerrard must be included in the squad but we shouldn't plug him in on the left hand side because Lampard and one more are in the middle and there's no room for him. I don't see why we should use the Kazakhstan game as an excuse to stick Gerrard in the team when we could be using it to see how best to fit our midfield together and treat it as a dress rehearsal.

  • Comment number 12.

    I for one would drop Lampard any day for Gerrard and I am not a L'Pool supporter..
    I will never forget Lampard's 21 chances to score at the last World Cup and he missed the lot , was rubbish throughout and isn't even a decent / journeyman player when not surrounded by the talent at Chelski.
    As for Owen he is getting fitter and finally scoring goals - when Capello sees him back to his best , he will be called up and Crouch will be history , as will Becks, who is in the team to show the idle and stupid how to behave when representing the national team.Pity he plays for a rubbish team in the twilight of his super career.
    Good job Capello, Good Luck England.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think most of you know my feelings on Gerrard by now.

    There was a loud whisper that had Gerrard been fit to face Andorra and Croatia, Lampard would have been dropped. Of course now we will never know and Lampard was very good in Zagreb.

    It is a divisive issue. How many of the people on here championing Lampard now have made him a scapegoat in the past?

    If it came to a straight choice between the two I would take Gerrard every time - but I know as many will disagree.

    Let me know your thoughts on the rest of the team and how you feel Capello will approach the game.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hansen's comment that Owen is "better than the other three" perfectly demonstrate why he's never been a manager. Picking a squad isn't about picking your 22 best players, but looking for combinations.

    Rooney and Owen don't play well together - anyone who's watched them play for England will know that. Owen and Heskey do, but that means either dropping Rooney or playing him out of position. Would Hansen - or Phil, for that matter - drop Rooney to accomodate an Owen who's only just back to fitness? Perhaps if Owen was knocking in goals for fun, yes. Perhaps if it was the Owen of ten years ago.

    But Owen isn't either of those things. Three months from now, things might be different - but at the moment, there's simply no point in picking Owen.

  • Comment number 15.

    Why does Gerrard have to play????? Are you suggesting he is picked because of who he is????.....tut, tut, tut..............The midfield against Croatia was the most balanced seen for a long, long time...........Lampard form wise both for england and chelsea deserves to stay in the team.........sorry gerrard time to sit this one out..........

  • Comment number 16.

    Em false dawn? You got to a number of semi finals after your last "false dawn". Dont tell me your already back to this we should be winning world cups are you? The last tournament you under achieved in was 1990. Usually like your stuff Phil but get back down to earth and dont be the first on this bandwagon

  • Comment number 17.

    Pedantic blue? Tell me what semi-finals England have reached since their last false dawn, which I have stated was the win in Munich?

    None last time I looked.

  • Comment number 18.

    Don't ever use Lawro or Hansen comments in the blogs..... it drags them down.

    Didn't they both say that Gerrard should play wide right..... I position he doesn't do that well in... oh and they want to drop Walcott?

    If they had their way they would have England play in all Red!!!

    And on Owen. Capello has far more insight and knowledge on football than any of us. Albeit fans talking in the pub or bloggers on the BBC website. Capello has been there, done it, and done it again, and again. If we can't compete under Capello, with this group of players then thats it, we can't. If he doesn't want to pick Owen, then there will be a reason. When was he last 100% fit? lets play some players who might actually be it to play when the next game comes.

  • Comment number 19.


    I'll hold my hands up and admit I have been a critic of Lampards England performances in the past (although I wouldn'tsay made him a scapegoat), but this was based on how he was playing for England at the time, which many would agree he has been poor, I'd say since Euro 2004.

    I am, however, a believer in players earning their right to stay in the team, and for me Lampard has done that. It would be unfair of anyone to call for him to be dropped wen playing poorly, but then not call for his selection when he has played well.....which is why in a straight choice at the moment I'd choose Lampard. Although if his form drops again, drop him and bring in someone else (Gerrard), the same goes for any England player.

    As for the rest of the team, well the defence pretty much picks itself, I think Capello will stick with Heskey and Rooney up front, but it's that left side that's causing concern again. As many people have been saying, it's a shame Ashley Young hasn't been selected, I think he deserves a chance.

  • Comment number 20.

    I rate Gerrard marginally above Lampard (though it is close) but I would stick with the pair that delivered so effectively in the last game.

    Gerrard on the bench for me, then to come on if the kazach's are causing some unexpected problems.

    Not sure about the left flank. Downing?

  • Comment number 21.


    boring and wrong, off to 606.

  • Comment number 22.

    It's not good when we're worrying about beating Kazakhstan and Belarus, is it? We should be walking over teams like this...

  • Comment number 23.

    out of interest, instead of the constant (yawn) analysis of the midfield pairing, what about the problems in goal? from the team mentioned we have 3 'keepers who are seriously lacking form. the current No. 1 has never been reliable at international level and has slipped somewhere in the region of 13 goals in 7 games this season.

    Green has also conceeded 13 with Carson conceeding 7.

    James has the experience, granted, but the other two are playing for (supposed) weaker teams, with little to know knowledge in competitions outside of europe.

    where does anyone see this problem being corrected and whom by?

    as far as i can see it wouldn't matter if we had an all star premiership team in front of them, we'd still ship at least a goal or if against better quality teams even more.....

  • Comment number 24.

    Great article Phil,

    In my eyes exactly what a blog should be; someones good and understanding opinion on a vital topic. We all have our opinions, for example I don't necessarily believe that Gerrard does need to play on the left or in the starting line up at all. Put someone else on the left - if that is Downing then let it be so. Capello should decide whether he wants Gerrard to partner Barry instead of Lamps. Don't mess with the team that played so well in Croatia. Make these boys fight for their place in the team.

    Good article though.

    Mihir Bose - please take notes!

  • Comment number 25.

    @jonny - agreed, but it makes it all the more enjoyable if we beat them.

    If we walked around confident of victory all the time, what would that make us?

    German. Thats what.

  • Comment number 26.

    I find it somewhat laughable that after one "ok" performance by Lampard everyone seems to instantly forget the past 30 utterly aweful performances he has put in wearing the white and red.

    The simple fact, the fact much of the England supporters and pundits have been thinking (and in many cases saying) is that Lampard should have been dropped from the England squad a long time ago.

    Lampard and Barry? Gerrard and Barry is a far stronger midfield.

    People keep talking about change and how Capello is going to bring it. But seriously, what change has he brought? He still continues to play the under-achievers like Lampard and seems un-willing to play systems any differently to the previous two managers.

    I think it would make far more sense against teams like Kazakstahn where a holding midfield player like Barry isn't needed, to place Beckham in the centre with Gerrard.

    By doing this, you are giving England the kind of Midfield Liverpool have benefited from so many times in the past with Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard - you have the pressing play from Gerrard, with the crossing ability of Beckham which supplies strong link-up play to the frontmen. Beckham's lack of pace is irrelevant since he can sit just in front of the defense and just behind the attack.

    Added to that with the pace of your wingers (Walcott and Cole) on either side, England would find themselves in so many scoring positions they'd probably even surprise Mr Capello himself.

  • Comment number 27.

    Capello does indeed have more insight than any of us, but does this mean we should not discuss his selections or - dare I even suggest it - disagree with him?

    Do people sit silently in pubs refusing to discuss England because Capello knows more about the set-up than them?

    No. So let's have this discussion.

    I have never been a particular critic of Lampard's and have pointed out in the past how disgraceful I think his treatment has been from some England fans.

    I would not contemplate leaving him out of the team after his performance in Zagreb.

    My own thought was that Gerrard would play on the left as a straight replacement for Joe Cole.

    But there is also a school of thought that Capello might give the Lampard-Gerrard partnership one final chance against Kazakhstan before making a firm decision.

    We will see on Saturday.

  • Comment number 28.

    ironic. you like the fact he is not star struck but then you bring your star strucked bias of gerrard and lampard and owen in. here is why previous england squads have been poor; they ALWAYS think every star player MUST start. i ask every body on this boards 2 question

    1. if you have to pick a striker for your club, between defoe and owen who will you pick? newcastle cant get rid of owen for 2 million with good reason. he is not the same player, his pace and workrate is not the same, he is half the player you all remember.

    2. how does having a possible game changer like gerrard on the bench affect the potency of the squad? why must he play? i'm a united fan and the other day rooney picked up a knock and tevez came on as a replacement, just when the opposition thinks he can get some breathing room, another world class player replaces him. if you start all your best players, who do you bring in to change it up? its a simple tactic of not showing your all your cards before the bets are placed. Gerrard can and should start on the bench

  • Comment number 29.

    I've still no idea why Ashley Young is overlooked. He's been in fine form this season and surely with Joe Cole injured, a match against minnows Khazakstahn (sp?) would be the perfect time to try him out? Agbonlahor is the form player in the premiership this season in terms of English strikers, so his omission again is a bit puzzling.

    As for Owen, I just don't think Capello rates him.

  • Comment number 30.

    Gretnapat may have a point about Owen. It could be that Capello just does not fancy Owen as an England player any more.

    I actually believe this is now a footballing judgement rather than a fitness call on Owen.

    I disagree with his exclusion, but we will find out in the course of time.

    I also have sympathy with those of you who would like to see Ashley Young in the England squad.

    It seems Capello has been more impressed by Shaun Wright-Phillips' renaissance at Manchester City than Young's excellent form for Aston Villa.

    Young will surely get a chance in the future though.

  • Comment number 31.

    You asked what team we would choose Phil - here is mine:


    Ferdinand Terry Cole

    Walcott Gerrard Barry Lampard S.W.P



  • Comment number 32.

    I am a liverpool fan but for the moment, he has to leave out Gerrard. It is clear, from all the overwhelming evidence that Lampard and Gerrard cannot play well together. I accept that on paper they should be able to do it but they never have and it is time to stop trying. To be fair they are both in great form at the moment and clearly I love Gerrard far more than Lampard but both his performance and the performance of the team as a whole demands that Lampard starts the game with Gerrard on the bench.

    That said it is Kazakstan and one would imagine the England U21 side could win this.

  • Comment number 33.

    I'm with Harrispcarl. We need to sit back and trust in the man that has a proven track record and has made a habit of winning. If Capello can't do it no-one can.

    In regards t othe Owen situation. Who is to say its not our need to play players based on their former reputations that has led to the stage we were at before Capello took over? I for one do not think he is better than Defoe or Crouch, not anymore. Injuries and Newcastle have done him in.
    David beckham is a different animal al together. No one can argue he is the same player he was 5 years ago, yet when he plays and we need to pull something out of our asses it usually comes from a Beckham cross. Regardless of his performance as a whole, he will always have that ability to make a goal with his crossing and passing.

    All in all though I agree with the article. Capello does right to play down a victory the press is as usual over-hyping. We need more humility, nothing is our right and we are not good enough to win anything at the moment. Its going to take a lot of work, gritt and determination. Luckily, in my opinion, Capello can provide us with the lot.

  • Comment number 34.

    i agree with Chris Waddle,wright-phillips to start with Walcott as our impact player thus not piling undue pressure on him to take teams apart every match.As for Beckham,god help me,the clown should be nowhere near the squad,its a farce.

  • Comment number 35.

    er, hello? SWP play on the right, Young plays on the left. Doh!

  • Comment number 36.

    A very interesting question was posed in the office when we were discussing Owen.

    How do you think he would feel about the path his career has taken since he left Liverpool?

    When he left Liverpool for Real Madrid in 2004, no-one in their right mind would have predicted he would miss out on a Champions League triumph 12 months later.

    And what about his return to Newcastle? Was that a wise move?

    I always believed the perfect move would have been a return to Anfield, but clearly Rafael Benitez had no intention of matching Newcastle's bid so he ended up on Tyneside.

    Don't factor injuries into your answer - just think from a footballing perspective.

    I would be very interested in your views.

  • Comment number 37.

    Spurr4England,what planet are you on seriously?Michael Owen ABOVE ANYONE pulled England out the mire when they needed it.He wasnt like Beckham who merely disappeard like a little boy out his depth everytime we faced real opposition of weight,he turned up.Who was it that fed off scraps to give us a chance v Brazil in 2002?Owen.Who was it that gave us the lead v Portugal in the 2004 quarter?Owen.Who has the ability to bury goals v the likes of Argentian twice and Germany several times?Owen.Hes the 1 genuine world class player along with Scholes weve had in our side for the past decade and should not be discarded at 28-ridiculous.

  • Comment number 38.

    i love winners and Capello is a winner.. .if there is a man in the world that is better placed to produce a winning fooball team then i would be surprised... good article... its about time someone started writing in this way...

  • Comment number 39.

    How Owen would feel? What is this? Trisha?

  • Comment number 40.

    Ashley Young should be installed on the left as a straight replacement for Cole, however, for some reason the U21s take priority over the senior team, go figure? (no mention as to why this is in your piece or responses - ?).
    So we're left with a few totally unappealing choices - play lampard on the left (oh, not again) switch walcott to the left and put beckham on the right (no, not beckham again), or have downing play (the most obvious solution, but still not good), or play Rooney on the left and bring in defoe or crouch (oh no, not Rooney out wide for England again).

  • Comment number 41.

    What's all this about 'false dawns'? Thinking about what is going to happen further down the line is...nonsense. How about 'you're only as good as your last match'? So get on with the job in hand: earning 3 points.

  • Comment number 42.

    Lampard and Gerrard debate? No thanks. Gerrard doesn't have to play. Lampard should keep his place and if he is playing badly or it's not working, you change it - it's basic football logic. End of discussion on that one, and not before time.

  • Comment number 43.

    owen is back to the field. he can be a good benchman.

  • Comment number 44.

    liverpool_andy, considering you cannot even spell the word 'sentence', I would hardly say you are in the best position to criticise someone for not making sense in what they write, especially when they do it for a living!

    For the record, his first sentence does make sense and that fact that you fail to see this says more about you than Phil McNulty.

  • Comment number 45.

    Not sure I agree with the theory that you only change if someone is playing badly or something is not working.

    If you can make an improvement at any time it should be made, irrespective of how well or badly someone is playing.

    This does not just apply to the fact that Gerrard is available again, it applies to every position in the team.

  • Comment number 46.

    Congratulations on a nice, realistic article. I have a few points to make.
    Firstly, Steven Gerrard. There is no doubt that he is one of our best players. He should be in England's lineup regardless of form and formation, but I do not think he should play in at least these next two qualifiers. Why? Whilst Gerrard was nursing an "injury that may keep him out for a month or so", England were taking on Croatia and beating them 4-1 with Lampard and Barry helping to run the show. Gerrard was somehow fit-albeit for the bench-a few days later for Liverpool. The opposition? Manchester United.
    I believe that given Lampard's performance and Gerrard's absence that he should have to make do with a place on the bench until Lampard or Barry underperform. Lampard is a quality player, but he is also one of the first people to come under scrutiny when we play poorly-I admit I have often criticised him when others have been at fault more than he has. He is playing some of the best football of his life right now and was sensational against us on Sunday. I think that given his performance in Zagreb, he should be given this opportunity to cement his place in Capello's team. Barry for me has to play either side of either Lampard or Gerrard so now is a great time for Frank to step up to the plate whilst Capello can hand out a little punishment for Gerrard's attitude towards England-a bit Carragher esq I felt putting Liverpool before England.
    Secondly, I am at a loss to see why Ashley Young has been left out. He is not ready to start yet, but he is a wonderful player and he would be ideal to have on the bench. He has been in good form this season for us and I know I am slightly biased because I am a Villa fan, but surely he merits a squad place? Of all our players he is the one player-bar Barry-that deserves a call-up. Also why is Micah Richards not in the squad?
    Lastly, Michael Owen. It does not help him that everytime he scores a goal commentators up and down the country are falling over themselves declaring "Michael Owen is back to his best" even when he has scored just a tap in or claimed a goal that hit him in his buttocks and went in. He is not "back to his best", he has not been at his best for a number of years. He struggles with fitness, he plays for a poor club who play football that does not suit him and the expectation levels on him constantly hinder him.
    I feel that Owen is now like Beckham-a great pro who has played football at the highest level and been a great player for his country however, they are only squad players now. I feel that once he is fully fit and maybe moves to another club in January that Owen will be able to join the England squad again and be a great influence, like Beckham, but for now Capello has made the right choice. Defoe and Crouch are scoring goals, Heskey played so well last time that he does not deserve to be dropped and Rooney is a class apart on his day and Walcott looks like he now needs competitive football at every level to continue his development.

  • Comment number 47.

    Has the whole of Britan forgot that Barry started on the Left? Cappello my well remember this and play him in this position as he can also cover the middle when Lampard and Gerrard go forward. This will make us play a little thinner, but if Liverpool can win the Campions leauge with this tactic, England can beat a team ranked 120th in the World

  • Comment number 48.

    Garbage johnathonjohnson,Owen is nothing like Beckham.Leaving the fact that he was in a different league as a player at the highest level to Beckham,he is only 28,he is playing AND scoring goals in the toughest league on earth and we have a lack of natural scorers.Beckham is about 5th choice in any reckoning for the right midfield slot but there is no forward who scores goals like Owen.He hasnt "retired" by going off to a mickey mouse league to sweep up as many millions as possible like Beckham has,hes still a serious footballer.It is nothing short of a disgrace that he is banished while the ludicrous Beckham still gets in at the cost of him,Young,Bentley etc.

  • Comment number 49.

    5tournamentfloplegend - My point was not that Owen in his previous games for England has been a lesser player than Beckham. Just that his talents waining has effected his impact on the game more than Beckhams. Owen could have scored in the world cup final and it wouldn't change that he is now playing for a team low on confidence and has scored less goals than the two players I mentioned. Your persistant reference to his past exploits proves my point. Players should not be played on what they have done in the past, but on what they can still do and it could be in Capellos mind that Owen is not going to have the impact he has had in the past.
    I personally would still probably have Owen in there instead of one of the useless defenders like Matthew Upson. But I'm going to have faith in Capello and trust his judgement.

  • Comment number 50.

    While I echo some of the sentiment of that article there are a couple of grave mistakes by both yourself and the Match of the Day team, with regard to how a team should be structured and in particular how Owen and Gerrard fit into those teams.

    First off it matters not whether Owen is better than the players ahead of him it's how he fits into the team that matters. Clearly Capello thinks England are strongest with a three pronged attack and if that's the case you need someone who can hold the ball up at the head of it.

    Now from the strikers we have the only options to fill that role are Heskey and Crouch, so realistically the only player Owen could replace in the squad is Defoe. Personally I'd be all for that as I don't think Defoe offers anything that Owen doesn't and is probably out of his depth at this level.

    But we're now arguing about who is filling the 4th striking spot in the squad - and that issue is so trivial it's barely even worth discussing.

    There are far more important issues at hand, like what on earth to do with Steven Gerrard and I'm afraid I disagree with you there too.

    Gerrard has been genuinely poor (not just by his Liverpool standards, but anyone's) throughout most of his England career and also has a real problem with sacrificing himself for the benefit of the team - continually moaning about being played out of position as he does.

    Compare that to others in the side, namely Joe Cole and Frank Lampard who've put up with being constantly played out of position and booed resepectively and I really have very little sympathy for Liverpool's favourite son.

    Which isn't to say he's not a very good player, he's just not so good that it's worth building the entire team around him.

  • Comment number 51.

    I remember posts on blogs such as these where common complaints were that why was Ercisson/McLaren etc afraid to pick the best team and not the best players.

    It seems to me Capello is doing just that. So, talks about Owen and Ashley I feel are premature. Lets see what Capello has to offer over the next few matches before discussing his selection mistakes.

  • Comment number 52.

    I reckon owen doesn't feel all that good about the direction his career has taken. discussed, lets move on.

  • Comment number 53.

    Owen is scoring premiership goals NOW spurr4england.He is in a position of strangth and form that Beckham is nowhere near.Beckham is disgracing himself in a league 1 standard league where hes somehow managed to destroy the confidence of an MLS side who cant win to save their lives.Hes getting taken apart by players on 25,000 a year minimum wage while hes on 500,000 a WEEK!Beckhams inclusion has no justification whatsoever especially as the likes of Young warrant slection.In turn there is NO striker in Owens league when it comes to burying the ball whihc is what hes doing for a struggling team right now.Owen should be in,there is no question about that.

  • Comment number 54.

    Why does anyone care what team Capello chooses? It's Kazakhistan, a country that barely existed since the Soviets fell apart.

    A country that doesn't play football or any sport professionally. For Christ's SAKE!! English people should stop complaining; most countries can never win the World Cup.

  • Comment number 55.

    Gerrard does not have to play! If you were a Spanish reporter back in May you would have probably tore at Aragnoses' squad selection saying Raul, Morientes, Vicente, Joaquin, Del Horno and others should have been selected. Yet they went on to win the European championship. Cappello picks what works and as was shown against Croatia, Lampard and Barry works so he will stick with it. As for dropping any of those other strikers is again unjustified.
    "I would have left out one of Crouch or Defoe to select Owen."

    I think you should take a look at Crouch and Defoe's record for England when they play together. It's something like 11 goals in 9 games together, they've shown this again now they're together at Portsmouth.

    Also having Owen in the team wonder hinder Rooney's development as has been shown before, as Owen plays the poacher role, Rooney does all the hard unselfish work.
    The biggest problem with this team in my opinion is a lack of replacement for Joe Cole as he is the closest thing in the past ten years we've had to a Zidane style player who can pick up the ball from nothing and make something happen. Bentley maybe could fill this role but he has had a bad start at Spurs. So I think maybe for just this 1 game put Rooney on the left as I don't rate Downing and start Crouch and Defoe.
    But whatever you think McNulty, nobody has a right to play whatever their reputation and that includes Gerrard and Owen

  • Comment number 56.

    I don't think I'd put Gerrard on the left, I'd prefer to see Barry there or even have Walcott and S.W.P. on the wings and switching with each other from time to time. I really think Capello just doesn't think Owen either fits with the squad or he simply thinks Defoe is better. Crouch deserves his spot in the team and because of the type of player he is I don't think he is the one Owen would push out, it would have to be Defoe. Capello just seems to rate Defoe higher than Owen, and Defoe has been in good form for a while now(not that Owen hasn't). There may also be a worry that if Owen comes back in that will change the make-up of the squad and Capello may be worried that Owen will get injured again and cause problems for Defoe to get used to playing alongside the other strikers. For the Kazhastan game let Rooney run free behind Heskey or Crouch and let Theo and S.W.P. run their full backs into the ground on the wings. Lampard behind Rooney and Barry behind him. Back four could be anyone really, maybe just give someone a game. Gerrard is world class, but with the way Lampard played last time out he deserves a his spot, but he should know that if he underperforms Gerrard is waiting.

  • Comment number 57.

    Surely there has been an arguement for several years now for England to play 4-3-3 (or a variant 4-3-2-1)? Gerrard and Lampard making up 2 of the central midfield players with a holding midfielder (at present Barry should be allowed to fill this role) completing the midfield trio. This would allow Gerrard and Lampard to play their natural games.
    It would also allow Capello to play a flat back 4, which seems to be the only defensive structure the relevant personnel are comfortable with.
    Walcott would seem like a natural choice on the right of the front 3, and Rooney has played on the left-hand side of a front 3 for United many times. I can't see the logic of people saying Rooney should either be in "his natural position" or be dropped! Rooney's "natural position", as I see it, is a free role behind one or two centre forwards in the formation I suggest he could be given licence to roam and Ashely Cole could be given licence to bomb forward just as Evra does for United when they play Rooney on the left.
    The biggest question then is who should fill the role of the lone centre forward. On present form I think it should be Heskey. He was excellent against Croatia, holds the ball up well, and can get the best out of Rooney and Walcott who would be playing just off him. As much as I am a fan of Owen there is no place for him in this formation. He lacks the pace to fill either Walcott or Rooney's role, has never played particularly well up front on his own, and lacks the strength and the height to hold the ball up and bring others into the game.
    Owen was always at his best running on to through balls or knock downs, but his injuries have robbed him of the pace that made him so good at this. Owen has now been reduced to an Ian Rush/Gary Lineker type fox in box. Players like this that need the team to be geared up to providing them with chances and it seems to me that Capello does not have the personnel or the inclination to build a team that suits Owen. Newcastle might try this though!

  • Comment number 58.

    I like Owen's record of scoring important goals against big teams both for club and country and am convinced he can still do it.

    He is a more proven striker at this level than Crouch, and most certainly Defoe.

    I am a big Defoe fan as a club player, but I have not been convinced at international level.

    Don't forget Defoe only lasted 45 minutes against Andorra in Barcelona before being hauled off by Capello.

  • Comment number 59.

    phil - re your point about owen... I think that any right minded individual would have to conclude that since he has left liverpool his career (and form and standing in the game) has generally been in decline.

    It is a shame - as i like owen, i have always thought he misses alot of chances(even at liverpool) but all forwards miss chances.. his goals:game ratio is good wherever he has been (inc real madrid and if you look at his games started:goals at Newcastle he is ok).

    But - we should be talking about Michael Owen being a genuine world class performer given his potential and early career performances... the fact that there is even a debate sadly means that he has not fulfilled his potential.. afterall this is a former European player of the year we are talking about.. who took the footballing world by storm when he burst onto the scene...

    i hope he comes back - and like many i think he is a very good addtiion to the england squad (not necessarily this one if capello doesn't think so at the moment)...

  • Comment number 60.

    I am going to mirror the comments of many on here now, and in the past.

    Gerrard and Lampard do not hold a divine right to be in the England team - they can't work together, so one should be dropped. Not I'm pretty sure you don't need a degree in quantum physics to work that out.

    Okay, I must admit, given the choice I would pick Gerrard over Lampard 9 times out of 10.

    However, Gerrard did not play against Croatia, and Lampard did - very well. In fact I can't remember Gerrard playing that well for England for some time. Also, Lampard's form for Chelsea since then has been excellent.

    Let's not "accommodate" Gerrard on the left - just because there's an excuse fr his inclusion, in Joe Cole not being fit.

    We've seen it with the last 3 England managers - you can almost hear the sighs of relief when someone is unfit and they have once agin avoided the crunch decision of dropping with Gerrard or Lampard.

    I for one would've loved to have seen Ashley Young given a chance in these 2 games - but why play an in form player in his chosen position when you can play a central midfielder there instead?

    Why? Because it's "Stevie G". And yes, I would be saying the same if it was "Lamps" also.....

  • Comment number 61.

    Completely agree with Meromoid's comments. Do people have blinkers on when it comes to Steven Gerrard or what? Why on earth should he start? Capello seemed to have found a good, balanced team and straight away the 'experts' are calling for him to dismantle it to accomodate Gerrard. Some players are undoubtedly very good at club level but never make the grade at International level (e.g. Andy Cole). Gerrard could arguably fall into that category unless he starts to play to his potential. For me, he is a great box to box premiership and champions lge midfielder. But International football is a different game. It requires patience, ball retention and tactical nous that Gerrard does not possess. Someone name me an important England game where he was outstanding bar the 5-1 v Germany (and don't make me laugh with Andorra away 2007) please. I'll give you a long list of woeful performances by him in big games- Greece WC Qualifier 2002 (H), France Euro 2004 Group Stage (cost us game and Group with dreadful back pass to James which meant we faced Portugal) Portugal Euro 2004 Quarter final- (completely anonymous) Portugal WC 2006 Quarter final (completely anonymous when we needed him most and missed penalty.) Russia EQ Q A (Missed sitter and played awful) Croatia H EC Q (the worst i've ever seen him play- as captain, in his favoured position of central midfield). Furthermore, I thought his comments regarding being played out of position and never having played in his favoured position were out of order. Being selected for England is a major honour, one I would do anything for, and playing out of position should be done without whining to the press and I would think Capello (like me) would have been distinctly unimpressed with this, particuarly as he has been so disappointing in the past.

  • Comment number 62.

    If you had to pick the one English striker over the last dozen years.
    That you felt the most confidence in, to score a goal in a big game.
    What name would you come up with?

    Hint....He plays for Newcastle.

    I rest my case.


  • Comment number 63.

    wdwilso2,it was a mistake but the game would and should have been over had we employed a proper policy when it came to our penalty taker.That was the cretinously decadent era where biggest celebrity ie Beckham,got roles he had neither the talent,the constitution nor the poise to hold.Rooney won us that France game but Beckhams predictably pathetic hesitant weak shot from the penalty spot cost us,not gerrard,mistake though it clearly was.

  • Comment number 64.

    Capello did have a balanced side in Zagreb, but has since lost Joe Cole, leaving a vacancy on the left and requiring an adjustment in midfield.

    This is why I would play Gerrard.

    As for post 62 - couldn't have put it better myself.

  • Comment number 65.

    If England fail to win on Saturday evening, the Croatia win would have been wiped out. We would have rather draw against the Croatians and then beat Kazasktan (or however you spell it) to avoid embarrassment. Same thing what happened to Liverpool after beating United then drawing with Stoke.

  • Comment number 66.

    "It is not a decision Capello has to make yet, but England have not yet shown they are good enough to leave men like Gerrard's undoubted calibre sitting on the sidelines."

    Wait a minute, where was Gerrard in Croatia? Pretty sure he was on the sidelines. Ok it was enforced but we proved we are more than good enough to cope without a player of Gerrard's 'calibre'. In any case I'd play Lampard over Gerrard whether Gerrard is available or not. He may not produce the moments of brilliance that we see from Gerrard once in a blue moon but week in week out Lampard performes to the highest level and I think his short passing is of a higher standard than Gerrard, something which is needed in international football.

    As for Owen, I agree with you, Phil. I think that Capello's been to watch him and decided that his overall play isn't international standard. What he doesn't realise is that Owen is one of the only players who actually produces the goods on the big stage. He's the only player I'd pick on past performances alone because even if he is not on form and not playing well he always seems to grab us a goal against the very best teams in the biggest matches.

  • Comment number 67.

    You seem to be ignoring my points. I shall try to make them easier to understand.

    1. Capello may have doubts over Owens ability to perform at international level still. I have put that in my opinion he is not as effective as Crouch or Defoe any more. This is my opinion, it can be proven wrong if Capello picks him.
    He may have scored in the Premierleague this season but he is not even in the top 15 which includes great players such as Ricardo Fuller and Roman Bednar. So I can't see his 3 goals as a reason to call him up. Also in the past 3 seasons Owen has only scored 21 goals. Last season he managed 11 in 29 appearences. These are not the statistics of an international standard striker. Defoe, howevr has scored 13 in 19 appearances since joining Portsmouth. I will concede Crouch is statistically worse than Owen, and perhapse I should revise my opinion there was I not sticking by Capello and all he does. I would haver suggest these stats show that there are many a striker who "burries the ball" as well if not better than Owen. Unfortunately most of them are foriegn.

    2. Beckham - He is playing in a Mickey Mouse competition. He is doing it for the money and he is past his best. But who set up our opening goal in Spain against Andorra. He had a terrible game, but he still provided the cross for the goal, he still has that ability no other player has with a long ball. His ability at this is what I see keeping him i nthe team. He doesnt start, but he is there in case we need to win ugly. In case the only way we are going to win is from a set peice.

    Trust in the Cabbage Capello.. Have the faith and maybe, just maybe we will win something.

  • Comment number 68.

    To Spurr4England...I am not ignoring your points.

    In fact I find the one you made about Beckham very interesting.

    "He doesn't start but he is there in case we need to win ugly."

    This is exactly why I say Owen should be in the squad.

    I make it clear I am not advocating that he should start, but he should be in the squad.

  • Comment number 69.

    If England need a goal with 20 minutes to go, Crouch is clearly the best option. In the last 3 years he has scored 14 goals in 28 games for England, a lot of those coming from the bench. In the last 3 years Owen has scored 7 goals.

    Owen is a very good player, but his best years are certainly behind him and as Capello left him out last time round and 6 points were achieved it's difficult to criticise the decision. I'm sure Owen will play for England again, but he MUST be at his best fitness for a place in the squad.

    Anybody how states that 'you don't change a winning team' doesn't know what they're talking about. With that approach your statement might as well be 'we'll keep this team until we lose'. You're waiting to lose not trying to win.

    No matter what has happend in recent fixtures you play the best 11 players to win that particular game.

    In my opinion Gerrard is much better than Lampard and should play instead of him.

  • Comment number 70.

    Undoubted calibre indeed, but when was the last time Gerrard really delivered in an England shirt? The midfield that did so well in Zagreb must remain unchanged: Cole, Barry, Lampard, Walcott.

  • Comment number 71.

    I am currently mystified as to why Capello has opted to include 3 right midfielders and only 4 strikers. This makes no sense at all not when Gerard can play there also. Beck’s is surely behind Lennon and SWP a very strange choice.

    Owen scores goals, he is not pretty but his record speaks for itself.

    I am a Liverpool fan and feel that there is no comparison between Gerard and Lampard, but I would have to say that if everyone was fit then stevie boy should be on the bench. You have to set precedence, what message does that send to players striving to keep their shirt.

    However, with Cole’s injury Gerard can come in on the left easily. In the past, England with Beck’s on the right and drifting in our midfield it all became congested. Now we have a winger attacking the full-back on the outside a right footed player on the left is not so detrimental to our shape.

    Glad to see Heskey is getting some praise for a change!

    Drop Beckham and bring Owen in to the squad, surely

  • Comment number 72.


    People that keep going on and on about Owen not being half the player he was: He is still scoring for Newcastle on a regular basis this season AND THEY HAVE BEEN WORSE THAN POOR.

    No one mentions Beckham consistantly getting picked when he is not even a shadow of what he once was. End of the day if we NEED someone to come on and make an impact when we need a spark it would be a player like Owen not Beckham.

    As for Gerrard vs Lampard. People are so quick to forget that Lampard has been terrible for 30 games straight (Croatia excluded). How many of you commenting that he should stay in the team were booing him just a month or 2 ago?

    Gerrard has never been able to play his best position for England because when he plays with Lampard he has to play defensive (because Lampard can't) and if it comes to it Gerrard has to play on the left or right (because Lampard can't).
    Does this not just explain why Lampard should be dropped and Gerrard should play with Barry? Gerrard has so much more about him. FACT.

  • Comment number 73.

    5TournamentFloplegend: Ok, if its garbage lets go with Owen-a player living off of his past glories. He is not the player he was and has seriously disappointed in his career post-Liverpool. For a career that has promised so much it has delivered so little.

    I am sorry, I should have made myself more clear. Beckham and Owen are similar characters. I would not start either of them. They are both good to have for experience and to provide back-up. Their country matters to them both at the end of the day and they should be in the squad when fit.

    How much longer Beckahm lasts is another question, but when you are as a good a footballer as he is then it is always worth having him around.

    The the person who said Barry should play on the left: Barry will not be played on the left because he is too slow to play there. We tried that with him and it did not work as well as having him in the centre of midfield, he dictates the ame there and does not have to rely on speed.

  • Comment number 74.

    Owen won't stay at the barcodes now. Even if they get bought up before the end of the season buy someone with incredibly deep pockets there will be a transition period before the club is a genuine force, and Owen will be 29 next season - if he wants his England place back (and I think he's always been country before club to be honest) then he knows he has to move in the Summer, or even January.

    But where? A return to Anfield would be one option, but it seems unlikely now they have Torres as clear first choice and Keane as a 20m striker, plus Rafa was smarting when he ditched them for Madrid anyway. Utd have Berbatov, Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo (at least for now). Arsenal is a possibility, but his age and injuries will put Wenger off, even on a free. Chelsea - well, they just seem to aim a lot higher than that these days. Spurs are in disarray and he'd be no better off there.

    City? I could see that happening, and it'd be interesting to see if he could form a good understanding with SWP there from an England perspective. Plus they could afford his wages.

    What do you reckon, Phil?

  • Comment number 75.

    Interesting to see one or two Liverpool fans admitting Lampard should stay in and Gerrard should be on the bench.

    If you saw MotD2 on Sunday, Alan Hansen (sorry to drag him down by mentioning him in a blog harrispcarl) gave a superb analysis of Lampard's current great form.

    He has always played well for Chelsea but he, along with others, appears to have moved to another level under Luiz Felipe Scolari.

  • Comment number 76.

    Agggh... Stop criticising him... Wait at least till we lose.. Aaron Lennon is not good enough to play for ackrinton Stanley (Who are they), let alone England.

  • Comment number 77.

    spurr4england,what are you going on about man?Beckham was sat on the bench in spain v andorra.Cole scored 2 goals,the first coming from a lampard free-kick and the second from a rooney through ball.Its amazing how many people seem to recall beckham contributions that never actually,er,existed.Bizarre.

  • Comment number 78.

    Blah blah blah! Gerrard must play zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz why why why? drop whipping boy Cole!zzzzzzzzzz ya sound like some alehouse scouse bore!! your mate Stevie Gee brings nothing to England and never will! We are in this mess cause of the MUST play mentality!!! I cant believe Capello is making the same mistake! Imagine being the poor sod who has to make way for the "must play" Steve gee/ Lamps jokers!!

  • Comment number 79.

    To me, there is an obvious candidate for left midfield... Gareth Barry! He played left back for years, is left footed (I think?), and is an excellent crosser. With him at LM, Gerrard and Lampard (although I would personally prefer Gerrard and Hargreaves) could play in the centre with any of Walcott, Cole, Beckham, Lennon, Bentley, etc... playing on the right depending on who is in the best form.

    As a Spurs fan, I currently watch a midfield with no ability to win the ball OR to connect with the forwards. The midfield described above (with, say, Walcott at RM and Hargreaves at CM), has the ability to do that...

    I thank you....

  • Comment number 80.

    Controversial suggestion this, but given both Kazakstan and Belarus are likely to "park the bus in front of the goal" its going to be a challenge for England to break them down... why not pick both Crouch and Heskey up front, play Beckham wide (purely for his crossing ability) and aim to cause mayhem in their box and go for a scrappy tap-in.

    I'd happily take 6 points this way.

    Not condoning this approach for less negative teams of course as it wouldn't work.

    ( for Lampard/Gerrard... I'd normally pick Gerrard any day of the week, but he scheduled an op during an international showing where his loyalty lies. Lampard put in a good performance against Crotia and should keep his place with Gerrard on the bench.)

  • Comment number 81.

    people that still come on here daring to suggest Beckham plays dont actually exist,im certain of it.They are invented to wind proper football men up.

  • Comment number 82.

    Betty Swallocks:

    Your midfield cannot win the ball or connect with the forwards because your coach-Ramos-is tactically inept. Capello so far has not been, with the exception of the Czech game

  • Comment number 83.


    No, the reason is that Jenas spends his time with his hands on his hips, Zokora is quick but has no composure, Bentley has been terrible (particularly in terms of his distribution) since he joined the club, O'Hara gives his all but frankly is a squad player at best, Modric is struggling to settle in and is off the pace...

    Need I go on...?

  • Comment number 84.

    5Tournament floplegend- you are right- we should have won v France Euro 04 before Gerrard's mistake- Rooney (on fire that night) not Beckham should have taken the penalty. You are also right in that we don't need another era where the big names call the shots also. I hope Gerrard does perform for England and i do not have an agenda against him- but it does annoy me when i hear he is one of Englands best and most influential players- look at my earlier post, there is no evidence over his England career to back this up. As for Lampard- England fans player of the year 2004 2005. Though undoubtedly his form in an England shirt plummented i don't think he could have been rubbish for 30 games in a row like one comment said!

  • Comment number 85.


    I didn't suggest he plays I just commented on him use to the SQUAD. He is not a starter anymore. With quite a few young/inexperienced players in the squad you need experience. Or do you "proper football men" not need experience?


    No, Ramos does not have a clue how to manage a side that, given the levels of skill amongst the players, should be aiming for the top 5. Your players are good players suffering from a lack of form and very little motivation from their "manager".
    Give the job to Poyet, I am sure you would notice immediate results. Plus he could talk to you fans and you would not have to keep reading the paper to know what your manager is thinking.

  • Comment number 86.

    The Croatia result was a freak result just like the Germany result was under Sven. First shot at goal after half an hour with a great build up (Pranjic's clearance hits Kovac and falls straight into the path of Walcott). Second half and it still looks like Croatia are going to equalise and go on to win the game when a strong challenge for a header and utter theatrics from Joe Cole sees Croatia down to ten men. Sure we played well against ten men but by that time the Croats new it wasn't going to be their day.
    If England do not pick up six points this coming week, serious questions need to be asked about Capello.

  • Comment number 87.

    I think Peter Crouch should have been in the last squad rather than Owen and he certainly deserves his recall now. Crouch has a reliable goal scoring record for England and unlike Owen he is a skillful playmaker with a great attitude.

    Defoe is in the last chance saloon. He will either start scoring or be dropped. One hopes Owen's exclusion motivates the Newcastle man but you can't help but feel his best days are behind him. He doesn't have any pace, just goal hangs and has a poor attitude. Top four clubs wouldn't touch him with a barge pole.

  • Comment number 88.

    I like Gerrard, but the team Capello picked should play again. Gerrard does not have to play.

    To me, Gerrard is the sort of player who can dominate, but if he doesn't dominate, he fades into the background.

    Cole, on the other hand, while erratic, may well pull off something brilliant even when he doesn't get the ball much.

    If Gerrard plays anywhere, it should be in the place of Lampard. The problem is the role closest to his natural one was Rooney, and Rooney played far too well to be replaced.

    So sub Gerrard in for Lampard in the second half and see how things go.

  • Comment number 89.

    jonathon johnson,there are only so many places in a squad.Where a Young or a Bentley would benefit from being part of the set-up,the build-up experience etc what point is there of having Beckham in?Experience?What does that even mean?With that argument youd never move past players on.Shearer,Lineker,Charlton,these sort of players didnt hang on like a bad smell and they,unlike Beckham,were authetic world level players.And experince of what precisely.How to fail spectaculry to deliver on one iota of your hype and wealth retention in not 1 but 5 individual tournaments?England need to look forward afresh,Beckham is our failed decadent past in body and soul.

  • Comment number 90.

    Sorry, but I don't see the logic of squeezing a player into a position he does not play well in. He has already had the temerity to criticise his managers for fielding him in the wrong position and now you want to stick him back in there.

    I admit to my doubts where Gerrard is concerned simply due to his style of play not being appropriate to international competition. He gives the ball away far too much and is too keen to chase the ball causing the England side to lose shape. The best role he can produce is to be an impact player from the bench. I know the Gerrard fans will never agree with me, but I can only believe the evidence of my own eyes.

    Owen needs to produce consistently without injury before he is selected again. I would have picked Ashley Young for the squad, but I will accept that Capello knows better than me.

    Players need to be rewarded if they play well. So let's keep the same team as far as possible. We have lost Joe Cole, so we should bring in SWP on the right and move Walcott to the left and put Gerrard and Crouch on the bench for impact.

  • Comment number 91.

    capello had a few decisions to make picking the team.

    would you pick defoe or owen. i for one think he is looking at this selection without the influence of all knowing press or using past performances in the national colours. if this is so then the decision is simple, defoe has been more effective, for the past 1 year and definitely since capello has been in charge of the national team. there is a tinge of sentimentalism in wanting owen in this, he is slower and less clinical than defoe in his league play. why should we interpolate that all of a sudden he would become faster and more clinical for england. players change with time, age and injuries. all these factors have changed owen and not for the better.

    beckham is there for one reason. set peices, long passes and crossing, when you need to win that way your first sub is beckham. capello learnt this the hard way by managing him in real madrid, he knows that beckham a pacy flashy winger. and what he does for the team doesnt diminish with age. he can still bend it.

  • Comment number 92.

    Gerrard MUST play in goal thats certain!!!

  • Comment number 93.

    Upon what basis are people stating that Capello should pick the same team again?

    I can't think of a single reason why he should?

    Is it some magic formula that if your team wins one game they're guaranteed to win every game after that provided the same team are picked?

  • Comment number 94.

    Gordialbion...totally out of order to suggest theatrics from Joe Cole in Zagreb.

    Did you not see his head wound? Sorry - nonsense.

  • Comment number 95.

    one of my favorite picks in the squad has to be crouch. the simple fact is watching crouch and defoe play in Portsmouth. they form a pairing which is steadily improving their understanding, something no other pairing could possibly have on the England squad. would be interesting to see them play

  • Comment number 96.

    NO, NO, NO, NO McNulty. You do not just put Gerrard on the left because he is fit. You absolutely MUST play players in their best positions. Gerrard's is not on the wing, it is in attacking/centre midfield ie where Lampard is currently playing. So your choice for there is Lampard OR Gerrard. The left-wing position must be filled by a winger, ideally Joe Cole, but in his absence perhaps Ashley Young or Stuart Downing should get the nod. Obviously they are not as good as Gerrard, but, and I know I'm repeating myself here but it is a fundamentally important point; it is imperative that you play people in their best positions!!! If the reigns of the last two managers have taught us anything it is this.

  • Comment number 97.

    The way I see it is that Capello Has gone for two bigs and two littles up front. To pick Owen, you would have to drop one of the littles; which would mean dropping either Rooney or Defoe. Many would say drop Defoe but maybe, just maybe, Capello wants two little who can run all game and who can actually run with the ball at there feet. Michael Owen is simply a goal scorer that offers little esle. Now people will say, isn't that what strikers are for? Yes it is, but what happens on those days when he just can't find the back of the net, what is he going to do to help someones else do it? Rooney and Defoe, can do both as indicated over the weekend (they both had a goal and an assist). Also, why hasn't anyone suggested, playing Barry on the left, doesn't he play there for Villa on occasions, Isn't he a very capable left footer? This way you can also rotate him and Gerard if the pairing with Lampard doesn't work, or take Lampard or gerard off switch Barry to te middle and bring on Jenas, Downing or Wright Phillips. Sounds good?

  • Comment number 98.

    This is being analysed in totally the wrong way.

    Is there any embarassment if Gerrard is not selected to play from the start in any of these two matches? Is his immediate future with the team in jeopardy? Has he scored a hat trick in every game he has played for England? Is he superman?

    Similarly, with Owen not being selected, does it mean there is a national crisis? Have England been lacking goals? Is Owen the second coming of Gerd Muller?

    The English media, fans and pundits have failed to grasp the most elemental part of management, you manage a TEAM, not individuals.

    Across the continent, genuine performers are left out and kept on the bench for the sake of the TEAM. Del Piero was a bit part player in the World Cup and has been omitted this week even after scoring 20 Seria A goals last season, Raul can't break back into the Spain squad yet he is scoring left right and centre.

    It's about the TEAM, not about Owen-Gerrard-Lampard etc. I for one care little if Lampard/Gerrard start or assume supremacy in the riddle of the century, all i care about is if the team wins. I'd exchange England winning 1-0 than Gerrard getting a match rating of 8/10 in a 3-3 draw.

    And all that matters at this stage is qualification, and building up a group ethos, The Don is going about his job in the right way, win-lose or draw.

  • Comment number 99.

    red as tomatoes your delusions are extraordinary.Beckhams "long passes2 are entirely exposed as being farcically irrelevant at any decent level.Even when the guy still had his legs his pathetically indulgent "hollywood balls" were taken the p*ss out of by the likes of Northern Ireland-a team of lower league players.Thats the level he cant even hurt-and that was 3 years ago.Beckham is the greatest myth in the history of professional sport.He has taken literlally hundreds of free-kicks,and has netted about 5 times-in 105 games and over a decade.He has never scored a goal or proved himself a threat to ANY of the great nations of football from France to Brazil to Argentina to Spain to Italy to Holland.Now he cant even progress into the oppostions final 3rd so the fact he made about 7 crosses from open play in 105 games doesnt matter because he isnt in a position to replicate his one cross every 25 game ration he had at his "peak".Sorry i have to stop now or i might burst with laughter,i cant take this anymore.

  • Comment number 100.

    How can you say Owen is better than Crouch and Defoe? On current form both Crouch and Defoe are better than Owen.

    Crouch and Defoe are quality players, just as good as any striker in the EPL both never got the chances they desvered back at their previous clubs. I think Defoe at the end of the seaon will be in the top 5 goal scorers and crouch will be around there.


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