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Are England in shape for South Africa?

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Phil McNulty | 16:00 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010

Fabio Capello's mission to become the "Ghostbuster" of England's football history starts in a month's time in the surroundings of Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

As England prepare to take on the United States in an area rich in platinum mines, Capello now has just a few short weeks to polish the gems in his collection in readiness for the country's latest attempt to claim the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

Capello is trying to bridge a 44-year gap that has become a constant source of hope, expectation and ultimately disappointment. So how does England's squad stand as the clock ticks closer to kick-off in South Africa?

a_johnson_afp_blog.jpgWill Adam Johnson be a surprise inclusion in England's World Cup squad - photo: AFP

Uneasily might be the first word that springs to mind, as Capello openly betrays his uncertainty about England's defensive resources by picking Tottenham captain Ledley King - despite his unorthodox regime of interrupting rest for his ravaged knees by playing football matches at elite level.

And even more so by the renewed courting of Jamie Carragher, who is being tempted out of self-imposed England exile and into the same circumstances that forced him there in the first place, namely by accepting his lot as fourth-choice central defender and deputy right-back, this time to his Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson.

Capello will hope the next four weeks bring the stability and continuity required to plan for success in South Africa.

England's supporters can at least rest easy in the knowledge that they have a coach who is spectacularly unmoved by the heavy load of history and expectation that will accompany the squad on their flight out of London at the start of June.

Capello's clear-headed, ruthless, and pragmatic approach is among his greatest strengths and he detached himself from any emotion involved in the sport's greatest showpiece long ago.

He said: "I have tried to take a detached view from this 'not having won in 44 years' idea. When I first got here we had this Croatian ghost after England did not qualify for Euro 2008.

"I hope the same thing happens with the ghost of '66. I like the 'Ghostbusters' idea. Let's go with that because I want to take this team as far as possible."

What Capello cannot separate himself from are the doubts still surrounding key elements of his team as they try to banish the spectre of Wembley in 1966 and create new glories.

England go into the campaign with question marks hanging over the quality of their goalkeepers. Brazil's legendary 1970 team may have had enough world-class quality stamped through it to cope with the handicap of a comedy keeper in the hapless figure of Felix. The same hardly applies to England.

And the fear remains that Capello's lack of an undisputed and utterly reliable first-choice will return to haunt England when it matters most in South Africa.

David James will feel he is in prime position to start - a tribute to the Portsmouth keeper's longevity but arguably just as much of a condemnation of his rivals who have failed to see off the challenge of a man who will be 40 in August.

Joe Hart, the outstanding English goalkeeper this season, appears to be regarded as too inexperienced to be handed the gloves against the United States, although his ability to take a penalty may add to his credentials as the World Cup progresses.

Robert Green had mixed fortunes at West Ham United this season, while James has another chance to show his ability on the big stage when Portsmouth round off their traumatic season against Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

No-one doubts James' natural ability, but his reliability has always been a matter for debate. It is a flaw he will not cure now and it is to be hoped it is not on the agenda in South Africa.

Capello's defence, on paper, looks settled. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the centre with Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole on the flanks. It is, however, hardly an area free from worries.

Johnson has not justified the £17m Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez handed over to Portsmouth last summer. Johnson has been, well, Johnson. He is an impressive attacking talent but remains highly vulnerable defensively.

Some of his more uncertain moments, especially in Liverpool's unsuccessful campaigns in the Champions League and Europa League, will have been duly noted by any potential England opponents.

Terry and Ferdinand have been England's trusted bedrock for years, and while they represent the mark of quality, Capello will require hard evidence over the next few weeks that the troubles they have had are behind them.

Ferdinand, who assumed the captaincy stripped from Terry, has no doubters on grounds of class. He remains one of the game's most enduring world-class defenders, but his fitness has been a source of concern for some months both with club and country.

If Ferdinand stays fit, he will play a huge part in any success England enjoy - and Capello will keep everything crossed that this is the case.

It has been suggested that personal problems have driven at the heart of Terry's form, a charge vehemently denied by the player himself.

And for all the criticism he has received for the occasional off-colour performance, he has captained Chelsea to the title and has the opportunity of leading them to an historic Double. This alone suggests there is enough gas left in Terry's tank.

But when no less an authority on defensive matters than BBC football pundit Alan Hansen is prepared to declare that Terry has had an "indifferent season" then you understand why he will come under close scrutiny.

Capello will need to construct his cover for Ferdinand and Terry carefully, and this is where King comes in. A freak of nature, King is able to defy the difficulty of being unable to train and still deliver quality performances when it matters.

Spurs' boss Harry Redknapp believes the World Cup's format and gaps between games, particularly early on, will suit King's recovery period and after watching him perform at Manchester United and Manchester City in recent weeks, it is easy to see why Capello appears prepared to make an exception for his obvious fitness problems.

Carragher's potential presence in South Africa is more of a surprise, especially given his resolve never to play for England again after retiring during the Steve McClaren era.

Capello, a man happy to select players for today because tomorrow might never come
in a World Cup, admires the backs-to-the-wall defensive style of Carragher, but again it underlines worries about the form and fitness of West Ham United's Matthew Upson and Manchester City's Joleon Lescott, who has suffered on both counts this season.

Capello has no worries at left-back, not as the world-class Ashley Cole is restored to full working order. He remains a truly outstanding defender and someone the Italian can count on against any opponent.

Wayne Bridge's decision to retire from England duty after allegations Terry had a relationship with his former girlfriend was agonising personally, but hardly a seismic blow for England. Everton's Leighton Baines is the better player and would prove a more than able deputy for Cole if needed.

England's midfield is laced with quality, but once again Capello will have to perform a delicate balancing act, given his publicly stated intention to go with two forwards at all times in the shape of Wayne Rooney and one other.

Capello likes Frank Lampard in the centre with Steven Gerrard pushing in from the left flank to support England's two strikers. Will the injury suffered by Gareth Barry, a constant during the Capello reign, affect his thinking?

Michael Carrick has had an undistinguished season at Manchester United, so who Capello trusts to be Barry's replacement - or if he switches Gerrard into a more central role and starts the old debate about whether he can play with Lampard - will be intriguing.

Aston Villa's James Milner has shown the intelligence and versatility to be considered for this vital position if Barry is ruled out, but Capello may want this rapidly developing young player for other work.

Spurs' midfielder Tom Huddlestone and West Ham's Scott Parker have their backers, but it would be a major surprise if they jumped from relative obscurity straight into a World Cup campaign. The same applies to Owen Hargreaves after his lengthy injury absence.

Capello have plenty of options on the flanks, but who is making the most forceful case for inclusion, especially with David Beckham removed from the equation?

Arsenal's Theo Walcott is liked and trusted by Capello, but he has hardly shone at the Emirates in an injury-troubled campaign, while across north London at White Hart Lane Aaron Lennon appeared to be on the brink of making the position on the right side his own until he was struck down by injury.

Walcott was the shock - make that nonsensical - inclusion by Sven-Goran Eriksson in England's 2006 World Cup squad, and there is growing support for Manchester City's Adam Johnson to board the plane to South Africa.

johnson_blog_afp.jpgGlen Johnson has been a regular starter for England but has faced criticism - photo: AFP

He is tall, two-footed and can deliver quality crosses with consistency. My only worry about Johnson is that he has tired consistently in games where I have seen him this season. Stamina may be a factor, but he is a very gifted player, certainly my preferred option to his Eastlands colleague Shaun Wright-Phillips.

In attack it is as much a case of a prayer as a question. Will Wayne Rooney stay fit? If he does not, then while England's World Cup chances would not be wiped out completely they would suffer a devastating blow.

The likelihood is that he will be partnered in attack by Emile Heskey, despite the lack of anything to go on from the Aston Villa striker this season. Sunderland's Darren Bent has made a much more compelling case for inclusion, but there seems to be a school of thought that he is not an England player.

This is not a view shared by former England striker Gary Lineker, who believes Bent should go ahead of Heskey, although like myself he believes this is not the selection Capello will make.

I would take Bent ahead of Heskey every time - and I would use 24 Premier League goals against three as Exhibit A to press my case - but the latter's supporters point to England's successes with him in the side and it is difficult to argue against it.

Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch will be the other strikers, although it will be interesting to see if Capello resists the temptation to take a fifth striker in his final squad of 23.

So, one month to go and plenty for Capello to pore over - the good news for England supporters is that he has proved he has an uncanny knack of making the big calls correctly.

Do it again and Capello the "Ghostbuster" will be in good shape for a serious tilt at World Cup glory.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I really hope Adam Johnson goes, he starts ahead of Cul-de-sac SWP at City as it is...

    And Milner is a definite starter for me, well ahead of Gerrard.

    I'd also definitely love to see Ledley in the team, when he is fit he is an absolute rock, such a shame he has chronic knee problems or he'd be one of the best in the world

  • Comment number 2.

    But Carragher has to be a joke right? Solid in the Prem but seriously? It's like having Gary Neville in the squad, he's a legend but would be found out against the worlds best...

  • Comment number 3.

    How amazing would it be for Hargreaves to come straight back into the squad? He was a stand-out performer at the last world cup and I'd love to see him do it again, he has the talent but the extra month or so it took him to recover ended his hope of getting match practice

  • Comment number 4.

    Tum te tum...
    Since we're talking about shock call-ups (If we were tempting anyone out of international retirement my first call would be to Paul Scholes) and a bit of uncertainty on strikers, can I put Dean Windass forward?? I'd love to see him at the World Cup.... :)

  • Comment number 5.

    When fit ledley king is englands best centre back in my opinion and it should be ferdinand and king at the back but taking him to the world cup will be a risk. Also heskey is not interantional class, i can see a chance falling to him at a pivotal point in englands campiagn and him missing it. I would take carrick ahead of parker but i would play gerrard and lampard in the middle with adam jonhson on the left

  • Comment number 6.

    in my opinion , in defense capello should start with terry and dawson , both are great center backs , in some fine form and if you look at their performance throughout the season(apart from 1 or 2 matches of terry) both have been brilliant ....right back should be glenn johnson and no debate over left back where ashley cole is untouchable .as his deputy baines is perfect imo .. and please stop criticising terry so much , hes had a decent season and was great for 3/4th of the season ...

    As for the strikers , i think capello should take 4 strikers .. rooney,crouch,defoe and bent . capello likes playing rooney with a big man and i think crouch fits the bill more than heskey who has rarely played in 2010 .. in my opinion england should play with a 4-5-1 with rooney up front alone like the way he played for manutd for most of the season ...

    Scott parker is the best option for barry's replacement in my opinion . As for the right side of midfield , capello should start with lennon and use walcott after 60-65 mins when walcott can be most useful ... the only area of midfield that is weak is the left side of it . i would love to see gerrard play in a more central role , if he plays behind the striker i.e rooney just like he played behind torres for liverpool last season , only then i think he can make the most contribution ..

  • Comment number 7.

    Hey Phil, enjoyed the article. What are your thoughts on Bobby Zamora for 5th striker? He's been a revelation for Fulham this season, is one of the best players at holding up play in the Premiership, and has scored more than Heskey whilst essentially playing the same role.

  • Comment number 8.

    England should think about Lennon and Walcott on the sides

    They need pace, they need to start playing the football that is famous in the Premier LEague.

    The only problem is the strike partner of Rooney, I would prefer Peter Crouch over Heskey as Crouch finds a goal somehow, no matter how he scores them !!

  • Comment number 9.

    Really not a single word about Michael Dawson, Phil? He's almost as good as King, and clearly had a better season than Upson or poor old Carragher, not to speak about Lescott. Dawson should be at least in the provisional squad tomorrow.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good article Phil. I cant wait till the tournament starts. I think we have a genuine chance of doing well this season. But if we don't succeed, we cant blame the injuries. Spain are having an incredible amount of injury problems just a month before the tournament kicks off. These are the players that will miss south africa or will go there having finished the season injured:

    Fabregas, Senna, Xavi, Iniesta, pique and torres. Thats 6 first teamers doubtful. All of these players would walk into the england national team.

    Phil do you think all these injuries have hampered spain's chances of lifting the trophy? Or perhaps given England an advantage if they face each other? Which cant happen until the final but hey- we can dream!

  • Comment number 11.

    Personally I don;t think Heskey will start. He hasn't actually played for England in a while, I think we may see Crouch starting instead.

    I also think that the fact you didn't mention Michael Dawson once is shocking. Forgetting Cara, who's past his best, and King who'll probably be walking with a stick before he's 34, Dawson has surely been the contender. Watching Spurs, King has been great when he's played but what does he do that actually puts him a ahead of Dawson? Seems to me his team mate does just as well as him and boasts a fitness record that King could only dream of.

  • Comment number 12.

    The argument against Ledley King is that he does not have the durability to play back-to-back games. But as he will not be a first-choice central defender this should not stop him going. King would be the ideal man to step in if Terry or Ferdinand were to take a knock or face a one-match suspension. And I would take Dawson ahead of Upson or Lescott, along with Wes Brown as he can also cover for right back. Carragher should not even come into the equation. He is not the player he was three years ago.

  • Comment number 13.

    Let's put Capello's statement about picking players on form and not reputation to the test by having in-form Ledley King and Michael Dawson instead of out of form John Terry and Rio Ferdinand

  • Comment number 14.

    I am utterly sick of this Johnson bating. The bloke is a top quality ATTACKING full back. Yes, notice the important word in there. I don't see the same countless articles and debates about Dani Alves, of course not, he is Brazilian therefore people obviously applaud his attacking qualities and see it as a healthy trade of for his defensive short comings.

    Johnson really is not as bad at the back as people make out, and his overlapping, dribbling, passing, crossing, cutting inside, general attacking play is top notch. Give the lad a break, he has had a tough season with injuries, and bearing that in mind he has done pretty well for Liverpool. I for one fully expect him to have a brilliant world cup - he is the best option we have, and a dam good one at that.

  • Comment number 15.

    What about Joe Cole?

  • Comment number 16.

    Phil I find it disgraceful there is no mention of Michael Dawson, who's probably been the most consistent CB in the League this year. Didn't Capello say he'll pick players based on form?

  • Comment number 17.

    How about young or agbonlahor ? They add the option of being able to take a fifth striker who can also add something interesting on the wing. Or, i've been pushing this agenda for ages, Carlton Cole in the Heskey role. He can hold the ball up, be a handful for defenders, run at players, is in good (not great) form and (crucially) can hit the back of the net.

  • Comment number 18.

    Two names.... Sol Campbell... Carlton Cole. Both should have been mentioned somewhere in this piece Phil. How on Earth is Carragher a better prospective replacement for CB than Sol? In terms of fitness, performance and experience Sol has Carragher trumped. Carltin Cole has been a regular feature of Capellos qualifying squads too.

  • Comment number 19.

    I will be very disappointed if Heskey goes to the world cup. Bent should be picked. Maybe Crouch starting with Rooney and Defoe & Bent on the bench. That way "IF" Rooney isn't fit or even worse, becomes injured in South Africa, we will still have goals in the team (case in point Euro 2004 - Metetarsal and Germany 2006 - Sent Off).
    Also. Dawson should be picked over Carragher and Upson. Definately.
    Saying all that. Fabio Capello is one of the finest managers in the world and in my opinion along with Marcelo Lippi, is the best Manager going to the World Cup. I trust him to at least get us to the Semi-Finals.

    Three Lions!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    jack wilshire ;)

  • Comment number 21.

    My England XI Vs. USA

    1. David James - saved Portsmouth from having a far worse GD of -32.

    2. Glen Johnson - 20 caps, should help Lennon attack on the right wing
    3. Ashley Cole - No explanation needed.
    4. Jamie Carragher - Rio's played 11 league games all season, Jamie's back
    5. John Terry - With the Bridge saga almost old news started to play back to his best.

    6. Tom Huddlestone - One of Spurs' best player, Capello picks form players.
    7. Aaron Lennon - Pace to burn, think he will finally shine in an England shirt
    8. Frank Lampard - Could develop a great partnership with Milner.
    9. James Milner - (Left of CM), been inspirational for villa.
    11. Steven Gerrard (C) - Just behind Rooney, his favourite position

    10. Wayne Rooney - No explanation needed. My bet for World Cup Golden Boot.

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree with what Figo said. Looking at the England squad, I don't think that England is better that Portugal, for example. England is at par with Portugal and Germany, even Denmark, and slightly behind Holland, and the other usual suspects at world level. I would rank England 4 or 5 going into the WC.
    I have seen England under Capello play the Spain, France and Brazil, and they did not look good. Qualification and group stages of the WC are one hing, going into the KO stages is another.
    Capello has a selection headache but leaving out Heskey is a no brainer really, given that Bent, and even Cole, are available. Even Camron Jerome is much better than Heskey!

  • Comment number 23.

    I think I may be on my own with this but I'd have Richards over Johnson. He's not quite hit dizzy heights yet but I think he is a solid defender, has the physicality to get up and down the wing while being almost as good as Johnson in attack (although his crossing ability isn't quite as good as Johnson I admit).

  • Comment number 24.

    Right back is a massive worry.

    England have often been found out by teams at major tournaments who identify how consistently weak our full backs are in possession, and force the ball to them causing England to lose possession.

    If Ashley Cole can stay fit left back is sorted.   The major concern for me is at right back.

    Glen Johnson is a liability with or without the ball, Wes Brown can't pass & Carragher's possible inclusion worries me even more given how weak he is in possession. It shows how bad a state we are in that Gary Neville has been getting a mention. 

    This leaves very few options for first or even second choice in a position that opponents have previously exposed. 

    With that in mind I think that's why Capello is still keeping tabs on Hargeaves, despite his lengthy injury absence.

    When fit he has a great engine, great attitude, can tackle, head and most importantly pass well. All these attributes were highly evident at the end of Man Utd's premiere and champions league and wins in 2008 when he played a string of very impressive games at right back.

    So this all suggests our best right back as being a midfielder who hasn't played for 18 months! I refer you to my original point: Right back is a massive worry!       


  • Comment number 25.

    As a liverpool fan, I am certainly biased towards carragher going to the world cup, although if he didnt go, it would do no harm to his liverpool career. I have long thought that he has proved himself defensively and been constantly overlooked in the England set up, but based on the fact that both terry and ferdinand have not had the greatest of seasons, and their other stand in, King, has injury worries, it would be an obvious choice to choose someone with carraghers tested abilities into the fray as well as the fact that he can double as a right back (as he has had to do this season).
    as for one blogger's suggestion of choosing Milner over Gerrard, that has to be a joke. Gerrard has had a poor season by his standards, and still statistically beats milner in every way. Add this to the fact that he could be played in virtually any position on the field and still do an outstanding job gives him quality and diversity. an attribute that milner lacks.
    Up front I would choose crouch and rooney. Crouch is excellent at hold up play, and many defensive players seem to not know how to contain him. He certainly has been on the money for england in the qualifying campaign enough.
    By far the most difficult position to sort out is the Goalie. With a strong defense in front of him, james would probably just be my first choice. hart would be my immediate second, and I think that I would give him the opportunity to prove himself in at least one of the group games.

  • Comment number 26.

    Milner Lampard Hargreaves/Barry Lennon
    Cole Ferdinand Terry Johnson

    Bench: James, King, Brown, Carrick, Walcott, Defoe, Crouch

  • Comment number 27.

    I suspect Adam Johnson will go, he has stepped up well and will provide a natural left sided option though he can also play on the right.

    I believe Milner might play in front of Glen Johnson when Capello feels GJ may struggle defensively as Milner will track back and can tackle.

    Barry should be okay, fitness record very good, although if he was to miss out or get injured maybe Lampard could sit as he has done so in the past and perhaps Milner could provide the more advanced midfield option. He is less cavalier than Gerrard and Lampard/Gerrard in the centre together has never worked before. I think Milner may well be cabable of sitting in the midfield but as this has not been tried for club or country doubt that this will be the case at the world cup.

    Upfront I agree that Heskey is the biggest reason to doubt Capello and would much prefer Crouch alondside Rooney (and the robot could become as famous as Roger Milla's goal celebrations). I think that at least one from Bent or Zamora will go as long as both are fit, probably Zamora as his all round game is better. Personally I would be happy to see both go at Heskey's expense.

    In central defence there are plenty of good options though I don't consider Carragher to be one of them. King is quality and a leader which bearing in mind Capello's preference for defenders as captain and with Terry no longer available in this role this might swing things in King's favour despite his knees. If Dawson goes as well that provides a back-up defensive partnership that is actually a tested and proven partnership. Upson has been a squad regular and despite club form has performed well when called on for england so he still has a strong case. Jagielka may stay have a chance especially as he can also provide cover at right back and has just about been back long enough to prove form and fitness. Any of the above would be decent selections in my view.

    First choice goalie appears to be Green though I think this may still be open. James would be a worry though as he has always been error prone and more reliable keepers (Shilton and Seaman) became more error prone in their late thirties.

  • Comment number 28.

    If we are taking form players...David Dunn? Played better than Gerrard has all season
    Plus I know Im biased but Im a little miffed to see that everyone has completely forgotten paul Robinson. Greens a donkey. Had a poor season. Hart should go, but James is past it and Foster has never been good enough

  • Comment number 29.

    I think England stand a real chance in South Africa. With the chelsea lads just winning the league, their confidence will be sky high. Hargreaves should definetly be named in the squad as he was the best player for England in Germany. Lennon should not go, he is too overated and does not deserve a place on the plane. But SWP should go, his speed wil terrorise other teams. Paul Robinson should be gonig aswell instead of James, he has past his time and Robinson deserves a second chance. And, Carragher is not up to England's standard, he just panicks with the ball, if England really need cover at the centre of the defence then take Michael Turner, he's a good old fashioned centre back. Also, Bent has impressed this season scoring hlaf of Sunderland's goals, anyone who scores over 15 goals at a club in the bottom half, is working their socks off and obviously trying to prove a point, and Bent has done that.

  • Comment number 30.

    One of the main problems in the england team is creativity. Especially in mid field. Apart from Rooney noone else in the english squad can create something out of nothing. People will argue the talents of gerrard, Lampards goal scoring rate this season and barry's performance for england since joining the squad. well gerrard had a terrible season for liverpool and still plays better for liverpool than for england. Lampard plays with chealse that have a massive squad of superstars and plays more like a player that plays just off the striker and is notplaying like that for england and barry is not in the same league as defensive midfielders around the world. I thinks the wingers could be a success for england. Lennon, walcott and johnson all have pace to burn and Walcott in particular plays well when in an england shirt as an impact sub. In regards of calling back carragher i would be more incline to beg scholes to return as he is the only creative midfielder england have that is recognised outside of england i.e. zidane, fabregas, xavi and pirlo all rate him. England will miss owen hargeaves and Michael owen in particular. What ever about his club performances over the years his goal scoring rate for england was world class. If he was playing in this world cup he would definitely be one of the goal scorers. rio hasnt had much team football, terry is inconsistent and englands best keeper (Hart) is second choice to James. I would bring crouch, bent and agbonlahor. Defoe for me fizzled out in the second has of the season and heskey for me has done nothing all season. Milner gets the nod as does Carrick (but has gone backwards in my view) and Joe Cole, king gets in even with bad knees (Shades of paul mcgrath about him), and baines. If injury and retirements werent an issue my starting england eleven that could have a chance reaching the final would be Hart, Glen johnson, terry, ferdinand, Ashley cole, adam johnson, Paul scholes, Owen Hargeaves, steven gerrard, rooney and michael owen. Alas this is not to be and predict england get knock out before the quarter finals.

  • Comment number 31.

    The biggest problem at the moment looks to be replacing Barry. No one so far has put Carrick forward, which says a lot. Milner seems a good option, in that he's fit, and has played very well. But he's not a holding midfielder. Do you really want a team without one? The best option I can think of is to try Milner, bring Hargreaves, and hope that one or the other will work out--though bringing a player who's hardly played in years on a team with so many half-crocked players is debatable.

    I like the pick of King, on the grounds previously stated, that he's an ideal substitute at center back. Johnson worries me, but he has been an important part of Capello's team, and will start, so we may as well hope for the best.

    I'm feeling hopeful about James. He's done well in a very bad situation.

    The change I'd like to make is that I just don't like Gerrard on the left. He's been effective under Capello, but playing him on the left means there won't be any width on that side.

    Overall, though, I'm glad Capello is making the decisions, as he's done very well so far.

  • Comment number 32.

    I don't think there is a great deal between Sol Campbell and Carragher, the only differences being Carragher is 3 years younger, has played consistently all season and can cover at right back. If Wes Brown were fit i'm sure he would be going. Campbell shouldn't be anywhere near the squad. With four centre backs going I'm sure capello is only willing to take one of King or Dawson, as Terry and Ferdinand are certainties and he wants one centre back to cover right back, to leave an extra space for a midfielder or forward. If Barry can't make it I'd take Huddlestone, great long passing, powerful shot and tough. I would take Heskey over Bent, Cole and Zamora. Although I would start with a 4-4-1-1 formation with Gerrard behind Rooney. My squad would be:
    Goalkeepers - Hart, Green, James
    Defenders - G.Johnson, R.Ferdinand, J.Terry, L.King, J.Carragher, A.Cole, L.Baines
    Midfields - A.Lennon, T.Walcott, S.Gerrard. F.Lampard, M.Carrick, A.Johnson, Milner, Huddlestone, Barry
    Forwards - W.Rooney, E.Heskey, J.Defore, P.Crouch

    Starting Eleven: Hart, G.Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, A.Cole, A.Lennon, Barry/Huddlestone, Lampard, Milner, Gerrard, Rooney.

  • Comment number 33.

    Adam Johnson should be there...creativity, trickery, and you would expect a kid like that to be fired up at the world cup.

  • Comment number 34.

    My team for the June 11th opener:

    1. Hart

    2. Glen Johnson
    6. Ferdinand
    5. Terry
    3. Ashley Cole

    7. Walcott
    4. Barry
    8. Lampard
    11. Joey Cole

    10. Gerrard

    9. Rooney

  • Comment number 35.

    England team should be:-


    G Johnson Terry Ferdinand A Cole

    Lennon Lampard Carrick Gerrard

    Rooney Crouch

  • Comment number 36.

    Quite simply England will only win if we get very very lucky!

    There are 2 maybe 3 players from our entire squad that would get into the Brazil/Spain teams. The rest are internationally average at best.

    Sven couldn't get us past the quarters because that was the limit of our abilities, we are a top 8 team but not a top 4. If we get to the semis it'll be a major achievement for Cappello and possibly down to a kind draw.

    The FA need to stop trying to make money (100mil profit last year for what?) and sort out the structures in this country so that in 15-20 years we might have a good team with a few great players in it. Not an average team with a few good ones in it!

  • Comment number 37.

    I hope Adam Johnson does get in, he's like a young Ryan Giggs and England have been crying out for a player like him for 15-20 years. Natural left footed, skillful winger, better bet than Downing in my opinion. Joe Hart or David James should probably be number 1, i'd rather take Robinson than Green though. Carlton Cole is a slightly richer mans Heskey which isn't a compliment! Although i wish him the best of recoveries, David Beckham getting injured was a blessing and takes away all the circus and paper tabloids going on about him as the main focus.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think Ledley King should actually start for England instead of Terry who is too slow against world class forwards.




    Wouldnt start Gerrard either - The team are better without him even though he is a good individual player. never has done it for England and its all about the team.

  • Comment number 39.

    Remeber when 28 suggested taking David Dunn?

  • Comment number 40.

    Agree with comment no.14 in that Glen Johnson is a top quality attacking full back. In addition his defending is not as poor as people make out. A couple of people see the odd mistake, say he can't defend so everybody else jumps on board, slagging him off without actually watching him and paying any attention to what he is doing in games, which the majority of the time is defending very well.

    The same applies to Jamie Carragher in a way. Admittedly, he wasn't upto his usual standards early in the season, but as the season progressed he has returned to form. He has never been particularly quick, but his positional sense is excellent, and the number of interceptions, blocks, clearances he makes in a game are no end. Great_Shatners_Ghost, post no 2 suggests he would come unstuck against the Worlds best, but performances for Liverpool over the years in the Champions League against top opponents suggests differently, and he is a far better bet than Sol Campbell. Is he a better bet than Dawson, for instance, I'm not sure, but he definitely has the edge in terms of big game experience.

    I'm not sure Owen Hargreaves can be considered. Four years ago he was Englands best player, but he has not played a first team game all season. If fit he would be an automatic choice. Maybe Capello will pick him in the 30 and assess his fitness from there to see if he thinks he would be able to contribute effectively. Its funny how suddenly everybody has lost faith in Carrick, who everybody was raving about after Englands last game when he came on as a substitute and played very well to help turn the game in Englands favour.

  • Comment number 41.

    barry @30

    I disagree on a few points mainly the 2 Owens.

    Owen and Rooney can't play together, have a look how many minutes both were on the pitch together at Utd this season, also take a look at qualifying for Euro 2008 where both played together and scored how many goals between them? And this despite countless empty promises from Owen that England would qualify. He is an ego and a crock 4 years+ past his peak. If you want a poacher on each of the last 3 seasons Bent, Defoe and even Agbonlahor (not even a poacher) would all be ahead of him.

    As for Hargreaves badly crocked, hasn't played for 18 months says he will always need painkilling injections, looks to be physically as shot as Ledley King but no chance to prove or recover form and fitness this season.

    Also Scholes is a non-starter for me. His tackling is a liability, and Huddlestone has the same attributes as Scholes, passing, vision and quite a shot on him, probably at the same level Scholes was at that age, just plays a bit deeper.

  • Comment number 42.

    People keep banging on about HESKEY and I agree in part, I mean Bent is an awesome goal scorer who scores goals at all clubs he's been, Charlton, SPurs and Sunderland. On a game like Football manager or FIFA you'd play Defoe, Bent, Crouch, Gabby with Rooney ahead of Heskey ever time. BUT this is real life, the real world and we've learned time and time again that picking the big names, a team of individuals or those in good club form don't always work.

    Capello has found that Heskey works and this is one thing he's certain on, him and Rooney just work so what does his club form matter? Many top players over the years doing well have not worked like Hoddle, Andy Cole, Gerrard and Lampard to some degree and others. I don't really recall Lampard or Gerrard ever having a tournament like Rooney did in 2004 or like Ronaldo in '98 or Zidane. They just haven't done it yet still get picked.

    At least Copello is doing something right, picking A TEAM and a team is not one where you pick all the best individual players like on a game. You have to have each player complimenting the next. Rooney works as do some of the others but you have to find the balance.

    Fabio clearly likes the look of Brown at RB for his defensive part, Defoe for his eye for goal, Milner and Heskey. He has shown he likes these players.

    Myself I'd play too fast wingers and or those who can cross like Lennon, Young, Walcott, SWP, Milner with a DM like Barry, Hargreves, Parker and one attacking midfielder like Lampard. Then Rooney and Heskey up top. Defenders should be Rio and Terry as they are the best for England. Rio was awesome in Germany and the one before, if he's fit he should go. Club games shouldn't matter. Carragher is past it and has been for a long time, he also said he's not bothered about England anymore and that it doesn't feel as good to him winning with England as he does Liverpool. That is why I'd never play him, comments like that. Let him sulk.

    We need to stop picking the names and start picking a team. Heskey is poor on paper or at club but with England he's done well and made the team do well. End of.

  • Comment number 43.

    my starting X1

    GL-Paul Heart-by far england best goal keeper looked confident all season and start him in the friendly!

    LB-Ashley cole-world class

    CB-ledley king-By far England's best defender when fit shame about his knee, he has proves his fitness

    CB-Rio ferdinend-For me like ledley when fit is absolute quality.

    RB-Glen Johnson-good attacking right back could work on his defensive game

    CM-Lampard-scores goals

    CM-Barry-if he's not it a toss up between huddlestone and carrick

    RM-Lennon-blistering start to the season and his delivery has improved!

    LM-Milner -Great talent and can play anywhere in midfeild

    AMF-Gerrard-despite a poor season still a world class player and if were going to play him play him where hes at his best ,behind the striker!

    ST-Wayne rooney-worlds best player maybe???

    i'd also take adam johnson,Michael dawson and young as your suprise players

  • Comment number 44.

    Good call on Adam Johnson.

    “Will Wayne Rooney stay fit? If he does not, then while England's World Cup chances would not be wiped out completely they would suffer a devastating blow.”

    Finally some common sense. I seem to remember you writing a blog a few months ago where you made the ridiculous statement that England could not win the world cup without Rooney.

    Phil, you haven’t mentioned who would be on your England bench. Who is your game changer? Impact player? Someone to make the opposition worried? I have asked this several times on your blogs and you haven’t responded. You made it clear that you wouldn’t take Beckham even before he was injured, but you didn’t say who you would prefer. So who would you name on the bench? You might say Adam Johnson, but you probably didn’t even know who he was a few months ago when you discounted Beckham.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Webb of Deceit wrote:
    Let's put Capello's statement about picking players on form and not reputation to the test by having in-form Ledley King and Michael Dawson instead of out of form John Terry and Rio Ferdinand"

    Lets think about this, Ferdinand and Terry both kept clean sheets for their teams on did Dawson & King do, oh yes 4 goals conceded to Burnley. In form - I don't think so! I don't think Terry has had a stellar season, but has still been effective and Rio has had injuries, but has played well when not injured and it looks as if he is through the injury now. What a joke to consider Carragher! With foreign refs he will constantly be giving away fouls and will be a real liability against anyone with speed. Same issue with foreign refs worries me about taking Crouch - I think he is worth a position, but we all know that he appears to be a marked man by foreign refs.

  • Comment number 46.

    Great Blog as usual. I too prefer Darren Bent and i really believe that him or Crouch will certainly make a more positive impact on england's chances. Heskey to is hardly a starter for even aston villa so is he another exception to the rule of capello?? I sincerly hope not! Thoughts Phil?

  • Comment number 47.

    Well picking players on form would mean that scholes,dunn,etherington,johnson,huddlestone,rodwell,campbell and many others would all be picked which i dont see happening because either its(World Cup) too late or too early for them ...

  • Comment number 48.

    My 30:

    R Green, J Hart, D James, P Robinson

    J Terry, R Ferdinand, M Dawson, L King P Jagiekla

    G Johnson, W Brown (if fit), A Cole, L Baines

    S Gerrard, F Lampard, G Barry (if fit), A Lennon, J Milner, M Carrick, J Cole, S Wright-Phillips, A Johnson, T Huddlestone

    W Rooney, J Defoe, P Crouch, E Heskey, D Bent, B Zamora, C Cole

    M Richards or J Carragher for W Brown if not fit

    O Hargreaves for G Barry if former is fit and latter isn't

  • Comment number 49.

    You have made a wonderful case for supporters to be worrying about this England team, if Capello sticks with what you claim.
    It is laced with uncertainty about so many players fitness and form. No England team has ever gone to a world cup with so many potential crocks-King, Heskey Ferdinand, Carrick etc. etc.
    One other thing that is lacking is a player who can really go the extra mile, a problem with Johnson according to your article, yet you dismiss the one man who will do just that, Scott Parker. No player Capello could take will give more in every match than Parker. Others may have more talent but none would match Parker's committment, and in the end this is what England desperately need, because,collectively, they just don't have the talent to do the job.

  • Comment number 50.

    Im very excited about this world cup as i believe England can win it. However if we don't win it this year then I can't see us winning it for a long time, if ever.

    On paper you can't ask for a much better side, along with one of the highest rated managers. Should be interesting.

  • Comment number 51.

    I think starting with Terry and Ferdinands will be a terrible idea. Both have become increasingly slow, and speedy forwards can cause them serious problems. Dawson - King will be far better.

    Joe Hart is no question the best man for the job, and should be #1.

    I totally disagree on Baines, just watch the Game against Egypt to know why. He lacks speed, and had trouble keeping up with his Egyptian counterpart, Al-Mohammadi.

    I hope Lennon can still makes it. Parker also deserves a chance.

    Upfront, Rooney and Crouch, speed and height is a lethal combo.

  • Comment number 52.

    To add to that before it inadvertently sent:
    .........trying to prove his power in the game.

    Capello seems to be a honest talisman but IF England get through the group stages awaiting Germans or Aussies/Ghanaians/Serbians thats when the mettle needs to hit the plate.

    England under Capello have not beaten a top side and is where the fear begins again. Can you imagine a foray against the arguably 3/4 cheated stars Italians? (Mussolini in charge of 2 of them) Remember England v Sweden under Sven Go Gerrem Erikson?

    Being a hung nation and all the vitriol that has brought upon us and if Cameron the dictator gets in through a partnership with PM-Maker Cleggy we need something to cheer us up through the summer....

    We wait with baited breath but still we blindly support the 3 lions in association football.

  • Comment number 53.

    Bomber likes that Bomber does.

  • Comment number 54.

    I don't understand the point of Heskey going. He can't hit a barn door from 3 feet away. If the idea is that he holds the ball up for Rooney to score, then why not have Gerrard playing in a more attacking position to carry out that role and have two strikers who can actually score.Bent every time for me. How James can even play for England any more is beyond me. That time when he said that he hadn't bothered to prepare for the game should have ended his England career. Picture this and tell me that it's not likely to happen. England V Portugal in the KO's, 10 minutes to go 0-0, Ronaldo breaks free, James rushes out clatters into Ronaldo, Ronaldo goes down easily, James red carded, penalty kick that Ronaldo puts away smiling. England out. NO WAY JAMES.

  • Comment number 55.

    It doesnt matter if Capello chooses Rooney or Rumplestiltskin,Gerard or Jerry from the pacemakers unless he addresses glaring England weaknesses from the ghosts of World Cups past....Assuming that England qualify from their group,are they then ready to lay the bogey of penalty shoot-out heartbreak? (Have they ever won a penalty shootout?) The image of Ghostbuster "extraordinaire" might appeal to the manager but unless he conjures up some magic pixiedust and steels his players with an impenetrable "we will not lose" mentality this campaign will end like all the others (bar one) with the wailing of unfulfilled it too late to hire Sigourney Weaver as assistant manager?

  • Comment number 56.

    Johnson Terry Ferdinand ACole
    Lennon Lampard Barry (if fit) Gerrard
    Rooney Heskey

    Hart James
    Neville Upson Carragher Baines
    Walcott Milner Carrick JCole
    Defoe Crouch

    If Barry is unfit then Carrick put into starting line up and Hargreaves put into the squad. Arguements could be made for several players such as Dawson, King, AYoung, Johnson, SWP, Bent and Zamora, but on the whole i believe that this would be the strongest and most balanced squad, with a good mix of experience and pace, with several positions being competed for by players of a similarly high calibre but with different skillsets which will allow a very tactically minded manager like Capello to hand-pick teams to exploit oppositions' varying weaknesses. For example,the positional sense of Neville against the more attack-minded Johnson, the goal-bound style of Walcott against Lennons more extensive use of the flanks, or the way Heskey holds up the ball against the long-ball target of Crouch. This allows the manager to select an optimum starting line up against any opposition, depending on their playing style. This squad also contains several impact players, such as Crouch and Walcott who can come off the bench and change the face of the game, especially against fatigued opponents. All in all, i have faith in the manager and know that he knows what he's doin.

  • Comment number 57.

    The selection of Heskey might not be an issue now. Capello is the 'genius' at the moment and evryone is wishing that he can replicate the performances he brought to the qualifiers in SA.
    However, if England put in a very poor perfomance in SA, which is very possible against the very best teams (given the current form of the big players save for Lampard and Rooney), then Heskey and a couple of other selections could turn out to be Capello's nightmare.
    All the alternative "what if?" scenarios wich be done over and over again. There will be bigge "what if" than if Heskey was not selected.
    The press and pundits will come out with thier knives well sharpened. "How on earth does a manager who knows what he is doing pick Heskey? Shocking!! Sack the Italian!" Will be the headlines.. Just like they usually are after all the results and facts are in hand.

  • Comment number 58.

    Carragher? He has had a very topsy-turvy season with Liverpool, and with finishing 7th, his confidence cant be too high?

    I think Dawson deserves the chance.

  • Comment number 59.

    Phil, I hope not to see your famous predictions for the World Cup.
    Apart from that it's a decent blog and leave it to Capello to decide who should be playing in XI.


    Johnson Ferdinand Terry Cole

    Lennon Milner Lampard Gerrard

    Rooney Defoe

  • Comment number 60.

    Very surprised about Carragher. He's had an average season, although he can cover two positions. Don't be surprised to see him as first choice right back, typical Italian caution by Capello. Hope he doesn't take a place away from Dawson.

  • Comment number 61.

    If barry's out then he's not going to fill that hole with Milner or Parker, they're too forward thinking to play along side lampard. It's a screen for the back for you need that is a calm head.
    Does anyone remember King playing in that position against France Euro 2004 (i think it was). I know we lost but he was unbelievably good, of course. With Carrick being the definition of average this season, hargreaves crocked, and nobody else of any quality to play in that position naturally. King might be the way forward. I'd have him in the side at every oppurtunity.

  • Comment number 62.

    People keep going on about Terry being "out of form" but, apart from a couple of games earlier this season (ManCity(h), Spurs(a)) he has been as reliable as ever. I really don't think half the people commenting here have even been watching him. Lost pace? Terry has never been a particularly pacey player, relying on his reading of the game and strong sense of positioning. A Terry even slightly out of form is still way better than Dawson, King, Upson, Dunne, etc, etc. But, more important, England need his experience and leadership qualities on the pitch.

    As far as Rio and Carragher are concerned, I am a little worried about Rio's fitness but not as worried as I am by the thought of Carragher getting anywhere near the England lineup. He has been very poor this season even to the point where LFC fans have asked whether he will leave in the summer. And, you have to question his commitment. Imagine an England team with a central defender that may or may not fancy a game depending on whether he feels loved or not. Any player that puts club above country can stay there as far as I am concerned.

  • Comment number 63.

    So this is the same Carragher that went on record as saying he doesn't care about England but is deeply upset when Liverpool lose? If nothing else he epitomises modern English football - cares a lot about himself and 'his' team and nothing for his country.

  • Comment number 64.

    If cry-baby 'the nasty manager wont start me ahead of arguably the worlds two best centre-backs, so I'm going to retire in protest' Carragher goes to the world cup I might start supporting Australia instead. Seriously though? He's been deeply average in an even more average Liverpool back line, what on earth has he done to merit a spot ahead of Dawson, Cahill, Curtis Davies...? nothing! I hope that Capello sees sense and doesnt go near him. Hargreaves as well...I feel really sorry for him, as he's had a nightmare with injuries for the last couple of years, but again: Parker and Huddlestone at the very least should be well ahead of him in the pecking order!

  • Comment number 65.

    Phil, have you heard? Chelsea have just won the premier league. All the too-ing and fro-ing on who would finish where for the last 10 months, and no blog or round-up of the season or final day...?

  • Comment number 66.

    England can be in whatever shape they want, but they have no chance in the world cup. Get real. Even in friendlies both France and especially Spain played them off the park. To pretend that they have a chance is simply ridiculous. Awaiting the usual victory parade nonsense from the Sun if they win their group. When they meet the likes of Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Holland, France etc they will be humiliated. Gerard, Lampard & Rooney are world class, but you need 11 to win this compo. The Capello-Beckham circus is simply embarassing.

  • Comment number 67.

    I can't help but think:

    If Lescott had stayed at Everton another season, we would not have had a disrupted start to our capmaign, and our solid defensive foundation would have continued, and possibly have earned everton wins early on in the season against teams such as Hull, Burnley and Bolton away not to mention home wins vs Stoke and Wolves. Those extra points would have put everton into the champions league, something that Lescott moved to easlands for...and ultimately did not achieve.

    Lescott also missed just a handful of games in 3 full seasons at goodison, he has probably missed more this season for city than he did in his entire time with us? Coincidence?

    What also would have happened was Lescott making the England Centre back position his own, due to the uncertainty surrounding Ferdinand and Terry this season. Now, he may not go the world cup at all.

    No champions league, no world cup. Karma would suggest his unprofessional behaviour has come around to bite him in the backside.

  • Comment number 68.

    Seriously have I missed something? Has Carragher actually been good this season? If he gets in then so should Gary Neville and definitely the likes of Jagielka and Baines. I'm mystified about all the Carragher talk and think it's just a case of all the rubbish players surrounding him at Liverpool making him look good.

  • Comment number 69.

    61. At 07:06am on 11 May 2010, onlyborocanmakemethisupset wrote:

    Does anyone remember King playing in that position against France Euro 2004 (i think it was). I know we lost but he was unbelievably good, of course.

    I remember it well, he marked Henry out of the game only for a stupid backpass from Steven Gerrard and a brilliant Zidane free-kick, England would have won the game comfortably. I believe he was bombed the next game for Terry?

    Terry was not too convincing for England in that tournament as far as I recall, whereas King looked the real deal

  • Comment number 70.

    The talk about hargreaves getting in is an absolute joke tbh. He hasnt played in 9 months, but scott parker has been superb all season. Surely its a no brainer? Capello says he picks players on form, if thats true, parker,adam johnson,dawson + king all have to be included. Carragher? Am i missing something here? He has had a terrible season. Jagielka, dawson + king are all better than him.

  • Comment number 71.

    As someone else on here said 'Carragher has to be a joke right?'. We must be absolutely scraping the bottom of the barrel to have him back in the squad. Some people think we're good enough to win the world cup, get real. If we're talking about picking a defender who says he doesn't care what happens to the England team and a midfielder who's played 1 minute of first team football in 20 months we're in deep trouble.

    I didn't think Carragher was good enough even before he went off having his childish little hissy fit and there's no way he's had a better season than Dawson.
    Hargreaves was arguably first name on the team sheet when fit but this could just ruin any chance he has of restarting his career.

  • Comment number 72.

    If Scotty Parker loses out today to Owen Hargreaves in the 30 man squad then I truly have given up. 1 whole minute of football this season??
    Come on Fabio, give super, super Scott a chance, he won't let you down.

  • Comment number 73.

    A definite 100% cast iron NO to Carragher, Upson & Baines as defenders. All are far too slow, and lacking any passing or positional ability for the international game. These 8 defenders should be enough - Johnson/Richards, Dawson/Ferdinand, King/Terry, Cole/Konchesky.

  • Comment number 74.

    Why does it seem that Crouchy is STILL second in the pecking order to Heskey? Great target man, plays well with Rooney, holds it up well... I hear you say? Really??!
    Crouch all day long in the starting 11.
    Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole
    Lennon, Gerrard, Parker, A Johnson
    Crouch, Rooney

  • Comment number 75.

    This is Englands best chance in a long time - there confidence is high after Qualification in which they were the highest scoring Europian Team. I think that the only Despute about the England Team is Who to play in goal and whether to have 1 or 2 up front.

    Gk - Joe Hart

    RB - Glen Johnson
    CB - John Terry
    CB - Rio Ferdinand
    LB - Ashley Cole

    RM - Theo Waltcott
    CM - Frank Lampard
    CM - Owen Hargreaves (Gareth Barry Injury doubt)
    LM - Ashley Young

    CF - Steven Gerrard

    ST - Wayne Rooney

    Best English goalkeeper around at the moment - whether he is young or not.
    Two full-backs who like to get Forward up the wings and can pop in either a great cross or even a goal or two.
    Two of the most Solid Centre Backs England have had for quite some time.
    Pace down both wings
    Power, abuility and strength in the middle
    Never shy to shoot, can tackle and can constantly be relied upon.
    The best striker in the world up front.

  • Comment number 76.

    Can't wait to see the list of scandals and calamities that the tabloids (and "serious" media) have lined up for us all in the run-up to SA. :-)

    I still think Capello would do no worse than to book a special seat on the plane for 'Arry.

  • Comment number 77.

    Being a Liverpool fan im surprised that Carragher is being considered for the squad, particulary after he was clear that his International days were over, even if Capello came calling. Clearly something has happenend to change his mind and I guess he will be in the final 23. Its not been his best season, but I still say he is ahead of Upson, as he can play anywhere in defence, better to take him than Baines, Neville or Warnock if England has a problem with the full backs.

    For what its worth my 23 would be

    James, Green, Hart

    Terry, Ferdinand, Johnson, Carragher, King, A Cole, Lescott, Dawson

    Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick, Milner, Lennon, Wright-Phillips, A Johnson

    Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, Walcott, Zamora

  • Comment number 78.

    Don't you just love it eh Phil? Everyone is an expert! :-)

    I suppose one of the problems when picking a squad is that people taken what they thought was Capello's defined criteria and then perhaps take it too literally and indeed scientifically.

    Whilst that sort of process maybe the starting point for his selection, surely people need to understand that his instinct (for what he may want in a team or squad at any given time) is likely to be the deciding factor.

    I agree with many posters that there appears to be some selections that cause a raised eyebrow (Ancelotti style!) but sometimes we the punters, and journalists, drill down too deep onto individuals rather than the team or squad.

    There is also the issue of form. Well, I could be in form but I still don't have the talent of someone else who may be out of form but is simply a better player, in somebody's view.

    I think the starting 11 will pretty much be as it was during the excellent qualifying campaign so even if someone has run into form at the right time, Capello may well revert to what he knows works rather than just look purely at the 'Capello Index'. (And what is THAT all about at this time!)

    Phil, out of interest, what would be your starting 11 if you picked the squad and what would be your starting 11 out of the squad that Capello may pick, if there is a difference?

    (p.s. give the moderators the usual kick up the jacksie please? Ta.)

  • Comment number 79.

    I agree with Fabio.

  • Comment number 80.

    The inclusion of Carragher is a insult to the Dawson's Jageilka's and Cahill's of the world whilst i am there throw in Johnson and Dann at Birmingham all have had better seasons than the one paced and thats slow Carragher. Liverpool have had a very average season with there defence being unable to defend set pieces never mind deal with pace, so how can a manager "who picks on form" come to this decision? I wonder about any so called great manager who picks Heskey in there starting eleven.

  • Comment number 81.

    Reading some of the comments reminds you of previous tournaments where you feel managers were swayed by the fans and media, e.g. on Sunday BBC's Jonathan Stevenson said something along the lines of Ledley King had surely erased any doubt about his participation in SA with a brilliant last ditch tackle. He may well deserve to go, but I hope his selection is based on more than the media's penchant for elevating a darling of the moment's one piece of play to godly status that wouldn't have got a second mention if it had been Titus Bramble.

    Thankfully that won't happen with Fabio Capello, which is why he's one of the great managers. He makes his own mind up. That's why he's the manager and what he's paid to do. It's barely got a mention how impressive we were in qualifying, with Heskey, and without Owen. I'm not saying Heskey's going to go, or that we're going to win the World Cup, but for the first time I can remember I have confidence in the England Manager.

    Personally, Aaron Lennon right wing excites me. Glenn Johnson offers us a lot going forward, but in the little I've seen of him defending I wasn't impressed, so not sure on that front. If back to fitness, Owen Hargreaves might be a good shout. It looks touch and go with Gareth Barry, but I think we should be giving him every chance as with Lampard and Gerard we've been playing on the front foot in the opposing half for the first time in a long time. Even though I'm a City fan, I think Adam Johnson still needs to add a few things to his game, but if he does go, the defenders won't be used to or like his straight for the throat attacking. No need to listen to me Fabio.

    Finally, thank God we won't have the David and Michael Show.

  • Comment number 82.

    Disagree on quite a few of yr selections Phil. In defence I would go with an eight comprising; G. Neville, Johnson, Terry, ferdinand, King, Dawson or Carra, Cole, Baines

    MF: Walcott, lennon, lampard, gerrard, Milner, Parker, Hargreaves, A Young/J. Cole
    Strikers: Rooney, Crouch defoe Zamora

    We need bite in MF (Hargreaves/Parker) and width and pace. Pace in my view will be our only trump card (along with Rooney). Strikers i think you need form players who have been playing. Yes Bent is tempting but i just dont think he is international class. You could say the same about Zamora but he's proved it in the Europa lge. As for Heskey -how does he even get considered. Hasnt scored/hasnt PLAYED!! I rest my case.

  • Comment number 83.

    Interesting to see Caragher in the mix, although he hasnt been flawless this season. The article prior to this highlights the point by mentioning Liverpool let in 35 goals this season- which is actualy pretty damn good, its the creativity and goals we have lacked.

    Both him and Neville should be in mix, both have tonns of experience against the best players.

    Top of the pile for CB should be >Tell, Rio, King, Dawson, Chara, Upson.
    RB: Thinking about it, I would consider Neville over Johnson.

    Strikers: Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Bent.

    Hard to not include Zamora though.

  • Comment number 84.

    I really cant believe no mention of Dawson, really, this guy has established himself as the centre-half of a top 4 PL team and he's ENGLISH.

    Other than the partner for Rooney I think the side picks itself, maybe there is some debate about the midfield configuration. Hopefully we can use Mexico, Japan and the group games to define our choice team.

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm a spurs fan, so maybe a little biased. I keep hearing about how including Ledley King would be a risk due to his injuries, well this season he's played 20 premier league games and also had another sub appearance. Rio Ferdinand played just 13 premier league games with one sub appearance.

    Ledley played successively against Burnley, Man City, Bolton and Man U. When was the last time Ferdinand played 4 in a row? or even played?

    And David James is as injury prone as Ferdinand and King so i wouldn't make him our number 1.

    And surely owen hargreaves being considered is a joke???!

  • Comment number 86.

    NO NO NO to Crouch starting with Rooney. I'm fed up with the constant long ball football we resort to when Crouch is in the team and all the fouls he conceeds with his clumsy beanpole legs.

  • Comment number 87.

    I'm non-English and my objective advice to the England mgr is bring those who want to play. Remember the very mundane French team that didn't score a goal at WC2002 whilst being defending champ?

    I'd rather want an unknown Grosso (Italy, WC2006) who created so much damage down the opposition flanks in helping Italy to win WC2006.

    Another example is a teenage Michael Owen who scored a la Maradona-style against the Argentines last century. Bring steady players like Frank Lampard but remember to bring some young nothing-to-fear fellas like say, Adam Johnson to surprise the oppositions.

    Only those hungry are welcomed.

  • Comment number 88.

    GK : James,Robinson & Green
    DF : Rio,Terry,King,Ashley cole,Dawson,Upson,Baines.
    MF : Lennon,Walcott,Adam Jhonson,Lampard,Gerrard,Carrick,Milner,Young.
    FW : Rooney,Defoe,Crouch,Heskey,B Zamora.

    If Barry and Hargreaves are fit, then then can come to the place of Caricck.

    As for Carragher, i simply think it is not feasible since he was not good for Liverpool this season.Last season, he was good because Sami Hyppia was there beside him covering for the mistakes but in World Cup with the entire nations hope behind them, Capello must not take the risk.

    However if anybody needs to make a comeback and step up, then it should be Paul Scholes who has been amazing this year and several other many years before this.He can fill into the place of Caricck if Barry or Hargreaves are not fully fit.

  • Comment number 89.

    @ 41 Uncle Walt

    "Also Scholes is a non-starter for me. His tackling is a liability, and Huddlestone has the same attributes as Scholes, passing, vision and quite a shot on him, probably at the same level Scholes was at that age, just plays a bit deeper."

    there is no doubt Scholes' tackling ability is a liability, always has been. a couple of points though:

    a) he's never going to play in this world cup. he has no desire to, but i understand you are replying to someone else.

    b) Tom Huddlestone is a good player. Scholes at his peak was one of the best the game has seen. even at Huddlestone's age. no, this is not an exaggeration. Just look at what great players have said about him, look at what he's achieved. if Huddlestone's passing and vision ever get to levels Scholes achieved, England will be very lucky. it is a massive disservice to dismiss his ability like that.

  • Comment number 90.

    Lampard cannot keep the ball close to his feet - in a world-class team like Chelsea, mopping up by a player with a good engine is easy. Against Spain or Brasil, in an average England team, he will not be able to dribble past players. His poor touch will enable the opposition to easily steal the ball.
    Gerrard suffers from a similar problem. Against a world-class midfield, the ball is easily taken away from his feet.
    Perhaps these players should have gone to Spain to learn the art of controlling the ball.

  • Comment number 91.

    Capello seems to like partnerships in his squad, what would be interesting is to see who don't make the first 30 man squad, especially with players who are being mentioned now, and with the just returning from injury players.

    I would not be surprised if capello ended up looking for 7 defenders, 9 midfielders and 4 forwards.

    real injury worries for me are Barry, Brown, Rooney (keeps getting a few knocks, but hten he has month to prepare now might be just enough) Ferdinand and King
    other worries are heskey who has not been playing, walcott's indiffernet season and lennon just back but looked good.
    Hargeaves no idea where his name came from and should not even get a mention ( hasnt played and no idea when he will be match fit)

    For me there is a case for so many players to get in and great thing is that there will always be debate, just hope for capello he makes right calls and he is lucky with injuries and recovery time

    MY 23 would be if all FIT

    GK Hart, James, Robinson
    D Johnson, Brown, Ferdinand, Terry, King, A.Cole, Baines
    M Lennon, Walcott, Barry, Carrick, Gerrard, Lampard, J. Cole, Johnson, Milner
    F Rooney, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe

    7 others just to miss out
    Dawson, huddlestone, Bent, Young, Parker, C.Cole, Upsen

  • Comment number 92.

    My 30 man squad would be:

    Hart, James, Green, Robinson

    Johnson, Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, King, Dawson, Jagielka, Upson, Cole, Baines

    Lennon, Walcott, Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Milner, Carrick, Parker/Huddlestone, Joe Cole, Johnson

    Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Bent, Heskey, Zamora

    If Carra gets near the squad it's a joke, rubbish season, Dawson, King, Jags have all been better despite concerns over their fitness. Upson will end up going but shouldn't, mistakes galore in an England shirt and has had a poor season.

    Hargreaves shouldn't be in the squad, great player but a right kick in the teeth for Parker, Huddlestone etc.

  • Comment number 93.

    England need a lot of inspiration to do really well, not short of perhaps a divine intervention. Truly great teams never did win it in their year! That should be a ray of hope.

    England's problems are at the back - central defence, right back and the goal - will to do really well not to ship goals.

    I think Gerard will have a good tournament if he plays with Rooney; Lampard as well if he and Gerard do not play at the same time. Joe Cole, SWP, TW14, Lennon should all be named in the 30. Young, Milner, Zamora should be included as well.

    Heskey, C Cole, Bent - sorry guys. Next time.

  • Comment number 94.

    Really, once again this moderation is ridiculous. Why does it take so long and why is it considered necessary in the first place? Surely we're all grown ups here.

    Any slower and there will be no point having the blog during the world cup because England will have played their next game before we read comments about the one just passed!

    Any explanations?

  • Comment number 95.

    I cannot quite beleive that Carragher is under consideration. He wanted no part of the qualifying effort, and now would be interested in becoming an England player again now that we are there? I could *almost* understand if Carragher had been playing out of his skin all season, but Dawson has been head and shoulders above him all campaign.
    Adam Johnson for me is an absolute shoo-in. The unknown quantity that could give us the dimension we need. He has had a fantastic few months at City, proved himself to be a premiership class player, and has to be worth a pick as someone to throw on to try and change the game. I would have Milner as Barrys replacement, I don't think Carrick has played well enough this year.
    I would not touch Zamora with a barge pole, he makes far too many mistakes for me, and should have far more golas than he does. I think you have to take Crouch, Heskey and Rooney, but for me, the fourth striker should be Carlton Cole, he is a ready made Heskey replacment. He has similar qualities to Heskey in terms of ability to actually head the ball in the direction he wants it to go - Crouch does not have this ability at all. I think Cole looked like he fitted in very very comfortably to the England set up.

  • Comment number 96.

    With Barry out of the picture, i agree with some of the comments about Ledley King stepping in as the defensive midfielder, gives the back 4 the protection it so deperately needs and would undoubtedly do a better job than some of the other candidates mentioned apart from a fully fit and onn song Owen Hargreaves

    It's just a shame that the world cup wasn't this time last year when England were flying and key players were injury free and playing well, ie. Lennon, Rooney, Ferdinand, Barry, Walcott, Gerrard and yes Beckham...our chances of doing well in the World Cup would have greatly i see it quarter finals at best but i hope i'm wrong, but if anyone can get us to the final then its Capello!
    Anyway can't wait till the tournament starts! C'mon England!

  • Comment number 97.

    14. At 8:05pm on 10 May 2010, ... wrote:
    I am utterly sick of this Johnson bating. The bloke is a top quality ATTACKING full back.

    Yes but he can't DEFEND to save his life and the point of a full-back primarily is to DEFEND. Hence why he is rubbish and we should take Gary Neville instead

  • Comment number 98.

    I can't believe Fabio is going to consider Carragher. This is the 'footballer' who said that losing for Liverpool hurts harder then losing for England - he won't care if we lose - please choose someone else who has some pride and who has had a better season

  • Comment number 99.

    I think it is pretty obvious that Heskey will be going. and I believe rightly so. Yes he hasnt played much this season and scored 3 goals, but people seem to forget how much of an influence he was in our qualifying campaign. Rooney loves playing off him, and flourished with the big man next to him. I just wish Zamora had sprung into life earlier, because he looks like the whole package. More of a goalscoring threat, can hold the ball up as well as Heskey and a bit faster. But it's come too late for him.
    I think the only reason Carragher is going is because he can play at right back, If we had two specialist right backs I don't think he'd be near the squad.
    As I said earlier, I hope we start with a 4-4-1-1, and bring on either Crouch or Heskey if we're in trouble. I also hope Huddlestone does make the squad over Hargreaves and Parker. He's been the focal point in midfield for Tottenham, and with Lampard and Gerrard he could cause a deadly midfield three, with Lennon and Milner running down the wings.

  • Comment number 100.

    I can't see how anybody in their right mind can justify Owen Hargreaves going when he's played no football. It defies logic to take this player ahead of the likes of Scott Parker.

    The same applies to Jamie Carragher. He's had a very poor season but because he can "fill in" at right back he gets picked ahead of superior defenders in Phil Jagielka or Michael Dawson. You can't pick players on what they did 3 or 4 years ago. 3 or 4 years ago Michael Owen was available and Dean Ashton - it's a long tim in football.

    I now everybody is entitled to their own choice but come on people Paul Konchesky, Gary Neville - these players are just not good enough and we are not going to win anything with selections like this.

    This is my squad with alternatives if players don't prove their fitness:


    King (if fit ???) / Dawson
    A.Cole (if fit) / Warnock

    Barry (if fit) / Dawson or Murphy
    Lennon (if fit) / Walcott
    J.Cole (if fit) / Wright-Phillips
    A.Johnson / Etherington

    Heskey or Zamora
    Walcott / Zamora


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