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Capello's World Cup contenders

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Phil McNulty | 00:19 UK time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

England's impressive World Cup qualification campaign under coach Fabio Capello ended with a routine victory over Belarus at Wembley.

The defeat against Ukraine was the only blemish as nine wins out of ten qualifiers established a solid platform for England's bid to win the World Cup in South Africa next summer.

Capello is already plotting a path to World Cup success - but who will he take with him to South Africa in a bid to justify England's status as one of the showpiece's main threats?

Here we examine Capello's England contenders and see where they stand when it comes to stamping their passport to South Africa.


DAVID JAMES: Firm favourite to be Fabio Capello's first choice in South Africa - a fact that also underlines the current dearth of top quality goalkeeping talent at England's disposal.

James will be nearly 40 when the World Cup starts, still struggles for consistency and his stop-start England career will have encompassed 13 years when the campaign starts.

Still capable of making brilliant saves but mixing that with costly mistakes. Susceptible to injuries these days, as proved by missing England's win against Belarus with a knee problem after only emerging as substitute against Ukraine.

Not the perfect answer to England's goalkeeping problems, but the best option amid an unconvincing group. The position remains Capello's biggest concern.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

ROBERT GREEN: Sound club keeper with West Ham United, but still very much unproven at England level. This is what will let James in. Unlucky to be sent off against Ukraine, and can expect to be first in line should any misfortune befall James.

Verdict: On the plane.

PAUL ROBINSON: Blackburn's keeper was unfairly pilloried for a freak goal in a Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia that was none of his making, and the subsequent criticism appeared to destroy his confidence.

He has gone back to basics at Blackburn and now looks a good goalkeeper again. Has previous World Cup experience and would be my third choice behind James and Green.

Verdict: Auditioning for the rest of the Premier League season.

BEN FOSTER: Not for me. Has failed to convince at Manchester United this season, and while he made a good save against Belarus, this should not disguise the uncertainty he has shown at Old Trafford.

Not commanding enough and at 26 is not the callow youth many would have you believe. Can improve, but would not be in my World Cup squad.

Verdict: Needs games at Manchester United to press his case.

JOE HART: Capello likes Hart but he will have to wait his turn. 2014 is a more realistic aim for a talented keeper.

Verdict: World Cup too soon for him.


GLEN JOHNSON: Gives England an added dimension with his adventurous attacking play, but not the greatest defender and is too often pulled out of position.

Champions League football with Liverpool will broaden his horizons and help him get acquainted with the sort of quality he will face in South Africa. Gifted but still a work in progress. Looks certain to play - no obvious competition,

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

WES BROWN: The Manchester United defender has had an horrendous time with injuries, but Capello is clearly an admirer and appears the most likely understudy to Johnson. He offers the added bonus of being able to fill in at centre-back.

Needs to do much more to make up Capello's mind and needs to play games, but definitely in the frame.

Verdict: Could sneak in because of lack of other options.

JOHN TERRY: Main man in defence and a natural leader. Speaks with pride and passion about his role as England captain and backs up his words with actions on the pitch.

Probably his last tilt at a World Cup and insists he can sense this England team is ready to win a major tournament. Capello's only concern about Terry will be injuries - and how he must avoid them.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

RIO FERDINAND: As graceful and effective a central defender as there is in world football when focused, but it appears injuries have taken the edge off his mental and physical sharpness.

Likely to have been jolted into action by a sharp word from Capello after his error against Ukraine - something the coach was, interestingly, happy to make public.

Plenty of time to turn his form around. Would be a major surprise if he is not alongside Terry when England's World Cup campaign starts.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

MATTHEW UPSON: Reliable and trusted by Capello when Rio Ferdinand has been absent. Upson has never let England down and on that basis alone he looks certain to be in South Africa and on alert for any injuries to the main central defenders.

Verdict: On the plane.

GARY CAHILL: Strong and confident youngster with real faith in his own ability and a growing number of admirers among top Premier League managers. Still waiting to press his claims to Capello and this World Cup might just come too soon.

Verdict: Next time around.

JOLEON LESCOTT: Manchester City's £24m defender has yet to show his best form since his acrimonious move from Everton. Has at times looked over-awed when playing for England, a sharp contrast to the assured performances that earned him such a glowing reputation at Everton.

Under threat from players such as Cahill, and perhaps from his former Everton team-mate Phil Jagielka once he returns to fitness. In danger of slipping down the pecking order.

Verdict: In danger of missing out.

ASHLEY COLE: In the form of his life. Now playing for Chelsea as he did for Arsenal and one of the men Capello will count on in South Africa. No-one comes within a country mile of taking his England place at present.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

WAYNE BRIDGE: Not shown international class for England and has struggled with Manchester City this season. He will go to South Africa, but only because there is a shortage of left-backs pushing to take his position. If one emerges, he will be in danger.

Verdict: Work needs to be done but likely to be on the plane.


GARETH BARRY: Capello's Mr Reliable in central midfield. Has seen off the challenge of Michael Carrick and shows no sign of relinquishing his hold on the position alongside Frank Lampard in central midfield.

Barry is a mature, experienced operator whose level-headed approach ensures the intensity of a World Cup campaign will hold no terrors.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

FRANK LAMPARD: One of the world game's outstanding midfield players, and has forged a fruitful partnership with Barry. Has the potential to be one of England's most influential performers in South Africa.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

STEVEN GERRARD: Would be the second name on my team-sheet after Wayne Rooney. Undisputed world class and has found a home in the Capello template tucked in on the left but with licence to roam and join Rooney as an attacking threat.

Amazingly still has to convince some observers of his worth to England, but would be coveted by every other coach at the World Cup - and I mean every other coach.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

THEO WALCOTT: He was little more than a fresh-faced sightseer when inexplicably included in Sven-Goran Eriksson's England squad for the 2006 World Cup.

This mature youngster lit the blue touch paper under the Capello era with a hat-trick in the World Cup qualifier in Croatia, and if he is fit must be the top tip to take the right-flank spot ahead of Aaron Lennon. Lightning fast and capable of composed finishing, he is a world-class talent in the making.

Now needs to stay fit and have a big season at Arsenal - something that could set the scene for him to be a major star at the World Cup.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

AARON LENNON: Moving towards finally producing the goods under the wise guidance of Harry Redknapp at Spurs. Lennon is now putting more end product in his game to go with the blistering pace and direct approach.

Will make the squad for South Africa but may lose out on a starting place to north London rival Walcott.

Verdict: On the plane.

SHAUN WRIGHT-PHILLIPS: For all the endeavour, Wright-Phillips falls short of true international class. Did not shine despite scoring against Belarus and I do not see him forcing his way past Lennon and Walcott, especially with Capello also pondering the David Beckham dilemma.

Verdict: Staying at home.

Man of the match David Beckham salutes the crowd at Wembley after the Belarus victory

DAVID BECKHAM: Predictably, this will become the great talking point of the next few months. The fact that he farcically won the man-of-the-match award against Belarus (a slap in the face to Gareth Barry and Peter Crouch) showed he can still put stars in the eyes of even the most hardened professional, in this case adjudicator Steve Bruce.

Capello spoke warmly about Beckham after the game, in a manner that suggested he would take him as a World Cup wild card.

I would leave Beckham at home because I believe England must feel confident enough about themselves to do without his occasional contributions from the bench. He would not start a game in South Africa.

Beckham still has beautiful delivery, but I am not convinced he can still hurt the top-class opposition England would face later in the tournament. I would prefer Capello to take someone like Joe Cole.

The former captain has my total respect for the way he came back from relinquishing the captaincy in tears in Baden-Baden in 2006 and the desire is still clearly there, but I believe England should be able to move on by the time next summer comes around. If they cannot, then this is a concern.

I still think Fabio will take him though.

Verdict: Should be at home but may well make the plane.

JAMES MILNER: Milner is fast-improving and could be coming to the boil nicely by the time the World Cup comes around. Looked sharper than Beckham against Belarus and almost scored.

Pace, power, delivery (remember his performance against the Netherlands in Amsterdam?) Got the bit between his teeth and is ready to pose real questions to Capello.

Verdict: A real live contender.

MICHAEL CARRICK: Carrick has a wonderful range of passing and can also score goals and dictate the tempo of the game, but is he too similar to Barry, who is the man in possession?

With Lampard and Gerrard also around, is there room for Carrick as well? I think he may well miss out, and could yet face an added threat from his Old Trafford team-mate Owen Hargreaves if he recovers from injury.

Verdict: Got a fight on his hands.


WAYNE ROONEY: The irreplaceable. The man England cannot afford to be without. Frustrated by injuries at Euro 2004 and at the World Cup two years later, South Africa can be his stage.

Verdict: On the plane and in the team.

EMILE HESKEY: The striker whose career has been one long defiance of football logic. The striker who does not score goals, indeed the striker who does not play many games any more, and yet the striker Capello trusts implicitly to lead his line.

Selfless and hard-working, Heskey's main asset is that he allows Rooney and others to flourish. It is a quality so highly-prized that it makes managers forget he cannot score goals.

If England could find a suitable alternative acceptable to Capello (is he truly convinced by Peter Crouch or Carlton Cole?) Heskey would be gone, but the smart money is on him still being alongside Rooney in the first game in South Africa.

The big dilemma comes if Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is unmoved by his demands for first-team football - which he won't be. Can Capello seriously risk him after a season on the sidelines? I wouldn't.

VERDICT: On the plane and in the team.

JERMAIN DEFOE: As clinical a finisher as England possess, but seen as an impact player as opposed to a starter. Has the talent to make a major impact at the World Cup when he gets his chance.

VERDICT: On the plane.

PETER CROUCH 18 goals in 35 appearances for England. The critics will point to goals scored against lesser nations, a "flat-track bully" if you like. This is not Crouch's fault when he rarely gets starts against the bigger teams.

Capello still seems less than sold on Crouch, whose lack of physical power counts against him at the top international level, but hard to see what more he could do to convince the England coach.

Will go to South Africa because he provides England with a different option.

VERDICT: On the plane.

CARLTON COLE: Developed enormously under Gianfranco Zola at West Ham, but with Capello a confirmed Heskey fan and Crouch scoring goals, there may not be room for a third big target man. Might smack of overkill.

Has the potential to be more effective than Heskey, and could be the beneficiary if the Villa striker does not get games. If Heskey does, Cole might spend the summer at home.

Verdict: Anxious wait ahead.

MICHAEL OWEN: A fit Michael Owen scoring goals simply has to be in the squad. If he fulfilled this criteria I would put him in with Rooney, Defoe, Heskey and Crouch.

The doubts still lie in those fitness worries and the lingering feeling that Capello believes he may be a spent force at England level. Never, ever write off Owen, however, and at Manchester United he has the perfect stage to make his pitch for a World Cup place.

VERDICT: On the plane. If fit.


JOE COLE: A popular member of the England squad, with the element of fantasy about his game that makes it work at international level. On the way back to full fitness at Chelsea, he will provide Capello with options all across midfield, and even in attack at a push, should he get regular football. If he proves his fitness, Cole should be in South Africa.

Verdict: Could make an irresistible case for inclusion if he gets the chance.

GABRIEL AGBONLAHOR: Not quite international class, but an excellent Premier League performer. Got the pace required at the highest level but may be a better bet in 2014.

Verdict: Maybe better luck next time.

JACK RODWELL: Plenty of good judges, David Pleat included, feel Everton's gifted teenager is the one big outsider who could make a late bid for World Cup inclusion. An England player of the future, Rodwell still does not influence games enough (hardly a surprise given his tender years) and has yet to show he can make the killer contribution.

Verdict: Too soon but his time will come.

ASHLEY YOUNG: Highly-talented and confident player, but is near the back of the queue now in his position and would need to do something very special to warrant inclusion - is capable of special moments though.

Verdict: May have missed his chance.

PHIL JAGIELKA: Was in magnificent form for Everton when he sustained a serious knee injury that caused him to miss the FA Cup Final. An outstanding defender who is admired by Capello and has just returned to training with Everton.

If he can recapture last season's form on his return could be a surprise outsider.

Verdict: Outside chance if he can recapture form and fitness.

OWEN HARGREAVES: Just emerging from an injury nightmare, the man who was an exceptional performer at the 2006 World Cup still has ambitions to make South Africa. Needs to prove he is finally fit before he does anything, but has the strength of will to make up for lost time.

Verdict: Long shot but will give Capello food for thought if he finds his form.

STEWART DOWNING: Yet to play for Aston Villa following his move from Middlesbrough, a player who has shone only occasionally for England may have missed his chance.

Verdict: Needs big performances quickly when he gets fit.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Not sure how you saw barry as man of the match

  • Comment number 2.

    phil, u missed hargreaves. i will complete it for you.
    Owen Hargreaves: Like Joe Cole has a game that makes him a big player at international level. Can provide options at right back, taking free kicks, penalties. a utility player custom made for international level tournaments.
    Verdict: If fit has to be in the team

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree with pretty much everything you've said Phil.

    My squad:

    James, Green, Foster
    Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Upson, A.Cole, Bridge,
    Walcott, Lennon, Barry, Carrick, Lampard, Gerrard, J. Cole, Milner
    Rooney, Owen, Defoe, Crouch, Heskey

    22 there. The one place I'm not sure of is the last defender. Brown is competent at this level, though not much else, and versatile, while Lescott plays week-in-week-out but looks less assured for England. A pity King can't train or play regularly.

    As with you, I'd take Joe Cole and Owen. Both match-winners. And although Beckham had a good showing tonight, I haven't seen much from him of late that would suggest he can do a good enough job against the better teams. They won't give him space unlike the minnow teams. That said, he is competing with Milner for the final midfield space.

    If Hargreaves is fit and playing, he could replace Carrick in my 23 because of his versatility and because he's a more natural defensive midfielder (whereas Carrick is more of a deep-lying creative midfielder).

  • Comment number 4.

    hargreaves and cole have gota be in if fit and playing.. they were our best players at the last world cup and i still trust cole more than lennon or wright phillips evan playing in their position.. while hargreaves is vital against the big teams and when fit goes in above barry in my eyes

  • Comment number 5.

    i think capello needs to look outside of the premier league for his goalkeeper. the top three picks here have let in 40 goals between them that's 13.3 goals apiece. how these qualify as world class is beyond me. james wasn't called 'calamity' james for nothing.

  • Comment number 6.

    Spurs' fifth in-form striker-You should have gone to Spec Savers mate! Not surprised with a Spudder though.

    Phil I agree with almost everything I do not think I would leave Becks behind. Not so sure about Rio as well but then again that`s all we`ve got isn`t it?

  • Comment number 7.

    It still amazes me that you and others think Beckham shouldn't be on the plane.

    He is in the top 5 players in the squad on international FORM. He continues to perfom in each and every game, offering superb passing, assists and goals, not to mention the pyschological lift he gives the team when he comes on.

    If anyone has stars in their eyes, and is influenced by them it's you Phil.

    Thankfully Beckham does his talking on the pitch, not in a blog.

  • Comment number 8.

    Phil i agree with almost everything you have to say, the expection is leaving beckham behind, even if hes not in the starting XI anymore he is still a incredibly strong player to have on the bench and a great role model for the younger players in the squad. Plus if we get a free kick in the 89th minute of the WC final who would you want taking it?

  • Comment number 9.

    good blog and agree with the majority of decisions made on players. I have always wondered why there is a limit on players you can take. Anybody know?

    Also if joe cole is fit he starts but who does that push out of the team because i hope its not lennon/walcott depending whos in favour because gerrard barry and lampard all look ineffective wide and with them all being naturally central players it cramps up the middle. So, i would like to see England play with two natural wide men and see Capello fianlly find a way to make Gerrard and Lampard gel.

  • Comment number 10.

    Barry will get found out against top class teams because of his lack of pace, otherwise he would have played left side midfield for England years ago.

    I hope and pray that Hargreaves makes his comeback as he will complete a top notch midfield that any side would envy.

    Walcott/Lennon Lampard Hargeaves Gerrard

    Otherwise it may well be another disappointing World Cup

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with the other comments, Beckham has to go. I don't believe there is another player mentioned above that has the passion for playing for his country and the will to win like Beckham. He is a senior player who can offer leadership and focus off the field as well as on. I think he still had a Greece 2001 performance in him.

    I just hope the players realise what an opportunity they have. They will never get a better chance to achieve footballing immortality and win the ultimate prize. They have a strong enough squad, a group of world class players, and an intelligent and driven coach. As much as they are led to believe by certain people that playing for their club is everything, nothing could compare to lifting the World Cup, the effect that would have on the nation, the open-top tour and a lifetime of respect and adulation. Do these players want to be remembered as a generation who demanded ludicrous sums of money for themselves, or do they want to be mentioned in the same sentences as Moore, Hurst, and Charlton? One thing I am convinced of is that Beckham is the only player who truly, publicly states and craves this. The others might, but it doesn't show. He has to go.

  • Comment number 12.

    Good blog Phil, but isn't it a bit early to be naming who is on the plane? Lets not forget we have a long premiership season ahead, with undoubtedly the recurring curse of the metatarsal to contend with come May!

    As for the Beckham debate, he should be there, he gives us something totally different on the right hand side and the top sides WILL still fear him, hence why he is still wanted by one of Europe's top clubs in AC Milan. Let's not forget the Italians are the current world champions, and if they still regard him highly then who are we to disagree? Undoubtedly still the best passer of a football in the world, simply has to go. One other thing he has in his favour is that Lennon / Walcott / Wright Phillips are all very similar players - if a side are not frightened by raw pace then Becks may get a start, as although all three of these players have made great strides in recent years, generally their delivery is mediocre at best.

    Micheal Owen is a rank outsider in my opinion, much as I am a huge admirer. Capello now has not played him in a competitive game during his tenure, and given Capello's methodical and planned approach towards everything, I would say Owen can book his summer holiday for next year unless there are injuries. Even then, he is behind Cole and Agbonlahor, and maybe even Bent should any of the established '4' get hurt.

    Joe Cole / Owen Hargreaves are both a shoe in if fit. Before injury they were Englands most consistent performers over a period of about 3 years, and with all due respect, I would far sooner have these two than say Milner and Carrick.

    Lets see where we are in May though....

  • Comment number 13.

    What about Micah Richards as an outsider? During the Euro qualifying campaign he was fantastic (one of the only players who was along with Garreth Barry). His form has definitely dropped with injuries and a ill-advised switch to center-back at Manchester City, but now he is back to playing right-back with quality players around him. I could definitely see his form returning to what it was a couple years ago, in which case I think he would have a strong case for challenging Glenn Johnson. He offers a great attacking threat, tons of pace (when fit), and he is a top quality defender (when in form). I think he has a better chance than Wes Brown based on regular first team football.

  • Comment number 14.

    Nice blog Phil, hopefully Joe Cole will recover quickly, he is an outstanding player with his creativity and agility to help accelerate the squad in achieving great outcomes.

    Now people say Rooney is irreplaceable? That's a plausible statement, but atm I would have to agree. He is distinct from the other forwards because of his composure, determination, and eye for goal.

  • Comment number 15.

    If fit, Hargreaves is a dead cert as he can cover right back as well. Not exactly a position of great strength for England. Probably why Wes Brown will get the nod too.

  • Comment number 16.

    If England have to rely on Peter Crouch in the World Cup then we are done for. As was shown in last night's match he can pot black if it is lying on the edge of the cup but taking a ball forward from outside the penalty area or getting anywhere near succeeding in a tackle with a defender and he is Sunday League. His height is useful at times but more often those gangly legs give him a disadvantage that can easily be used by the smaller player who is more of an athlete. I would take Carlton Cole any day instead.

  • Comment number 17.

    Leave Beckham at home? Are you nuts Phil? Have you not watched England games since Capello took over? You can't have a football asset like Beckham and leave him at home. All of the England right wingers are exactly the same - pace, dribble and hope to make one good cross. Becks is the only one who brings a completely different dimension from all of them (90 minute work rate, pin point passes, pin point crosses, defense, experience, great football brain, etc etc etc). In all these qualities, Beckham probably rates in the top 10 in the world. And you want to leave him at home? Seriously?.

  • Comment number 18.

    Why is Capello even considering Heskey? The guy couldn't hit a cow's backside with a banjo. Surely the emergence of a Zola-inspired Carlton Cole means that Heskey is redundant? Cole has a similar playing style to Heskey, but with one added feature. He can score goals!

    Beckham is a different type of player to either Walcott or Lennon and he can still deliver the ball better than any other memeber of the squad. Maybe he can't play a full 90 minutes at international level anymore, but is there a more calming influence that can be brought on for the final 25 minutes of a high pressure game, when England are either a goal down or a goal up? Also he has a habit of scoring goals that matter. He has to be on the plane.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good blog, I'm already relishing the World Cup.

    I don't agree at all with the stick Rio has been recieving. He's had one bad performance and he's suddenly "lost his legs and sharpness". Nobody seems to remember that it was Cole that gave the ball away for the Ukraine goal (despite being in the form of his life). This just shows that, on the night, things just didn't go right.

    I, personally, have no doubts that alongside Terry, we have a very safe and solid base in the centre of defence for the rest of the team.

    As for other selections, I think Crouch needs to be included, even if its just as a "Plan B". The final dilemna would be whether to include Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves - arguably two of England's finest players at the 2006 World Cup, but both have struggled with injuries. Personally, if they can show their best form before the selection deadline, I'd relish seeing them brought along.

    Personally, I'd like to see...
    James, Green, Robinson
    Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, A.Cole, Upson, Lescott, Brown
    Barry, Gerrard, Lampard, Walcott, Lennon, Beckham, J.Cole, Hargreaves, Carrick
    Rooney, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe

  • Comment number 20.

    I agree with most of what you say Phil. But Heskey is simply suprising. No games for Villa, no goals ANYWHERE, but starts for England! I'm aware that he's one of the best supporting strikers around, but I feel Crouch/C.Cole can do the same job and score goals too. Also in the 'bubbling under' list, how come Jack Rodwell?! I'm suprised Darren Bent didn't get a mention. Also Jack Wilshere was considered a selection on some fronts these past few months, if he puts in some strong performances for Arsenal, will Capello consider?

  • Comment number 21.

    Yes we have a chance, a real chance, of making the World Cup final. However, Capello needs to pick the 22 that could get us there. He CANNOT take Beckham and Owen. They have had their day.

  • Comment number 22.

    I want to know why Crouch is getting criticism for who he scores his goals against? Most of England's games are against lesser nations. Of Wayne Rooney's 25 goals, there are only 2 friendly goals against top nations (Netherlands and Argentina), and then possibly 4 more against decent opposition. Why not say the same about his goals? Simple fact is, we don't play top nations often enough these days for anyone to not have their scoring records criticised.

  • Comment number 23.

    Intresting I'd reverse your decisions on the wings, for me Milner has been far more impressive than any of the left-wing options including Gerrard who doesn't fit Capello's system (you seem to have missed out Young for consideration). On the right-wing Beckham has been by far the most consistent. He can tuck inside to sure up central midfield, he has vision that the other wingers could only dream about and he is willing to get back and help cover for Johnson's defensive weaknesses.

    England are awash with quick, skillful but ultimatley light-weight wingers who rarley produce good crosses and are bullied out of most games by average defenders. Whether Beckham could play so many games in a row is another question, however for my money the best England performances have come when Milner and Beckham are on the pitch and I'd chose them over the likes of Lennon(who was non existent last night) any day.

  • Comment number 24.

    England have no chance of winning the world cup. Poor keeper, full backs cant defend and an over-reliance on Rooney up front.

  • Comment number 25.

    #9 - Think there are a few reasons why there is a limit on squad size. Perhaps the most important one these days is to keep things fair - Some of the countries at previous WCs have struggled to afford to take their squads as it is. FAs like England could obviously afford to take as many players as they wanted within reason, I doubt the same could be said of some of the teams from countries where football isn't a big sport and doesn't generate revenue. Additionally, it puts more pressure on the players who are there and the manager. This is the WC - it needs to be the hardest test of a team and the limit on squad size helps acheive this.

    Re the blog: Agree with pretty much everything written here except, like many other people, I think that Beckham should definately be on the plane. Should say that I also agree with your comments on Rooney in the previous blog (again, unlike many other people!).

    The five things I want from the rest of the season to give us the best chance in the WC are...

    1 - Rooney, Gerrard and A Cole to stay fit
    2 - Jagielka and J Cole to get fit
    3 - David James to have a blinding season
    4 - Walcott and Milner to come of age and hit their peaks this season
    5 - Rio to stay concentrated

    Too much to ask?

  • Comment number 26.

    Again like a number of other people here I think that you are so wrong in your comments about Beckham. The guy does not need to prove anything and if fit and playing will be in the squad no doubt.

    For me the players that need to prove something are Rooney and Gerrard. Both World Class Talents no doubt but have we ever seen them at there best playing for England in a big Tournament? Rooney commited an horrendous foul in 2006 against Portugal that saw him recieve a deserved Red Card (while Beckham was slaughtered Rooney got off lightly). Gerrard has only ever had 1 outstanding game in an England shirt when we beat Germany in Munich 1 - 5. For me the next world cup is there moment to shine and let us just hope they rise to the occasion.

  • Comment number 27.

    I am a fan of English Football and will support England at the World Cup. Fans like me outside England will be disappointed if Beckham was to be left out.

  • Comment number 28.

    That was slightly harsh on SWP. the lad has played every game this season for City. he always works hard for the team. Walcott/Beckham have done nothing till now to deserve a spot ahead of him. If beckham manages to change the fortunes of Milan in his loan spell he deserves a spot.

    if Joe Cole starts playing for chelsea he is guaranteed a spot in the first eleven.

    I would be surprised if Hargreaves makes it. he is coming back from a career threatening injury and the rehabilitation is going to be slow. unless he makes good progress he will not feature in any league game for many months. but Capello would be mad to not pick him if he is fully fit and has been playing regularly for united.

    Michael Owen will at best make substitute appearances for United even if he manages to overcome his injuries. Berbatov and rooney are much better than him. Will Capello pick an injury-prone star player over Carlton cole and Agbonlahor who play regularly ?

    Walcott and Agbonlahor can still make it if they perform better than SWP/beckham/Milner and Heskey/C.Cole.

    My squad
    James Green Robinson
    G.Johnson Brown Lescott Rio terry Upson A.Cole bridge
    SWP Beckham Gerrard Lampard Carrick Barry Milner J.Cole
    Crouch Defoe Rooney C.Cole

  • Comment number 29.

    How in the world some people think Beckham is still the player of the earlier part of thi decade is beyond me. As mentioned above, him and Owen are past their prime and should not be on the plane, unfortunately for us, they will probably both make it. How someone can say he is one of our top 5 players pased on international form is ridiculous. Are you one of the people who voted for Beckham to be man of the match last night? How can you be in top international form if you are never trusted with more than a 15-20 minutes as a substitute? And if you honestly think that "90 minute work rate, pin point passes, pin point crosses, defense, experience, great football brain" is what Beckham posses, then why does Capello not start him? Because he can't last 90 minutes. His defending is shocking, he has no recovery pace. His assests are long range passes and crossing, but then when you come on in the last 20 minutes of games, there are more gaps and hence you can make the most of those attributes.

    Also, disappointed you didn't mention Bent Phil. Top english goal scorer in the premier league. Has scored goals with his head, feet, inside and outside the box, and proved a capable penalty taker (which could be crucial next summer).

  • Comment number 30.

    I dont understand the obsession with Owen. What does he have to offer? Does he still have electric pace? No. Is he a big aerial threat? No. Does he hold the ball up well? No. Is he a creative player? No. All that is left is his reputation as a clinical finisher. But if you focus on his form over recent years for Newcastle and the couple of games he has played for Man Utd. there is precious little evidence of that either. It's pointless to pretend he is still the same player he was in his prime at Liverpool. Luckily for us, Capello clocked him right from the start.

    Likewise, Heskey shouldnt be in the squad, let alone the team. He may well get another 1 or 2% out of Rooney. But you cant justify his inclusion on that basis. The problem is not apparent in the qualifiers against second rate opposition. But if we want to win in South Africa then we are going to have beat the best teams in games where there will be few chances. Some of which will fall to Emile. At that point we'll wish we had someone who was a proven goalscorer, not someone who cant get in the Aston Villa team.

  • Comment number 31.

    Everyone can have an opionion on Heskey and Beckham, but the only one that counts is Mr Capello's. England biggest problem is goalkeeper. James will go, and I'd take Robinson as backup, as he has the expierence of a world cup. Then I'd take Ben Foster, as I think coaching and more games at Man Utd, when he get to his peak years (for GK it between 28-34) He'll be England Number 1, and the expierence will be good for Euro 2012, and World Cup in 2014. Much as we'll see with Walcott, having gone to last world cup. But I think his squad, as long as everyone fit will be:

    James, Robinson, Foster
    Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, A.Cole, Upson, Brown, Bridge
    Barry, Gerrard, Lampard, Walcott, Lennon, Beckham, J.Cole, Hargreaves, Milner
    Rooney, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe

  • Comment number 32.

    We lack a goalie and need joe cole / owen back to form.
    Decent team overall though.

  • Comment number 33.

    Phil no talk of Darren Bent and yet you talk about Michael Owen making the team if fit? How being fit and not playing regular footie? I doubt he'll make to South Africa. Heskey shouldn't be in this team if you want strength improve Carlton Cole and it can come with some goals.
    The World Cup is not for playing minnows like Belarus and Azerbaijan even that Emile can't score!!!! I really hope Joe Cole goes.

    World Cup-bound
    James, Green, Foster, Johnson, A. Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Upson, Bridge, Cahill, Brown, Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, J. Cole, Walcott, Lennon, Beckham, Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, C. Cole

    Stand by
    Bent, Agbonlahor, Carrick, Milner, Lescott, Downing, Jagielka, Robinson

  • Comment number 34.

    Becks should be on the plane. He still plays like a 24 year old. His passes are brilliant and his commitment awesome. I would never leave Beckham out of the team.

  • Comment number 35.

    Joe Cole has to be a given if he is fit... hell even if he's on crutches he should go. The guy just is just a very gifted player. I think better than Gerrard and Lampard (sure I'll get crucified for that comment)

    I'd take Beckham for sure. Beckham is the other option if pace isn't working. I bet any England striker would want Beckham on the plane. He has the delivery that all strikers want. In fact, even if Capello has no intention of playing him, he should still take him just to give Lennon, Walcott and Wright-Phillips lessons in how to cross a ball!!!

    The Heskey scenario is mind boggling. He's a rubbish striker who never scores and never even gets league games, but the system works. Honestly, I'm glad it's Capellos choice and not mine.

    Keepers - tough one as all aren't that good. All are likely to make a mistake in a vital game that will get them abuse for many years. James is probably the best in a bad bunch, followed closely by Robinson. He needs to be given some England time to see if his nerves are up to it.

    The rest are all pretty obvious choices. We have some great players and a real chance of winning I think - but then again, I've thought that at every tournament...

  • Comment number 36.

    Never write off Owen - agreed. Also, we should realise we should never write off Beckham. He has proved himself by coming back twice having been written off at club level at Real Madrid and at International Level for England. The guy should be on the plane.
    Also, I still think Steve Harper needs to get a chance at England keeper. He has played more Premiership games than Ben Foster. He is consistent. He is in form.

  • Comment number 37.

    Owen,Absolutely NO...Agbonlahor, Absolutely YES .Joe Cole, YES..Crouch, SPAGHETTI LEGS HAS GOTTA GO TO S.A Hargreaves, WHO? Goalkeepers, NOT THAT IMPORTANT

  • Comment number 38.

    And for Rooney being irreplaceable...

    He's a very good player, a great player. But is he irreplaceable because he is so great, or because we have no other international class strikers?

  • Comment number 39.

    I think that everybody agrees that Beckham isn't the player he used to be but regardless he should go and (along with Crouch) be used as an impact substitute.

    Who else in the England team has his delivery or experience?
    Should we be leading a game in SA, bring Beckham on with 10 minutes to go and he is capable of putting his foot on the ball and calming the team down.
    Should we be behind, bring him on for his dead ball delivery.

    Too many times (pre Capello) have we seen England midfielders disappear in games when they need to step up, especially against better opposition.
    I can remember watching many an England game and wondering if Lamprad was actually on the pitch and also seeing Gerrard sulking in left mid-field.

    10 minutes left , ahead or behind I would want Beckham coming off the bench to try and bail us out or see the game through.
    The players that Beckahm is competing against for a spot on the plane - Young, Sean W-P, Walcott, Lennon, Joe Cole and Downing all essentially have the same attributes and none can consistently deliver a ball like Beckham.

    If Lennon or Walcott are not getting the job done is it really that much of a difference throwing on Sean WP or Ashley Young?

  • Comment number 40.

    Micheal Owen, hasn't done anything for 4 years, he can not possibly go to the World Cup.

  • Comment number 41.

    Certaintly good points made, but I wonder - if any of the other home nations had qualified, would you create the same article for them? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 42.


    Surely, is the exact same player as Heskey, but has scored goals in the league and plays every week? He never gets injured and is on a total of 3 goals so far... Okay that may not be a lot... but Heskey is on none...

  • Comment number 43.

    I think Milner will definitely be there as Capello sees him as a versatile player who can cover the wing backs as well as wide midfield. Has skill, pace, power and delivery and has the experience of fitting into international squads.

  • Comment number 44.

    There is no way Beckham should be left at home. As many comments have said; Who do you want taking a free kick in the 88th minute of the quarter final? His desire to play is higher than any other, even Terry. But it's not just desire but it is quality as well, no one passes the ball better and no one takes free kicks quite like him. Set pieces are more and more important in football these days and he is the best. I say quarter final because i still don't believe England will win the world cup. Already we have blogs about players etc and i don't think England have a chance. Of course i would love England to win, i am a die hard footy fan and there is nothing i want more, but we dont stand a chance.

    Look at our performance against Spain. We were nowhere to be seen. Against the big teams, England don't cut it for me. Gerrard, arguably the greatest midfield player in the world,(and no i am not a liverpool fan), still hasn't got a suitable position in the England line up. We rely far too much on Wayne Rooney, and we still dont have a right back that can be relied upon. Glen Johnson should be a right winger, not a right back.

    I still don't see all these worries about a good goalkepper. Rob Green does an excellent job for West Ham and come May i think he will be top contender. He hasn't really had a chance to show his credentials because either 1, he hasn't had anything to do, or 2, he gets sent off thanks too a clumsy defensive error.

    The fact that we have not won anything with this 'golden age' is crazy. Other teams would beg to have players such as Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard and Terry. But alas... I pray that come May, Rooney is fit and i tell you who else, Owen. If he can get fit and start scoring goals for Man U will help us no end up front and teams fear Owen. I think Cappello wants nothing more than to be able to include a fit and scoring Owen. Heskey doesn't score, Cole isn't international quality yet, and Crouchy for all his goals just doesn't cut the mustard for me but he does cause problems.

    Anyway, good luck England, lets hope we finally get that prize.. and there is nothing i would like to see more than Beckham win it in the 93rd minute. Bring it on!

  • Comment number 45.

    "Auditioning for the rest of the Premier League season."
    You have picked two for the plane - James, and Green, who is "still very much unproven".
    Your remarks prove how deficient England are for goalkeepers. James is No 1 but still retains his "calamity" tag. But my main qtn is, given the poor quality of English goalies, why only look at the Premiership?
    I hereby nominate Steve Harper, NUFC, for the the third choice. Under normal circumstances he wouldn't be considered but when Joe Hart, Paul Robinson and Ben Foster are being assessed, along with Chris Kirkland in other blogs, he must be given a chance in some future friendly.

  • Comment number 46.


    Are you serious??

    How can anyone consider leaving Beckham at home? he is clearly one of the best 23 players England have at their disposal and to not take him would be lunacy. As for your comment about Michael Owen going "if fit" this is again ludicrous Capello has picked him once in all his reign and he will not be picking him again - Owen can't even get a start for Man U!!!


  • Comment number 47.

    ok i know everyone is mentioning the goalkeeping crisis and there is one name that has not been mentioned in the whole blog for this position and thats scott carson

    although hes not getting premier league football because england inquired about his avaliblity before the belaurs game it was only because he has an ankle problem that he was not called up to replace david james

    hes made to mistakes for england and didnt have as bad a season as everyone thinks last season he may of concided the most goals but he had also hade the highest shots/saved ratio and i went all last season and he was not that bad just the defence was shocking

    just thought ide offer another possibilty as he is clearly still in capello's mind

    and if you want to read about the england inquiring about his avalibilty go to the west brom news on bbc sport!

  • Comment number 48.

    Owen Hargreaves is rubbish, why would anyone consider him for England?! Ok, he runs about a bit but can't tackle very well and carries a massive risk of giving away free kicks in dangerous positions, can't pass forward and never goes past the halfway line to do anything in attack.

    James, Green, Robinson
    Johnson, Richards, Terry, Ferdinand, Upson, Lescott, A Cole
    Lennon, Beckham, Walcott, Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, Carrick, J Cole, SWP
    Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, C Cole???

    4th striker up for grabs between Cole, Agbonlahor (pardon the spelling), Bent and possibly Owen and Ashton. Emile Heskey should have been put out to graze years ago. Best thing Steve McClaren ever did was to drop that donkey!

  • Comment number 49.

    What about Baines?? He's better than bridge and would offer another freekick and penalty taker!

  • Comment number 50.

    Don't know why we need to take two out and out left backs? Cole should be capable of playing every game and even if the worst happened we would have Gareth Barry who is a better left back than Bridge anyway!
    Also Lescott if he's picked.

  • Comment number 51.

    Phil you say there are no competition for right back yet I believe a certain Mr Gary Neville may provide stiffer competition in that area than you may think.

    Also as for Beckham - he simply must be in the squad as he proved last night when he came on and transformed a game that Belarus were starting to take control of picking out Wright-Phillips from the corner for the 2nd goal and just generally getting involved, ticking things over and motivat5ing the team. The crowd reaction to his introduction tells you that he is inspirational for the fans as well as the players

  • Comment number 52.

    The above-called goalkeeping question. No we don't have a problem. The thing about goalkeeping is that bad stuff is going to happen. Every week. And no-one remembers the saves. Look at other sides, world cup winning sides. Fabien Barthez. Any number of Brazilians. Rossi.
    So, which one? I would ask, which England keeper last produced an outstanding display in a big match? My answer: Paul Robinson in the 3-2 victory over Argentina. Yes, it was a friendly a few years ago, but he was brilliant.

  • Comment number 53.

    This is my world cup squad not sure if it is 22 or 23 players.

    Green, James, Foster

    Terry, Ferdinand, Johnson, Cole, Bridge, Upson, Lescott,

    Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Lennon, Carrick (would replace with hargreaves if he is fit), Milner (can cover at full back also), Beckham, Walcott


    Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Heskey, Owen (if he is fit and you can take 23 instead of 22)

  • Comment number 54.

    Feel I have to be a bit different on my selection (not much), all relying on being in form come selection time;
    James, Robinson, Hart
    Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, A.Cole, Jagielka, Richards, Warnock
    Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Walcott, J,Cole, Milner, Beckham, Hargreaves
    Rooney, Bent, Defoe, C.Cole, Owen

    Richards & Warnock both in because they're versatile and solid, although Richards needs to find his form. Warnock far better than Bridge.
    Darren Bent needs to be given a run of games, he could be perfect foil for Rooney; big, strong, fast and used to playing on his own up front (plus scores goals).

  • Comment number 55.

    Couldn't you put David Beckham on the plane next to all the 2018 bid officials?? Give him a motivational role for the squad, an ambassadorial role for the team and a relationship building role for 2018??

    You could.

    But whether that's what Mr Capello wants, I don't know.

    What I do know is this: Mr Bruce's owner is American. Mr Beckham's employer is American. And America is also in CONCACAF, which includes Jack Warner.

    And it was the Americans who preached PFI to Tony Blair.

  • Comment number 56.

    Delighted for Crouch. I think he's definitely got a ticket with his name on it now. He offers something no-one else does, and that's not just his height, though that does mean that, although his heading skills are not exceptional, he can kick a ball that's still 7 feet up in the air!

  • Comment number 57.


    I think you have firstly under estimated Haregreaves and more so how much Capello might be praying his return to fitness. I think he may replace Barry or possibly be used as an additional midfielder not because he has better ability (although possibly level on ability - Barry is a more composed and creative) but he has the tenacity and ball winning skills which would be fundamental in a World Cup, I think that up against superior opposition especially those of which can keep the ball like Spain or Brazil then a midfield duo of Lamps & Barry may be overun because they are not naturall mid field ball winners like Haregreaves or the likes of Mascherano.

    Also I think Beckham must go to the world cup becasue he can be a terrific impact player and the squad is big enough to take replacements for injury & suspension (milner & Joe Cole both versatile) as well as impact like Beckham.

    And finally if Wes Brown is fit and playing well again he could even start in South Africa because in a tournament especially after groups stages not losing is number one priority and Brown offers better credentials for this than Johnson. Negative mentality perhaps but remember Capello is Italian.

  • Comment number 58.

    Gk: James, Green, Foster
    D: Johnson, Brown, Terry, Ferdinand, Lescott, Upson, A. Cole, Bridge
    M: Lennon, Walcott, J.Cole, Gerrard, Hargreaves, Barry, Lampard, Carrick
    F: Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, Owen

    If Walcott in't fit then i'd take SWP
    If Hargreaves isn't fit then i'd take Milner
    If J.Cole isn't fit then i'd take A.Young
    If Owen isn't fit then i'd take C.Cole

    Beckham & Heskey wouldn't be on the plane bar a huge injury list.

  • Comment number 59.

    #48 - don't know what planet you are on with Hargreaves lad he is far better than Barry & Carrick. Was a key player with Bayern Munich for years winning the Bundesliga and Champions League and then the Premier League and Champions League with Man Utd - far better than no medals Barry

  • Comment number 60.

    Owen? Are you kidding me? He#s disruptive. He's selfish. He's been off form for years and should never have left Liverpool.

    Then only way Capello will pick him is if a nuclear bomb goes off and he's the only one left in the country.

    Even then I wouldn't bet on it.

  • Comment number 61.

    It's far too early to make judgement calls on a probably half of the squad - the rest of the season will sort the wheat from the chaff.

    It's pure speculation as to whether or not the long-term absentees, like Hargreaves, Cole, Downing etc. will be able to come back and play as well as they did. Only time will tell and we'll have a better idea in the new year. Would love to see Joe Cole firing again though, but only for England, not Chelsea! ;-)

    As for Beckham, I think he's a must - as is Crouch. You always need a Plan B and these two provide it, often in tandem.

    No Owen though, although that may change if he starts scoring regularly for Utd. It could be argued that with Theo Walcott able to play up top and poach goals, we only need to take four 'strikers' (Heskey, Rooney, Defoe, Crouch).

  • Comment number 62.

    The point about Beckham is that he offers something that certainly no England player can, and possibly no other player in the world. Perhaps it was a bit over-the-top to name him man of the match yesterday but he undoubtedly had a big impact on the game.

    In a perfect world you're probably right, we should have the confidence to say 'you've had your time - this team is good enough' - but in reality let's not forget the woeful performances England are capable of in major tournaments.

    The examples that spring to mind are the Trinidad & Tobago & Ecuador games at the last World Cup. If we're struggling you need the creativity of Beckham from a set piece or a sublime cross-field ball (a la Crouch's goal vs T&T) - and no-one else has that ability quite like the former captain.

    Elsewhere I'd agree with the squad at present - it virtually picks itself - but there's an awful lot of football to be played between now and June. One thing's for sure though, Mr Capello will not care one iota what the opinion of the public and press is!

  • Comment number 63.

    It's funny how Beckham has played for and been integral to the relative success of Man Utd, Real Madrid and AC Milan (pretty much the three biggest clubs in Europe) and is still considered to be rubbish by ignorant 'fans'. Best distribution in the world, best set pieces in the world, best enthusiasm and love for the shirt in the England squad, totally professional, excellent fitness levels and as has been mentioned, a habit for scoring important goals. SWP has none of these and people think he should go?! Spare me...

  • Comment number 64.

    I tend to think when the word unproven at this level yet it essentially means not good enough.

  • Comment number 65.

    i agree with all the selections although ithink that the england team picks itself nowadays,but joe cole has to go to the world cup ifhe is fit,he has to,i would of loved liverpool to sign him he is an awesome player

  • Comment number 66.

    only a fool would ignore what beckham can bring to the squad.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hmm hardly any shocking revelations in there but I am bemused by your adoration of Owen Phil.

    Tell how many goals Owen has scored in the last 2 seasons and then please define to me what a prolific striker is meant to do! Even if Owen is fit he should not automatically go, he has been poor ever since he moved to Newcastle and he hasn't exactly set Manchester on fire with his performances. I don't care if he has scored goals for England in the past, 6 years ago I could go out drinking every single night as a student, it doesn't mean that I can do it now!

    Also surprised not to see Darren Bent down as one of the outsiders but then again why would someone who can actually score consistently be given a chance when there are only two strikers who can really score goals but 3 target men in Capello's squads.

  • Comment number 68.

    Phil - I don't know what you have against Beckham, but he deservedly won motm last night. His calming presence when he came on the pitch, his pin point delivery, and his ability on the dead ball (lampard's corners were pretty woeful last night) means he has to come.

    I wouldn't play him from the start, but as someone to come on and offer us something different if we're chasing a game, or someone to help us close games out he's second to none. Class always shines through.

  • Comment number 69.

    Well naturally you are enticing debate, but i do not agree with some of your points.
    For example Lennon losing his place to Walcott, I find slightly strange given both players performances of late. Although I am not a fan of swp, i can see, and think he should be on the plane as back up.

    I would be very surprised if Beckham was not on the plane also, yes he prob wont start games, but he is great to bring on, on the last 20 mins or so.

  • Comment number 70.

    amasing how many people think hargreaves should be in the squad for the world cup.

    Do get me wrong, he would have been a great asset if he was the player he was prior to his injuries - a starter in centre mid. But the reality is he hasn't kicked a ball in anger for TWO years, will be lucky if he comes back even half as good as he was and that is certainly highly unlikely to happen this season - given that he has missed pre season, will take a long time to regain match fitness, touch and sharpness and will have to do all that while trying to surplant man u's other midfielders!

    I would like him to be fit but its an ask of mammoth proportions...can't help thinking it is more wishful thinking...doubt capello will take the gamble

  • Comment number 71.

    ill keep it short and sweet......if barry is centre midfield we will win nothing, he is poor, he is never seen when playing against decent opposition in the premier league (gods knows what would happen when we come up against the worlds best)

  • Comment number 72.

    NOT DAVID BECKHAM !!!!!! To old, can't do 90 minutes, he is now a part time footballer and we cannot take passengers to a world cup. Move on, he's had his day

  • Comment number 73.

    I was at Wembley last night and when Beckham came on he lifted the crowd and expectations a bit. Suddenly there was some attacking passes being pinged about the park, namely by Beckham. I agree the man of the match thing was perhaps silly but then again perhaps Beckham was the only one who deserved it. Either way don't hold it against Beckham, it wasn't his decision.

    Meanwhile, Barry was AWFUL. He kept losing the ball, passing back or moving back to accept pass backs. He was embarrassing considering this was played on our home turf and against such rubbish opposition.

    Don't get me wrong we cheered the team on and had a great time. Walking out and performing in front of so many people is never gonna be easy but even the two girls sat behind me started getting annoyed at Barry.

    Also and revealingly every time Crouch got the ball they just laughed - he might be a nice guy but world class striker he is not - just quite amusing.

    Beckham was really good when he came on. Remember that pass he sent to Crouch in the middle that Crouch managed to chest half way across the pitch? If that pass had been to a decent striker....

    Get off Beckhams back. Yes he's a baby girl but frankly last night he was the only one sending any decent passes around. Barry should not be in the team on last nights evidence.

  • Comment number 74.

    To classify Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves as "outsiders" is strange to say the least. Both were guaranteed starters before their injuries (and critically are proven at this level). The only thing that will stop them being on the plane is how well they recover from injury. Now while it is quite possible neither will be the same player again, it is equally plausible that they could recover comnpletely, which would make them highly likely to go, at least in my book.

    As for Beckham, I would take him for the simple reason that he offers something different from the flank and could turn a game on its head. Those who claim he can't last 90 minutes are repeating an often quoted myth - where's their proof of this? Allied with his passion for playing for England, I think he should definitely go (and I see no reason why he shouldn't start).

    Michael Owen - would stand a chance of going if he gets enough games and goals for United, but I can't really see it. Capello won't take him, in my view.

    Goalkeepers - I've never really been sure why we need to take 3. The likelihood of 2 being injured is relatively low, and if we took 2 and 1 was injured I think FIFA would allow a replacement to be called in anyway. I would take James and Green (would rather Green was 1st choice).

    Finally I can't see Jack Rodwell being anywhere near the squad at the moment. He needs a blistering season to get there, but that's a very long shot.

  • Comment number 75.

    I cannot believe the Beckham hype is still continuing! He won man of the match yesterday under the most ridiculous circumstances I have ever seen! ITV tried to pick out his best moments after the match and showed 3 admitly ambitious passes only one of which ended up with England having the ball and that was only because the English forward was faster than the belo russian defender.

    Mentioning his involvement in Wright-Phillips goal is absurd. It was a short corner and Wright-Phillips did all the work.

    It was not a bad performance I suppose but it was certainly not good.

  • Comment number 76.

    I don't understand the Heskey argument.If David Beckham has to move to AC Milan to prove his match fitness,surely Heskey has to be playing first team football to be considered for the world cup.I personally would pick Peter Crouch over Heskey as he is a far better all round player.He stands on his feet,his distribution is good ,he holds play up well and provides a scoring threat.Heskey goes down under the slightest challenge and loses the ball far too easily resulting in it coming back to our defenders too quickly.Surely a manager as astute as Fabio Cappello can see this.

  • Comment number 77.

    Phil, first of all, am an avid reader of your blog, its always a good read.

    You've some interesting opinions on the matter of world cup squad. In particular the verdict on Becks and Owen. I must say I think England we completely different (as in so much better) when Beckham came on last night and in fact I believe he (and Joe Cole) will go ahead of Lennon and Wright-Phillips as he offers something different to those two and Walcott. As I see it, there's no point being a mazy winger if you can't pass or finish. Lennon has improved, but he still does neither of these things well and when I say pass I don't just mean put in a cross or pass the ball on the deck to a team mate. I mean pick out a through ball or dink one over like Becks so often does and then of course there is his threat from set pieces. You can't tell me you wouldn't have been twice as confident of a goal if Becks had been stepping up to take the free kicks that Lampard did.

    As for Owen, I am a big fan like you, but unless his fortunes take a dramatic turn and Capello morphs into another manager I rate his chances as poor at best. I'd love to see a firing Michael Owen at the World Cup and believe that with a fit Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves England could have a squad with excellent depth, but I just don't see it happening. On current form, Darren Bent has a better chance of making the plane than little Mickey.

  • Comment number 78.

    I cant help but think everyone who says "leave becham at home" is just jumping on the band wagon of all the rest of the beckham haters.
    I mean come on, if you know anything about football you know he is probably the best impact substitue that we have. I dont particularly like the whole superstar image thing, but the guy offers us something. Something more than pace (which we have options for)
    And besides that he offers us experience and 110% when he hits the turf.

    So have a word with yourself Phil and realise the errors of your ways!

  • Comment number 79.

    For everyone who is so desperate for Joe Cole to get fit and more so start during the world cup (Im not questioning the guy is quality) where would you play him?

    If it stays as a four four two then either Lamps or Barry get dropped and Gerrard back in the middle or Gerrard out and Joe Cole in? Alternativle keep it the same and use Cole on the right which is a position which still seems up for grabs although I think thats a non starter Cole is much better operating on the left.

    Although if I am honest Gerrard needs to play either off a striker or where he is now on the left because when Rooney and Gerrards switching positions and movement certainly gave Croatia problems which is maybe the only game we can say is against semi-suitable oppo (Ukraine on saturday would be mentioned but down to 10 man inside 20mins leaves it uncomparable).

    Sorry Joe I think on the plane... but also the bench.


  • Comment number 80.

    Heres a novel idea that can end the ongoing Heskey/Rooney saga....

    In the next game or two, play Rooney and Crouch together!!

    If England play well, score a goal or two, perhaps even win against Brazil, then we can put to bed this bizarre theory that these good results are becuase heskey is playing and performing some magic that nobody can actually see!

  • Comment number 81.

    Beckham if fit will definately be in South Africa even with a slight injury. Michael Owen will not be in South Africa, even if he ends up top striker this season, unless there is a disaster with all the other named forwards - Young & Agbonlahor will both be ahead of him. Phil the likes of you and the rest of other fans need to know this. Capello is not a Mclaren, Hoddle,or any other English manager that takes players based on past history. We've have all seen it in teams he has managed

  • Comment number 82.

    If all the players were fully fit, this would be my squad:

    James, Green, Foster

    Johnson, Brown, Ferdinand, Terry, Upson, A.Cole, Lescott

    Walcott, Lennon, Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick, Hargreaves, Barry, J. Cole, Milner

    Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Owen

    Not much to pick from goalkeepers, Green is probably the most consistent, whilst James and Foster are capable of making world class saves but their decision making can be so poor sometimes that they are made to look worse than they are.

    In defence, Johnson is the best at the moment, not as good as Gary Neville was defensively in the past, but the best we have got. Terry, Rio and A. Cole are certain, whilst the rest can provide good back up whilst Brown and Lescott can play in various positions.

    In midfield, Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, J. Cole and Walcott should go if fully fit. Hargreaves is great and we know what he can do, whilst Carrick is the best passer and on his day, can create chances out of nothing. Lennon has so far been playing really well and would be a great option and Milner has also contributed highly enough to go. Beckham is quality, but is too old and Milner can make a similar contribution to him and do more and even Carrick can to a certain degree (from central mid) so Beckham should miss out, but will probably be there.

    Rooney, Defoe and Crouch can score so they pick themselves, whislt Owen, if fully fit, is our best goalscorer, so should go if he is performing. Heskey is great, but that part of his game will not be effective against the likes of Brazil, Spain, etc, where you need players with real skill and finishing ability.

    That would be my squad, but it is just an opinion and obviously Capello knows more than I do, so I will be happy with whatever squad he picks!

  • Comment number 83.

    We have moved on from Beckham, he is no longer first on the team sheet. In fact, he is not always on the team sheet very much and not even on the bench sometimes. If you are saying we should drop him so we can move on from the last era then what about Lampard, Gerrard etc etc. I think if Beckahm is playing in serie A and playing well then he should be on the plane. He can offer us something different at the end of the game. If we are under some pressure he can put the ball straight up the other end of the pitch and with our pace players our counter attack will scare other players even more with Beckhams passing! Media people keep saying we need to move on and forget about Beckham is because they want to keep this story going as if it was really their choice I think 99% would give Beckham a ticket to South Africa!

  • Comment number 84.

    Agree largely with what you say. Although I would take Becks. Why take the chance of leaving him out? England have several Midfield options but that guy's delivery may be the difference in a tight game where pace is ineffective.

    I hope you ARE building yourself up for the "Well I said not to take Beckham ages ago" argument once England fail. And that he proves you & all other doubters wrong.

    Come on England.

  • Comment number 85.

    I can’t believe what some people post on this blog, Beckham should be there no matter what, if it was up to me Beckham would be in my starting 11. He is a great ambassador for the game and gives 110% when he plays, he’s passing, crossing, fitness and football brain is World Class. Walcott and Lennon (SWP) are good but they are not proven on international stage especially in the Euro and World Cup against big teams like Spain and Brazil. Plus they too attacking minded and if you play Johnson (who is very attacking full back but not the greatest defender) that right side could be very shaky and unstable!
    If J.Cole, Hargreaves and Owen are fit they should be in the squad. In big competitions you need experience and they are World Class players!
    Crouch and should not be in a team pull stop. Yeah he scores goals against the likes of Belarus but would he score against teams like Spain, France etc? He is not even a regular at Spurs! This is why England hasn’t won anything for so long!!!

    My team and starting 11:

    James, Green, Foster
    Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Upson, A.Cole, Bridge, Brown
    Walcott, Barry, Beckham, Hargreaves, Lampard, Gerrard, J. Cole, Milner
    Rooney, Owen, Defoe, C.Cole, Heskey

    Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, A.Cole
    Beckham, Hargreaves, Lampard, J.Cole
    Gerrard Rooney

  • Comment number 86.

    BBC quote from Capello to support my earlier comment about Beckham, but most important a little insight of how Cappello thinks:

    "With Beckham, the most important thing is that he has to play," stated Capello.

    "For me it is very important because Beckham, when he plays, whether it is five minutes, 20 minutes or half an hour, he always plays very well. He is focused on the game. This is important.

    "Sometimes players when they come on, have difficulty to enter the game but David always plays very well."

  • Comment number 87.

    Agree with the majority of the blog.

    If Joe Cole is fit then he HAS to go to the World Cup. He's the most creative midfielder we have, he's the only wide player we have who can consistently beat defenders with skill rather than pure pace (Walcott & Lennon) and has been consistently the best option we have on the left of midfield.

    As for Owen, I know you're a huge fan Phil, but I just cannot see him playing enough games to show Capello he's worth taking - he's not going to displace Berbatov or Rooney unless there are injuries, and even then his fitness is still a huge question mark.

    I'd take a fit Jagielka over Upson or Lescott and possibly Leighton Baines over Bridge. Other than that I can't see anyone really breaking into the squad now except maybe Milner - I don't see Hargreaves staying fit and I don't see any other youngsters who are likely to stake a claim.

  • Comment number 88.

    Rio is still another class, he has to go. If Hargreaves is playing by Christmas and playing well he should go. Owen's only hope is prolonged fitness and Fergie falling out of love with Berbs. If Rooney and Owen are playing together and scoring for United they'd be impossible to turn down as an England strike force. Agree that SWP is very good but not quite there when next to Walcott and Lennon, but there's plenty of time for that. I hope Joe Cole starts playing regularly and well. As for goalkeeper I think we should petition Nigel Martyn to reconsider retirement.

    I would hope to take:

    James, Robinson, Green

    Terry, Rio, Upson, Johnson, Brown, Richards, Cole

    Barry, Carrick, Hargreaves, Lampard, Gerrard, Cole, Lennon, Walcott, Beckham

    Rooney, Owen, Crouch, Defoe

    Barry can cover LB, we'd have plenty of potential RB cover so we wouldn't have to waste Hargreaves there, CB is well covered as both Brown and Richards can do the job there. I would rather see Brown than Johnson at RB against a tram with a brilliant left wing, becase of the old story about Johnsons defending. On the subject of LW, it's the same old story for England. My squad doesn't have much cover there, especially if Cole isn't fit. I may be tempted to sacrifice Carrick/Lennon/Walcott/Beckham for a Downing or a Milner, depending on form. However I'm sure I remember Hargreaves being a winger in the early days at Bayern.

  • Comment number 89.

    Phil, thank god you are not England manager.

  • Comment number 90.

    A Blog worth reading Phil.

    However I still can't understand you're refusal to acknowledge beckham as a quality player who should definitely go to the world cup. I don't understand where this constant dismissing of him comes from?

    a)Almost every time he has come on in games over the past 2 years he more often than not changes them for the better and the goals which were frustratingly lacking, suddenly start to flow. I really would take up the whole page pointing out examples of this.

    b) In 2006 I think almost every england goal cam from his assists. We could hardly score from anywhere else.

    c) Nobody puts in as much effort and determination as him consistently apart from maybe Terry and Rooney.

    d) He lifts the young players and is a perfect example of experience, application and dedication for big tournaments.

    e) His dead balls (as a substitute or not) are second to none.

    f) Despite his lack of pace he seems to be Englands main impact player from the bench.

    g) People think his move to galaxy somehow stripped him of all his quality. He is still the same player and seems to be carrying that side through many games scoring and assisting often.

    h) England will always score more goals with him than without him

    i) when one of our young players is having a frustrating game against a pacy, strong left back (lennon, SWP, Walcott) - which will happen against big sides. Who will come on and give something different? They're all pretty much the same type of player, sometimes you need a player who doesnt have to try and beat his man or just run into nowhere, Just get the ball in the box perfectly from nothing and work hard to press every player. Beckham doesnt need much space, he can cross and pass with the best of them!

    So although I can understand him not starting every game, he should definitely be in ahead of SWP and on equal par with lennon and walcott for importance. He will make a difference coming on as a sub, I almost guarantee it!

  • Comment number 91.

    Good lord, i sometimes wonder if people actually watch the games before they comment on here. Phil, ignore most of the people on here because they are clueless.

    Beckham should NOT go to the World Cup. The man has lost it. He's the last person we want to bring on with 15mins to go. When the opposition defence are tiring, we need to be bringing on pace. Bringing Beckham on would hand the opposition the upper hand because he is quite possibly the slowest footballer i have ever seen.
    Also, some people have been saying that he can come inside and shore up the central midfield area. Why would we want him to do this?!? It would leave the right back exposed! And against a world class team we'd get torn to shreds down that flank.
    Beckham cannot defend AT ALL. There were times last night when he lost the ball, and couldn't catch up with the player to get it back! And when he did finally catch up with the other player, he gave away freekicks. Whereas pacy players like Johnson etc can easily catch up and make the tackle without giving away a foul. And before you say anything, i do not think Johnson is a brilliant defender. He's just a hell of a lot better than Beckham at going forward AND defending.

    How the hell did Beckham get man of the match last night?!? The only thing of note that he did was take the short corner to SWP. Which, let's face it, any sunday league player could have made that pass. SWP still had to create the space and finish.
    OK, Beckham can play a pretty good cross field ball. But so can Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Carrick, etc etc. Beckham is not the only one who can do it.

    Freekicks - Beckham's scoring rate isn't that amazing. Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney etc are all adept at scoring from freekicks. I'm not saying their ratio's are any better than Beckham's, i'm just opening your eyes to the other options we have.

    I just wish the majority of this nation would analyse a game and a player on their merits as opposed to through rose-tinted spectacles.

    I would love England to win the WC. But we won't. I'm a realist. That's what makes me successful at the bookies! I fully get behind the team, but i call things as i see them and i live in the real world. Crouch is not a quality striker. His scoring record is impressive, but when you consider he never scores against quality opposition it's not so impressive. He wouldn't get a sniff against Spain, Brazil, Germany etc. Other than Rooney, the forward line is where England are struggling.

  • Comment number 92.

    Let's take a few points to get things going - first of all I appreciate the constructive nature of the debate. World Cup squads will always be contentious.

    I have to challenge the view that I have something against David Beckham. I have to say I did feel that despite his undoubted brilliance in his prime, I felt there was too much emphasis on style and not enough on substance on occasions.

    I revised that opinion after watching the dignified way in which he responded to being dropped by Steve McClaren, fought his way back into the squad and showed his desire by flying around the world to keep his hopes alive. He has my complete respect for that - fighting on when he could have given up and never indulging in any public criticism of an England regime.

    Beckham has not, even at his peak, made a hugely significant impact in his last three major tournaments with England. I am not sure it will be any different now and feel it is time to move on.

    I appreciate all this talk of a vital free-kick here or a corner there, but can he still hurt top-class opposition? Can he still dictate the tempo and control a game against, say, Spain or the other top teams England may meet? I question that.

    If we are having a wild card selection, which is what Beckham would be, then I would go for Joe Cole.

    I have to say that having heard Fabio Capello talk so warmly about him last night, then Beckham is clearly under serious consideration.

    Just a take on post 74. I only labelled Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves as "outsiders" based on their potential recovery from injury as opposed to talent. In the case of Cole, I would be considering him for the starting line-up if he proves himself.

    I would consider putting him on the left and dropping Steven Gerrard in behind Wayne Rooney in a similar fashion to the way he plays behind Fernando Torres at Liverpool.

    If the theory is that Emile Heskey's presence makes Rooney play better, then surely a world-class player like Gerrard can do that also.

    Now on to Darren Bent. To poster 33, GuusMourEss, if you follow my blog I am a genuine admirer of Darren Bent and have said so many times. If you offered me a choice of him, Carlton Cole and Emile Heskey for my Premier League team, I would pick Bent every time. Reason? He has pace and is, more importantly, a goalscorer.

    I just don't think Capello is sold on him and believe he would have to do something extraordinary to change that view.

    Interesting post about Bolton's Kevin Davies by the way. Is there actually much difference between him and Heskey? I'm not sure there is actually - except Davies scores more goals and is certainly more of a physical nuisance.

    Heskey is Capello's man though and we have to accept that.

    As for Micah Richards, I think Capello may have given up on him some time ago and he is not even assured of a place in Manchester City's line-up these days. What has happened to this once outstanding young prospect?

    Keep all the views coming. This one could run until the day the squad is names.

  • Comment number 93.

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

  • Comment number 94.

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

  • Comment number 95.

    Becks has got to be on the plane. Typical that the Top English scorer in the Premier (Bent) not even mentioned by Phil, if Cappello is picking on form then why isn't Bent not even getting into the squad. How can Heskey who hasn't scored or Owen be considered.

  • Comment number 96.

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

  • Comment number 97.

    MrBlueburns and, to a much lesser extent, Coweslepe: this great Lampard you hold in such high esteem, overshadowed in 30 minutes by Beckham, a player you would probably consider past it.

    Again, although his stats may show a high pass rate, none of them were of any great effect, or opened any doors for the forwards. *shock* who would have thought.

    Incidentally, I've been trying to work out why it is that, when he makes the safe, high-percentage pass to the full backs (as is his usual way), he then runs right up to the opposition player nearest him. Watch him next game; he does it every time.

    I've finally realised that's his version of pass and move, not his unwillingness to show for the ball. He prefers to leave the passing to other people and get on the end of the ball, in which case he's unsuitable to play in the position given to him for England.

    It was shown in stark contrast when Beckham came on and, having made a simple pass to the wing (he's capable of doing the simple passes as well as the laser-guided long rangers), he then pulls away from the opposition player so he's available for the out ball if his teammate is put under pressure.

    You see the same from Xavi, Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Scholes, Pirlo... in fact, from all the best passing midfielders. They pass and then make space for themselves and their teammates, because they're hungry to have the ball at their feet again.

    The upshot of this is that, to work better, the team shape needs to drastically change; Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard all like being on the end of knockdowns and lay-offs, rather than lying deep and making the passes. I'd suggest a decent hold-up striker who is actually a threat with the ball too (Cole) with Rooney behind to the left, Gerrard to the right and Lampard down the middle would be much more effective. The middle of the park would then be marshalled by Barry / Hargreaves (deeper) and Beckham (playmaker), with the full backs providing proper width. Rooney could easily swap with Carlton Cole, and Joe Cole could swap in on the left. Easy

  • Comment number 98.

    So Heskey is a certainty and Beckham isn't? Strange, Beckham can still make a difference while Heskey never made a difference nor has he ever made an impact on a true international level. To me Heskey is a just a poor-man's version of Kuyt. I would even rate Jason Roberts more then Heskey.

  • Comment number 99.

    Im sure other people have mentioned this but surely Darren Bent is in with a small chance of sneaking into the World Cup Squad!

    Has height, pace, power and has shown this season so far that he can finish!

    The highest scoring England player in the Premiership this season and must surely get his chance along side Rooney in any upcoming friendlies.

  • Comment number 100.

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


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