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England need to rediscover qualifying mojo

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Dan Roan | 23:03 UK time, Sunday, 30 May 2010

Fabio Capello was fooling nobody.

As the storm clouds gathered around Graz, England's manager left the UPC Arena and tried to convince the waiting media that he had been satisfied with England's performance against Japan; that his team had finally shown the "English spirit" he had demanded before the game, especially after half-time.

The harsh reality was that this was a lethargic display by an England side who turned up expecting to win comfortably, but who were shown up by a hungrier, fitter Japan, a team ranked 45th in the world.

Capello told me after the game that he now knows the identity of his 23-man squad, and will telephone his players on Tuesday morning to inform them if they're surplus to requirements. But this was another showing that raised more questions than answers.

England will look to the positives - that they eventually won (albeit without scoring themselves), that there were no new injuries, and that this was a merely a friendly. But they came dangerously close to a demoralising shock defeat, and Capello will realise that if England are to make an impact in South Africa, they must improve drastically.

England manager Fabio CapelloCapello will name his final 23-man squad on Tuesday

Of the fringe players desperate to stake a late claim for inclusion in the World Cup squad only Joe Cole, and perhaps Shaun Wright-Phillips succeeded. Darren Bent showed precisely why he was merely back-up to the injured Bobby Zamora in Capello's striker pecking-order, wasting a golden opportunity to impress his manager.

Tom Huddlestone is an accomplished passer of the ball but England lacked purpose and drive in midfield while he was on the pitch. In the space of a week, Milner, Carrick and now Huddlestone have all squandered their chance to take advantage of Gareth Barry's absence in central midfield, and Capello will be more inclined than ever to select him regardless of his speed of recovery from an ankle injury.

Gerrard would rather play in an advanced role but when he was introduced alongside Lampard, England improved considerably, and Capello will now conclude the Liverpool man is the best alternative in a holding role if Barry fails to make it.

After an inconsistent performance against Mexico, Theo Walcott was poor, and is now surely behind Aaron Lennon in Capello's thinking for a wide starting berth. Wright-Phillips injected typical hunger and intent once introduced, and Capello will have been impressed with Joe Cole's contribution in an area just behind Rooney.

Whoever Capello decides to take to South Africa, he must quickly work out why his side cannot seem to rediscover the scintillating form that saw them dominate their qualifying campaign. Those 4-1 and 5-1 thrashings of Croatia now seem a distant memory.

But if England continue to play as they have in their most recent two games, their World Cup adventure will be a short one.

Update: Monday, 1500 BST

England's match against Japan was played against a backdrop of confusion surrounding Capello's future as England manager. On Sunday the FA committed to emergency talks with the manager, aware that Inter Milan were actively pursuing the Italian as a possible replacement for Jose Mourinho, and offering him significantly more money than he is on as manager of England.

Capello is genuinely flattered by Inter's pursuit, and spoke to Sir Dave Richards, Chairman of Club England, by telephone on Monday morning from his mother's home in Italy.

I'm told the conversation was 'very positive' and that the manager 'received the assurances he wanted'. Capello now plans to sit down face to face on Wednesday before the England squad leaves for South Africa, and 'tie things up'. Richards believes Capello will honour his contract and stay, despite the interest from Inter.

The contract Capello signed with the FA is now two and a half years old, and runs until the 2012 European Championship, but a source close to the manager has told me there are 'a couple of legal things in the contract that could work better for both sides' and that 'he just wants to know who exactly he's working for' after the FA upheaval surrounding Lord Triesman's recent departure.

Capello was in the process of agreeing to remove a 'break clause' in the deal that would have enabled him to walk away after the World Cup when Triesman resigned last month. He now wants clarification with his new bosses, including new General Secretary Alex Horne who he will meet this week.

The FA insist the talks are not about money, but it appears Capello currently enjoys a very strong bargaining position, and it is ironic that the man he is talking to at the FA is now Sir Dave, Chairman of the Premier League.

Capello's son and representative, Pierfilippo, had three positive phone conversations with Adrian Bevington, Club England's Managing Director on Monday, and more will follow in coming days.

The immediate threat of Capello returning to Italy seems to have been averted, but it is ironic that two days before England leave for the World Cup, Capello is in talks about a new deal; the kind of activity he has demanded his players refrain from until their business in South Africa is completed.


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  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Disappointing wins are the recipe for World Cup success. If Fabio can just grow a pair and realise that Joe Hart is the best keeper we have, experience or no experience. Fact is, it's a game of football, and you want your best players out there. Once he realises this, we will stop conceding, and our mean defence will be a platform to build a World Cup winning side.

  • Comment number 3.

    Let us not forget that this was a friendly with a starting eleven that will not be repeated in the World Cup. I suspect that Fabio long knew around 20 players before this and the Mexico the game, and was merely confirming what he knew. England did not qualify with ease to let these two games undermine confidence. Lets get behind the team and a man who's focus and determination will hopefully bring football home. Go England and go Fabio!

  • Comment number 4.

    I think that any great level disappointment at a result and performance in a game like today's would be every bit as foolish as adulation if we'd have thumped Japan by 3 goals or more. Fact is that these pre tournemant friendlies are always a bit lack lustre, as no one wants to injury themselves or do anything stupid just before the squad was announced.

    You've missed a trick Dan in not putting England's game in the context of other pre world cup friendlies. Spain for instance need a last minute goal to beat Saudi Arabia 3-2, Portugal were held 0-0 by Cape Verde, who are about 110 Fifa world rankings behind them. Before going on to win the world cup Italy's last friendly in 2006 was a draw win Ukraine, who did make the quarters but were hardly a powerhouse of world football at the time.

    I actually think that Lennon has reasserted his worth in the last 2 friendlies. While he should have scored after being set up by Rooney today, he always looks more dangerous than Walcott in the right.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think people forget that is only a friendly where the coach has to try different things and different players which may mean loss of co-ordination like not seen before in the qualifiers.
    This is the place for Capello to try different things without being concerned about the result and not at the World Cup.

    A big win may actually have the opposite effect and the coach may not learn much from it.

    Full time analysis

  • Comment number 6.

    One need only look at the Spain v Saudi result to see why this article is so off the mark. I remember a commentator saying the other teams in Spain's group will be heartened by the game...really?

  • Comment number 7.

    We all know the 6-7 players who, if fit, will be starting for England every match. Capello has has to ask himself the hard questions. Are Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney goinig to do it for England? For me, these players benefit too much from the link-up play from the big foreign players in thier respective clubs. Big players they are, but I don't think that they can perform when surrounded by average players. Maybe England is not as good as everyone thinks with these players. Maybe as a TEAM there could be a better England out there wihout some or all of these? Maybe.. I had high expectations for England but I go for a QF exit..

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm very disappointed in England's performance. I understand it's a warm up and players don't want to try their best and give all. But I would have thought we could have shown more against Japan given the players/coach we have. To look so hesitant and error-ridden is a worry. But we have to believe the creative players - Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, J/A Cole - will suddenly click into top gear at some stage and show what they can do and what they have done for club. (Messi fears England). I know in the past England's disappointed but now... Let's all believe!

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree with feed the goats comments, it must be HART. (#2)
    Our first 11, aint bad, our second 11 is dire.
    And how did joe cole become a fringe player, he is pure class.
    Good luck the lads anyhoo, we have the easier side of the draw too!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Haven't we been here before? England have a good qualifying campaign, the whole country gets excited, we play really bad in some friendlies, have an injury crisis and get knocked out of the World Cup early! I hope it goes a little differently this time though!

  • Comment number 11.

    These friendlies are always a total waste of time, Ericsson destroyed them when he was making a mockery of England.
    Why do we always play lowly ranked teams prior to important games? He is putting players in, who even if they had been brilliant yesterday, would have stood no chance of getting into the final squad.
    Surely there is better opposition than this around anyway, people like Darren Bent were 1000/1 shot of being selected, (and I am a fan of his), he could have scored a hat trick, and he would't have went with the squad, why doesn't Capello just name the squad early instead of stringing players along, and not having the bottle to exclude them early, that is why he is receiving £6 million pounds a year, to make a decision, not difficult is it?

  • Comment number 12.

    Its rare but good to see that those making comments have more sense than the pundit.

    It was a pre-world cup frendly. And those two performances were "satisfactory".

    Dan, you had an opportunity to write a article with intelligence, insight and vision. But you failed.

    Fortunately, Capello is the manager of the England team not you...phew!!

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with #4 #6 Dan. Their comments strike the better note. Look down the results of domestic pre-season friendlies or international friendlies and you'll always see surprising scorelines such as Portugal 0-0 Cape Verde Islands, New Zealand 1-0 Serbia, Spain 3-2 Saudi Arabia. No, England didn't play well, but when the real thing comes around I expect to see us choosing our strongest 11, not experimenting with tactics, playing our A game, playing at pace like we did in qualifying. That will be the better gauge of where we really are, and hoping it's better than these 2 friendlies!

  • Comment number 14.

    I sort of agree with #11. I can't understand why he named the likes of Dawson, Warnock and Parker in the 30 and then doesn't play them at all in the friendlies. What can he possibly learn from playing Lamps, Cashley, Rio and JT that he doesn't know already? Having said all that, I think he should have used these players before the very last friendly before the real thing. Against Egypt, Rooney played when I would have thought the sensible thing to do would have been to try different players such as Zamora at that point. Rooney played yesterday, what if he had got injured? - I don't get it.
    I also can't understand why he was trying Lennon and then Wright-Phillips on the left when he has 2 more natural left side players in Joe Cole and Adam Johnson. I think he should have given them a half each yesterday.
    I suppose you just have to be confident that Fab knows what he's doing.
    I still think England have a great chance AS LONG AS WAYNE STAYS FIT AND STAYS ON THE PITCH!!
    I would be amazed if Joe Cole doesn't go, he can play a variety of positions and is one of the few with real natural talent and was our best player 4 years ago.

  • Comment number 15.

    Yes. It looks a mess but I think we can see with a few tweaks we can do this, whether Fabio will do them I am not sure.
    1. Joe Hart is getting a lot of support on 606. He looks confident and sure in goal, making the position into a positive that should aid the team. Green doesn't seem to do that. I am not never too happy with him as my club's goalie, do not want to see him in goal for England too.
    2. Joe Cole is the one England player that has the sure touch and craft to ensure England can keep the ball in attacking positions. People have spoken of Gerrard as support striker. No way. Gerrard does not have the touch or can play with back to goal, his touches are often heavy, they do come off once a twice a half into a significant moment, but to play him there would ensure we are a play on the break side resigned to giving the better opponents the ball.
    3. I agree with Dan, Gerrard is better played deeper alongside Lampard, but both would need to hold at times as Joe Cole would be the attacking roamer in 4-5-1. With Rooney up front and Lennon right and Milner a more defensive focused left, allowing Ashley to bomb on. 4-5-1 and Joe Cole and that formation would allow us to keep the ball in the way we need to.
    4. SWP always looks very direct, committed and effective for England, he runs straight and directly at the opposition with pace and battles hard. Unlike Walcott. It's a shame if SWP does not go.

  • Comment number 16.

    The England lads are simply too tired. Just look at them ! Unless the FA do what the continent does,which is to have a winter break, England will never win anything major.Tiredness has again robbed the "English Spirit". How can you show any fire when you are already burnt out ? The legs just can't go any further. One word of advise, REST NOW WHILE YOU CAN.There's still time.
    Finally, one pointer we can take from these 2 friendlies is that all the other footballing nations are now equally as good if not better than England. So England beware. We are not going to win anything without reason. Common lads, or else we will end up like 2006 all over again !

  • Comment number 17.

    Should also have said 100% commitment in the tackle too.

  • Comment number 18.

    'I can't understand why he named the likes of Dawson, Warnock and Parker in the 30 and then doesn't play them at all in the friendlies. What can he possibly learn from playing Lamps, Cashley, Rio and JT that he doesn't know already?'

    Parker etc. Well I think he decided pretty much these guys were not good enough to be in the best 23. They were in as emergency cover and because he can choose 30. This ensures they train with the squad and get integrated with the environment - so if they are suddenly called in they are not outsiders who have to get used to things from scratch. It also gives him information on these players for future squads beyond the World Cup. For someone like Adam Johnson it helps for future squads too that he will be involved with. Choosing them also adds an element of competition and ensures those who he will definitely pick (but not yet told) remain on their toes.

    Lamps etc. He is playing some of the perennials alongside some of the fringe boys who he might seriously pick for the 23 or even starting XI. To test some of the fringe players in a realistic environment with some of the certs is a more valid test than throwing 11 fringe or highly unlikely to go players all together on the pitch at once as you seem to be suggesting. It also allows FC to monitor the fitness and form of some of the certs. This is important information for Fabio. If none of the certs had got any pitch time in these matches, people would be complaining if we struggled against USA in the 1st game, 'no wonder! these players are undercooked and have not played at all for a month'
    With only 22 starting positions in the 2 friendlies he cannot accomodate everyone.

  • Comment number 19.

    These were experimental friendlies against good opposition (both qualified for world cup) Japan's ranking of 45 is deceptive as they are among the 32 teams playing in South Africa.
    Necessary to experiment I believe as there are question marks about the team. Goalies little to choose between the 3, JT Form and focus a bit dodgy due to off field activities, Rio fitness in question this season, Ashley coming back from injury as is Lennon
    Useful exercises for one to try out alternatives to Gareth Barry who has been a mainstay of the team for the last 4 seasons, as these did not work the option of Lampard or Gerrard in the holding role as has been used in the past with more success.
    Carrick and Bent have raised questions as to wether they have the self belief, although both on their day probably have the ability they have to show that ability when called upon.
    Joe Cole played himself into the squad after 2 seasons of injury.
    Wright-Phillips despite club form always delivers something in an england shirt.
    Walcott's place in the pecking order(and I am not a fan) must have changed although how many players in the 30 have scored a hatrick in an england shirt.

  • Comment number 20.

    As wierd as this sounds, I think it would have been better if we lost. At least then we would have been given a kick up the backside, and maybe the spark to rediscover qualifying form. Remember the last time England lost a warm up friendly was in 1990, we all know what happened then.

  • Comment number 21.

    I really think that England will win the world cup this time around the stage is made in South africa for Theo Willcott to unlock defenders, and I'm a GOONER,

  • Comment number 22.

    mexico was terrible this was afarce played on a sunday confirmed we are a sunday league team

  • Comment number 23.

    I would also like to agree with a point others are making. If you have 30 people in the squad, two games meaning two starting XI and twelve possible substitutes, what can possibly be learned from playing people like Ferdinand, the captain, who is guaranteed a place. Again Cole, probably one of the two best left backs in the world, is a certainty, so why not allow warnock a chance to impress, particuarly given Baines' miserable performance against Mexico. With Dawson not even allowing him playing time seems crazy given he has had an amazing season for tottenham. Terry clearly plays so what is the point of using him. If Rooney gets injured tournament over so what is the point in playing him for all of the two friendlies providing so much oppurtunity to ruin England's chances. I understand he wants to see different striker combinations, but still was it neccessary. 4-5-1 makes more sense as a system given Man U's success this season employing Roony as a lone forward.
    I think the problem is Capello seems to have gone crazy at just the wrong time.

  • Comment number 24.

    Handel 500

    Dont agree with your comments. These are not lowly ranked teams, both are going south africa - portugal and spain played cape verde and saudi arabia respectively, do you think they are stronger tan mexico and japan?
    Wont get games against Argentina at this point as we would take chunks out of each other or be concerned about giving away too much of our gameplan.
    And to say it would not of made a difference if Bent scored a hatrick is twaddle, Bent's inclusion is based primarily on his ability to score goals if he showed he could do this in an england shirt his chances of making the cut would improve ten fold. (And I think he should have been a lot closer to an England shirt for many years).
    There should always be competition for places and I don't think he would have picked anyone in the 30 who did not have a chance of making the 23, however slim that might be (Owen Hargreaves).


    This squad has trained together for a while and includes players who Capello has not looked at before (Adam Johnson, Carragher, Scott Parker).
    He has now had a good look in training and plumped to try out other options.
    Think Dawson was there as back up to Rio and King who both have fitness questionmarks which they have semmingly sufficiently overcome.
    Rio was played for fitness.
    The chelsea guys were rested for a game.
    You have to play a core of your starting 11 or you have no idea how the fringe players will perform in a starting 11, just how they perform in a second string team.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ cs15hammer '2. Joe Cole is the one England player that has the sure touch and craft to ensure England can keep the ball in attacking positions. People have spoken of Gerrard as support striker. No way. Gerrard does not have the touch or can play with back to goal, his touches are often heavy, they do come off once a twice a half into a significant moment, but to play him there would ensure we are a play on the break side resigned to giving the better opponents the ball.'

    Have u actually seen Gerrard played? I agree England played better when he played in the middle, in both matches against Mexico and Japan, but that's due to a lack of quality in the England midfield. If you look at his performances for Liverpool over the years no doubt he is most dangerous playing in the hole.

    Also, I agree Joe Cole is technically better than Gerrard or, indeed, everyone else in the England team. But the main job of supporting striker is not to keep possession, unless you are talking about Heskey, but to make clever movements. Gerrard plays so well in that position for Liverpool because he makes clever movement either into empty spaces or creates empty space for his strike partner. Another reason why I think he should play in that position is because he releases the ball very fast. I do not agree with your point that Joe Cole keeps the ball better so should play in that position. In the contrary I believe playing in the hole require passing the ball at speed in order to unlock the defence, like Gerrard normally does, just look at the Japan match when he interchanged passes with Rooney. Keeping possession does not mean keeping the ball at one's feet. It is about passing the ball well without giving it to the opposing team. Just look at Barcelone the reason they are so good at keeping possession is because they pass the ball well and fast.

    I believe Joe Cole should play on the wing, so he can isolate and take on the opponent player, and stretch their back line. This will then create empty spaces for Rooney or Gerrard.

  • Comment number 26.

    Two bad performances but for me it doesn't matter. These two games where all about finding out our best 23 and it has worked great. I think it'll be pretty easy to drop 7 players now and we can start working on our strongest 11 rather than our strongest 23 now. I am disappointed that Michael Dawson, Stephen Warnock , A.Jhonson and Parker didn't get much time on the pitch. I would have given every player at least 45 minutes to make a case. But it was made obvious these players were in the squad to cover any surprise injuries rather than actually challenge for a place. Shame really because all these players have been eminence for their clubs and really deserved the chance while players like Walcot and Heskey are there because of what they have done years ago and not how they are playing now and probably deserve less of a shot.

  • Comment number 27.

    While I agree that England's showing against Japan left a great deal to be desired, I think it's important not to get too carried away with any potential omens regarding their World Cup Finals performance.

    During the past week, England have beaten two of the qualifiers for the World Cup without playing particularly well.

    What should be more worrying is that Wayne Rooney was unable to offer a telling contribution over the 180 minutes - if you can't score against fairly average teams like Mexico and Japan what are the chances of scoring against the Brazilians, Spanish or Germans?

    Fabio Capello can chalk-up another two wins on his already impressive England CV.

    In fact, statistically speaking, he has the best record by a long way of any England manager since 1872...

  • Comment number 28.

    I was tempted to bet England to win the world cup after the qualifying campaign but i now feel they will struggle to reach the last eight.

    They don,t have a solid enough keeper in the squad.
    Terry will always struggle at the highest level.
    Ferdinand and King are not fit.
    Gerrard and Rooney look jaded and out of form.
    Capello lookiing for his next job before the cup has even started.

  • Comment number 29.

    Heskey didn't play. Nuff said.

    Everytime Heskey plays with rooney, England look more dangerous. In all the big wins Heskey started, those who still make their case against Heskey are crazy in my opinion.

  • Comment number 30.

    Re : 28. At 10:06am on 31 May 2010, JH_55

    "They don't have a solid enough keeper"??? Well suppose your tecnically right we dont have A solid goalkeeper, we have THREE! I'd feel great with any of them between the postes mut my pick would be Hart, just an amazing keeper at the moment, full of confidence and never intimedated, He's will be one of the best keepers in the world soon enough and is already way up there for me.

  • Comment number 31.

    England did look a little disjointed aginst Japan but FC was giving some of the fringe players the opportunity to stake their claim to a place in the squad. An interesting point about the Japan team was that they had played nine matches this year as opposed to England's three so it was easy to see why Japan had more cohesion. Of course, the diary of European football in the second half of the season (Champions/Europa League, domestic leagues/cups etc) dictates how many international dates are available for Europe's national teams.
    So on to the future! FC names his 23 tomorrow and Alan Shearer's belief that he will take 5 strikers and have fewer midfielders was blown out of the water by Darren Bent's lethargic performance. And why do you NEED 5 strikers when you have quality midfield players who have a hatful of goals for England who will no doubt chip in with a few? That, of course, is a result for the highest profile "fringe" player, Joe Cole - I've stated "fringe" rather than fringe, because he is NOT just another fringe player, he is first choice! When he came on in the Cup Final, he produced something straightaway with one sweeping pass out to the wing which led to a dangerous cross - he is the only class midfield player we have who can do that, make that impact. Other players are just one-trick ponies but Joe is class all round.
    Carragher to go too - FC wouldn't have got him out of retirement if he wasn't going to take him and he has proved his consistency, if a bit primitive. And he'll be good company for Stevie G, they speak the same language, no need for an interpreter - eh? eh? eh?
    My squad (as if it matters, but thanks for listening, FC - ha ha)
    Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (to start), David James, Robert Green.
    Defenders: Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson,John Terry (all starters), Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ledley King, Stephen Warnock.
    Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard (all starters), Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.
    Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch (both to start), Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey,
    The core of the squad is much the same as in the last three or four tournaments and it would be foolish to bring in TOO many new players. I think it is a squad of strength and experience with good, experienced back-up players, not like Sven's 2006 squad when he wasted a place by taking a very good teenager and not playing him at all! The World Cup is no place for players with no caps! Maybe the next four years will bring on the Adam Johnson's and Tom Huddlestone's (Glenn Hoddle wannabe) and any number of promising players - for them, roll on 2014 and 2018!
    GOOD LUCK, ENGLAND! It could well be coming home........

  • Comment number 32.

    I seem to go into every world cup truly believing we can win it, I think I just have blind hope that we'll do it. This time is no exception. I just hope we do what we do best at the world cup and that is show real passion on the pitch (although Rooney may need to show a little less in order to keep him on the pitch) I think this is how Greece managed to win the Euro's and that gives me even more belief that we can pull off something similar.

  • Comment number 33.

    Definitely Hart for No1. As a Birmingham supporter, I've seen plenty of him this last year and he is a major talent. Green is a competent keeper but nothing special, James is a great shot-stopper but just too high-risk and with a poor record of cracking in big games.

    Hart has been absolutely outstanding all year and must have saved us at least 15 points that we would have lost with either Green or James in his place. He is also incredibly cool under pressure and seems to have a hell of a lot of self-belief. I can't see him being fazed playing for England, and he will definitely be England's No 1 for a few years to come, but I just hope Cap has the foresight to use him now.

  • Comment number 34.

    I admire the optimism of some people on here. However even the most hardened England supporter will have to admit there isn't much to excite anyone with this team. Yes there are a few players who might be able to compete at a level required to win the world cup but there aint enough. After coming through an easy qualifing campaign this team is being shown up by the likes of Japan and Mexico who have no chance of winning the world cup.
    England cannot hold on to the ball long enough to hurt the better teams and against better defences won't create enough chances to score.

  • Comment number 35.

    Some of the criticism - indeed, a lot of this article - is quite absurd. While it was a disappointing performance, the amount of experimentation Capello was doing, where he threw players together who had never played cohesively as a team before, as well as changing the system frequently, meant this was never going to be an accomplished or impressive performance. The performance also reeked of anxiety; from trying to cement a place in the side to avoiding injury.

    What we get with Capello is someone who wants to experiment and be clear in his mind with what he wants on the pitch when it really matters: our record with friendlies under Capello is actually rather poor, but it's when it matters that we've performed. To cite the Croatia games in relation to this damp Japan pre-World Cup friendly is plain daft.

    I think what's clear after this performance is how England look much more threatening and have much more substance in midfield when Gerrard's playing and he is, perhaps, England's most crucial player - more so than Rooney. Without Gerrard, Rooney looked lost and, as we saw, he gets frustrated at the lack of service and bite in midfield. I also think Joe Cole has played himself into the squad; we looked more threatening and used possession more effectively while he was on.

    And while we failed to score ourselves yesterday, the own goals - and the result - do reflect how England deserved to win the despite the performance. We squandered possession but had the vast majority of it and controlled the tempo of the game. Japan were intent on letting us have the ball and to take us on the counter, something they did very well. Yet this was to be expected when you're a slip-up away from losing your place or going home with a sprained ankle.

  • Comment number 36.

    The article is full of contradictions, it's patronising and defeatist.

    England were disjointed in the first half against Japan - not poor, disjointed.

    That's because it was an experimental line up.

    We dominated the second half, and deserved to win.

    Why do sports journalists always have to be so damned negative??

  • Comment number 37.

    I read an interesting article the other day on the BBC site about Englands previous pre-tournament warm ups.

    Interestingly the worst of the last 20 years was Italia 90, when of course we performed the best.

    I'm hoping we are currently seeing somthing similar.

    In reality though I'm pretty sure the anwser is quite simple. England play like an average team because we are one.

    We were discussing this at work the other day and all agreed that if England were to be compared with 1 team in the PL it would be liverpool. 1 or 2 top players who we rely on way to much. THe rest of the first 11 is average and the bench poor.

    Luckily we have a relativly easy group and probably the kindest draw we could get. So despite our many failings I can see us geting to the semis. But then when we meet good teams we'll fail. Badly.

  • Comment number 38.

    While I am not going to claim that Emile Heskey is the best striker in the world by any stretch of the imagination, I would like to stick up for him by saying that Heskey gets the best out of Wayne Rooney. Rooney, prior to Capello joining, had a fairly dire record for England in terms of goals. He didn't score in the world cup in 2006, grabbed a paltry 2 in the ill-fated qualifying campaign under Steve Mclaren(one more goal than Dave Nugent) and managed about the same in qualifying for 2006.

    Then Capello comes in, sticks Rooney with Heskey, and Rooney was simply unplayable in qualifying! Heskey may not be the most graceful or most prolific striker in the squad, but he makes Rooney play. Now if Rooney is our best hope for doing well in the tournament, then surely Heskey should play. That is to take nothing away from Crouch and Defoe who are excellent options, both proven goalscorers for England who can come on if we need something different. But plan A has to involve getting the best out of our best player, Rooney, who, whether you like Emile or not, plays best alongside Emile Heskey.

  • Comment number 39.

    Emile is a disgrace to English football, i would rather have agbonglahor.

    Anyone else agree that walcott should be dropped and A.Young should have been brought in?

    And Robert Green should be #3, ahead of him Ben Foster and Joe Hart, Robert Green is simply tosch!

  • Comment number 40.

    I don't think you can read too much into these friendly warm-up games. Let's see what happens in the competition proper. What worries me the most is the fact that other international sides have played more games than us in the run-up to the WC. England never seem to get enough time to play together. Another worrying thing in the Japan game was the fact we couldn't put the ball in the net and had to rely on own-goals. I hope Lampard sorts his penalty taking out before we get to South Africa.

    Anyway - let's just see what an average team can do at the World Cup.

  • Comment number 41.

    @39 - Even if you don't like him, to say that Heskey is a disgrace to English football is way off the mark. He will go, he will play and I will be happy with that.

    It was a lacklustre display yesterday - I got the impression that the squad already knew what the '23' was as they did not seem to be playing for a place. As an England fan I would like the team to go out with passion and all guns balzing for every game (friendly or not), however I can see the sense of calming it down a bit, saving energy and preventing inury just a few days before the tournament starts.

    I am a fan of David James, but Hart's display yesterday and against Mexico was confident and assured - I like the cut of his rug! So, I think I may swap my allegence.

    I am also hoping that there has been a great secret master plan and Beckham's injury is a ruse. We will miss him.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think the first eleven somewhat picks itself barring obvious injury concerns. I'd go with Joe Hart in goal just ahead of Green. David James always has that 'big error' waiting to happen and his kicking is absolutely rubbish. Joe Cole should start on the left wing allowing Chelsea pal Ashley more free reign down the wing plus he works harder than the alternatives - Then if needed our PLAN B would be to stick Walcott/Lennon (or both) on for the last 20 mins in games where the opposition would be too tired to cope with their fresh legs swapping little Defoe for Crouch for that extra speed shock to really mess with the opposition defences' minds...job done!

    Team: Hart, Johnston, A.Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Barry, Lampard, Cole, Rooney, Crouch.

  • Comment number 43.

    We won the game....

    I have more concerns with our CB's at the moment both Terry and Rio, inparticular Rio seem to be struggling with his movement and seems to have lost some pace.
    I think we have a risk that teams will target our slow CB's, Rio was able to get Terry out of jail in the past by covering him with some extra pace. This worries me.
    This also makes it more important that we have DM to cover the CB, we have gone down the Gerrard / Lampard route too many times in the past.
    I also don't understand why Parker and Johnson didn't get 45mins.
    Also Joe Cole must go.
    Hart or Green
    Johnson Rio Terry Cole
    Lennon Lampard ? Cole
    Gerrard Rooney

  • Comment number 44.

    I like Joe Hart but I think you have to look at the comments from Alex McLeish who said he shouldnt be on the world cup stage yet as his head wanders in games and he has too much nonsense in it... and McLeish rates him and wishes he could afford him so to say that you know there must be truth to it..

    Heskey is unforgiveable as a player because he is scared.. there is nothing worse in my book than a player who is scared of tackles, responsibility etc.. his own manager questioned his desire to play only last season..

  • Comment number 45.

    Same old story
    Same old hype
    Same old England
    Same old hopes
    Same old outcome
    Same old disappointment

    But I still believe

  • Comment number 46.

    As a scotsman who works in England, I have to remain neutral, but I will wish England good luck in the World Cup.

    However, these matches as just warm up matches so don't take them too seriously. At least England won their matches, Serbia got beat by New Zealand and Portugal drew with Cape Verdi.

    Being serious, if England are to do well, Capello must pick the right players.

    For goalie, he has to play either Calamity James or Hart (Robert Green in my opinion is not good enough to claim the No.1 jersey). Hart has arguably had the best season of the three keepers.

    The defence must improve (you can argue that one time or another during the season) any member of the 1st choice back four has had a trying time or played badly. The one player who has consistently played at a high level is Ashley Cole (despite his private life being dragged through the press).

    The only problems in midfield are who is going to be used in a holding midfield role and who are to be used on the flanks.

    In attack, who is going to support Rooney.

    If I were England Manager, I would pick:

    Johnson - Ferdinand - Terry - A. Cole
    Lampard - Barry (if fit) - Gerrard
    J. Cole (in a free role)
    Rooney - Heskey

  • Comment number 47.

    Whoever Capello decides to take to South Africa, he must quickly work out why his side cannot seem to rediscover the scintillating form that saw them dominate their qualifying campaign. Those 4-1 and 5-1 thrashings of Croatia now seem a distant memory.

    Well that's easy.

    During qualification everyone knows what the target is. To win that match.

    Friendlies in general do not have such a goal as they don't matter and pre-world cup friendlies are even worse.

    The players assured of making the squad/team are juts trying to make sure they get through uninjured, why would Gerrard, Rooney, Terry and the like risk their place by going into 50/05 challenges now and picking up a knock?

    The players unsure of their place are all trying to impress, meaning that they often try to do the things that will look impressive rather than the right thing to win the game.

    All of this adds up to a horribly disjointed performance in 90% of cases.

    Frankly I see no reason for it either. Capello should have picked his 23 before this and named the other 7 as standby players, he could have still taken all 30 to camp. Let's face it, he's had two years to decide on the likes of Baines, Warnock, Parker, Bent, Carrick, Upson, Wright-Phillips and Dawson; he was never going to suddenly learn anything new about them.

    He will have learnt only three things from these friendlies.

    1. Whether Joe Hart is good enough to be #1
    2. Whether Joe Cole is fit and in form enough to go.
    3. Whether Adam Johnson is worth taking as a wildcard.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think Dan's point is a valid one. This was a meaningful friendly, especially for those pushing for the last few slots. Capello was looking for plan's B and C. As has proved in the past, good teams who stifle our fast paced game, usually put us to bed. Ask yourselves this, in the last 2 world cup campaigns, how many games did we really play well? (you cant play poor and win against the good teams).Lets be honest here, there are all the signs of another dissapointment, indecision in defense, loss of confidence, players frightened of the ball,and key players carrying injuries insisting their fit. I have long suspected, that we just dont have the mental strength to impose ourselves enough in the world cup. It will be the same old 'Rabbit caught in the headlights' syndrome at crunch time. They seem too frightened of losing, instead of pushing to win. It will be the same 30/40yd passes from defense lumped up to heavily marked forwards, pundits scratching their heads,asking where all the training work has gone. The performance was flat in Japan, it will be flatter when in south africa at altitude, when we run out of steam or have to slow the game down and pace ourselves.And the side effect of that will be Rooney losing it, and kicking lumps out of the opposition and getting sent off. I really do hope Im wrong, but I keep seeing the same signs from the last failures.

  • Comment number 49.

    I don't think Capello will lose too much sleep over trimming 7 from the squad. More important to pick the core starting 11. I think he'll be reasonably happy with injury situation - of his first choice outfit, only Barry is an injury doubt. Some have been injured, but are now looking recovered and fresher for the break - eg Cole x2. Of the rest, a variety of in-form and out-of form.

    Goalkeeper. Situtation has improved. My personal choice is Joe Hart, but I think the competition has brought out the best in James and Green (who made some good saves against Mexico). We're OK in this dept.

    Defence. Cole and Johnson both looking fit and fresh. Wish I could say the same about Terry and Ferdinand. They're both top quality, but neither is on top form.

    Midfield. Lennon on right and Lampard in centre. Both playing well. Barry (if fit) and Cole on right - he looked extra class yesterday and can also bring out the best from Ashley Cole.

    Upfront - Rooney and Gerrard behind.
    Bit worried about Rooney. By his standards had a bit of nightmare against Japan. Gave the ball away too often and lost his rag. If that happens in South Africa, will be a repeat of last WC and we'll go out with 10 men.

    If Barry not fit, maybe drop Gerrard to central midfield and play Heskey upfront. Not popular, but he actually did well in his short spell yesterday.

    Bench includes Crouch, Milner, Carragher, goalie.

    Others to go:
    Baines, Dawson (I'd keep ahead of King because Ferdinand at least is already an injury doubt), Walcott (because in extra time with lots of space could be highly effective), Huddlestone (narrowly ahead of Carrick) and Johnson (because he's completely different from anyone else we have, and is naturally left-footed, although I suspect Capello won't take him).

    To stay
    Upson, King, SWP (although admit he did well when he came on, could possibly go instead of Walcott), Parker, Bent (close call, but we are just mediocre upfront apart from Rooney - and no point in taking an extra mediocre attacker to compensate), Warnock and Carrick.

    Personally I think it's probably one of the weaker teams we've sent to a World Cup Final (I preferred the 98, 02 and 06 squads), but we'll do better if we can (a) keep 11 players on the pitch and (b) learn how to take penalties.

  • Comment number 50.

    # 31 Rob Varney

    and #35 David Meller

    I completely agree with you two. David's comment has summarised what has happened and capello's plans very well and has also actually managed to put things into perspective without telling anyone they are wrong!

    Rob's squad looks pretty good to me. The recurring theme of Joe Cole back in sounds good. Lampard didn't really play until gerrard was on the pitch. Joe cole, gerrard and rooney is a pretty mean combination - adding crouch as an extra option and having the great player that is lamps actually playing because of gerrard etc. being on the pitch makes of world cup hopes look a lot better.

    I will be worried if we don't have Barry though because IMO our defence needs a proper holding midfielder. Joe Hart to start!

  • Comment number 51.

    It's not the final 23 that worries me. I think that other than the impending omission of Adam Johnson, I'm fairly happy with the squad. I fully expect the squad to be:

    Green, James, Hart.

    Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Johnson, Carregher, King, Baines

    Gerrard, Lampard, Lennon, Barry, Carrick, Walcott, Cole, Milner, SWP

    Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Heskey

    What bothers me is his instance on playing a long out-dated 4-4-2 formation. We saw yesterday how much better looked playing 4-4-1-1, but I'd seriously look at making England play either 4-5-1, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1
    These are the most popular modern day formations, that most players actually know how to play in these days.

    Starting in goal for me would be Joe Hart. He has been the best English keeper by some distance this season, he looked fantastic in the England U-21 tournement a while back and has looke composed in each of his senior caps he's won so far. Experience is not everything, as proof I will point to the exclusion of Paul Robinson, who had a good season for Blackburn and has played in a World Cup before (unlike James) and has over 50 caps to his name.

    I think the first choice defence picks itself. Ferdinand and Terry at centre half with Glenn Johnson and Ashley Cole at right and left back accordingly. There has been debate about Ferdinands fitness and Terry's form, but Terry is a Premier League winning Captain this season and Ferdinand has come through one and a half games in under a week unscathed. I believe King is a more than able deputy for Terry and Ferdinand with Carregher as a last resort. Johnson and Cole pick themselves as by far our best options at full back. Questions over Johnson defensive ability still exsist, but he reminds me of Ashley Cole when he first broke into the England team. All of a sudden it will click of him, of that I'm very confident.

    For me it would be a midfield five. Three central players in Lampard, Gerrrd and (if fit) Barry (if not Carrick). Gerrard would be the ball winner, as he started out at Liverpool (Alex Fergerson once described him as Liverpools Roy Keane). He does know how to play that role and he was once labelled one of the best players in the world at that role. Through mis-managment (IMO) he has been turned into a very good, but not world class, attacking midfield player. The likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka will alway have an edge on him. For me Lampard would get the attacking role. Playing in a 3 man midfield, like he does for Chelsea, affords him the freedom to burst forward into the box and get goals. Something he has been doing for years and year now. With Rooney up top and Gerrard holding, Lampard will be charging into un-occupied space and can cause untold damage. Over the past 5 years he has scored over 20 goals every year. Lets play to his strenghts. Barry, if fit, get the nod over Carrick. His left foot brings balance and although he has had a disappointing club season, Carrick has had a woeful season for United. Barry has maintained good performances for England and has yet to let the national side down. He can intercept passes and he is one of the few England players that does not require two touches all the time.

    In the wide areas I'd plumb for Lennon and Joe Cole. Lennon has proven this season that he is slowly becoming the finished article. His pace is at time breathtaking (I'd love to see him Walcott race over 60m), his delivery has improved 10 fold over the last 18 months and his willingness to get at the full back means I would give him the nod over Walcott for a place on the England right. The only thing that would let him down is his finishing ability, where I think Walcott is better. On the left Joe Cole would get the call. His supreme technical ability along with his creative ability means we have an outlet on the left (where he can go inside or out) that enables us to cause a more subtle approch to just pure pace a'la Walcott & Lennon.

    Rooney up top on his own leading the line. A job (this season) he has done over and over again and had his most successful season ever in top flight football. He will harass defenders and lead from the front. His movment off the ball will allow space for Lampard, Lennon and Cole and his skill and ability on the ball will have the world best defenders worried. Because of his supreme ability he can do the job of two strikers and work a defence the same as two average strikers could. This allows us to play to our stregths which is lies in our midfield.

    Overall a 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 is the way to go for me. It's flexable in both defence and attack, allows us to play our best players in their most natural positions. It is probably too late to be play like this now, so failing all the above I hope Capello sticks with the 4-4-1-1 as he did in the 2nd half against Japan.

    If he plays 4-4-2 with Gerrard on the left and Rooney up front playing off Crouch/Heskey/Defoe we will be lucky to go beyond the 2nd round.

  • Comment number 52.

    Hmmm...I never complain about an England win but I can't say I'm that happy about this one. Having said that, both were experimental sides and two wins out of two(three out of three if you count Egypt in March) well as other posts said, other sides have made bigger howlers.

    Fabio now says he always had a 23 pencilled in and the other seven gave him no reason to change his mind. That gives me a reasonable guess as to what that 23 is and I'm happy to take my chances on it.

    Fingers crossed.

  • Comment number 53.



    Now that all the irrelevant stuff is out of the way... what has changed?


    England STILL have as much chance to win the WC as anyone else.

    They MUST be one of the top 5 or 6 favourites.

    Not top. That HAS to be Spain or Brazil.

    And you can never write Germany and Italy off.

    But England have a good draw and a good first XI.

    No daft friendlies are going to change that!

  • Comment number 54.

    From the Japan side, this was another game where the defence inevitably conceded and the strikers failed to take their chances. They just cannot beat the "big" teams. This is not a strong Japan side and I was surprised how England struggled to create chances. I am not sure that we should read too much into England's second half performance because Japan often struggle late on. A lack of belief or tiredness. I was disappointed that England couldn't exploit the pace of Walcott and Lennon. Lennon was invisible and showed a lack of versatility on the left. I am surprised they didn't swap over. I guess that ends that experiment. Wright-Phillips made a much bigger impact but I can't believe that Capello will pick him. The Japanese team is relatively settled, although Nakamura couldn't play yesterday. They are playing to their maximum ability. If Capello knows his starting 11 then why not give them time to practice playing together in these warm-up matches? After all, most of the squad players won't play anyway. If Robert Green is the first choice then he needs match practice to build an understanding with his defenders. If Joe Hart is third choice then there is no point in playing him in these friendlies as there is almost no chance of him playing. In 2002 the South Korean team made a massive improvement by giving the first eleven time a lot of playing together before the tournament. Whether you think the referee helped them or not, they still put in many very good performances. Just because Portugal, Spain and so on are taking it easy against lesser teams, it doesn't mean that it is a good tactic. Anyway, too late now!

  • Comment number 55.

    Starting XI : Hart,A Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Johnson,Barry(if fit)/Huddlestone/Ledley King,Lennon(all Walcott has got is pace), Lampard,Gerrard,Milner/J. Cole, Heskey, Rooney

  • Comment number 56.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 57.

    Decisions, decisions!

    Personally I'd like to see Adam Johnson go to South Africa. I think it's always good to take a surprise element. I'd leave Upson, Dawson, Warnock, Parker and Bent at home. The problem selections for me are Wright-Phillips v Walcott and Huddlestone v Carrick.

    Personally I'd chose SWP and Huddlestone but we all know Walcott goes. Carrick too probably based on experience.

    The emergence of Milner means Capello can afford to take only 7 defenders. Milner can double up as a right back.

    One player I would have taken is Carlton Cole over Heskey.

    As for tactics v USA 4-4-1-1. Green, Johnson G, Ferdinand, Terry or King, Cole A, Lennon, Lampard, Barry, Cole J, Johnson A, Gerrard & Rooney. Gerrard and Joe Cole rotating as the support to Rooney.

  • Comment number 58.

    Well, we can still dream for another couple of weeks but does anyone seriously believe that this squad of over-hyped, over-paid bunch of plodders can really win this tournament?

    The (I assume) first choice centre back pairing of Terry and Ferdinand looked tired, slow and jaded. There was absolutely no fluidity about the team's play. Lampard was poor and must be replaced as first in line for free-kicks and penalties. He just belts the ball as hard as he can and hopes it will somehow get through the wall. I much prefer Drogba taking free-kicks at Chelsea. Perhaps Rooney and Gerrard can relieve Lampard of these duties. Not even sure Lampard should be an automatic choice to start (sorry, fellow Blues).

    As for up front: it seems pretty ludicrous to bang the drum for someone who has hardly played for his club side this season and whose goal-scoring record is so dire but I really can't see any viable alternative than to play Heskey with Rooney. Just emphasises the dearth of talent England really has to compete at international level.

    At least we will be spared the sight of Beckham waving flags out of the cockpit prior to take-off for South Africa. Let's just hope the media hype is a lot more subdued than in 2006. I got caught up in it myself then and for Portugal 2004 but I sense a far greater feeling of realism this time around.

  • Comment number 59.

    Was this game ever going to pan out any differently? I said the same after Mexico - only the press will take any notice of these results, and even then, just as an excuse to bash the team. it seems to be the national hobby.
    Think about it, who wants to pull a hamstring of take a stud to the shins 11 days before the World Cup?

  • Comment number 60.

    Thanks for the patronising replies but I stick by my comments. Surely sense suggests that a squad of 23 allows to pick 2 players essentially for each position and 3 keepers, assuming Fab goes 442. What is the point, as some are suggesting of taking Lennon, Walcott and SWP when they all prefer right wing/midfield leaving we assume Joe Cole on the left (and apparently/unbelievably he's not a certainty either). I ask who's covering the left side? Gerrard? I think the Mexico game proved that's not ideal. Milner did ok there but he's not natural there but we have the talented Adam Johnson who's been brilliant for City. So why is Fab still trying Lennon on the left where he was obviously uncomfortable, then he leaves SWP there with Joe Cole on the right when Heskey came on - ridiculous. I can't understand why Adam didn't get at least 45 mins. Those of you are saying not much experience, caps blah, blah, blah - Michael Owen in 98?
    Other point is why would Cashley and JT need games. cash may have been out recently but has surely played enough this season as have JT and Rooney. Would have thought Rooney could have done with a rest rather than 2 pointless games.
    I'm sure it will all be fine when we kick off against the Septics.

  • Comment number 61.

    What do you mean they are showing mojo? Their wins have been against inconsequential teams and the display against Japan was nothing less than embarrassing to any red blooded Englishman or woman! Mexico was lackluster, there is no indication that England will show up to actually PLAY against the USA in the first round. I expect England to lose. They will be off playing golf very quickly. PLEASE, let's get an English Manager who understands how to get the best out of our boys! Harry Redknapp, are you interested?

  • Comment number 62.

    Lampard was poor and must be replaced as first in line for free-kicks and penalties. He just belts the ball as hard as he can and hopes it will somehow get through the wall. I much prefer Drogba taking free-kicks at Chelsea. Perhaps Rooney and Gerrard can relieve Lampard of these duties. Not even sure Lampard should be an automatic choice to start (sorry, fellow Blues).

    You having a laugh? Lampard has just scored over 20 goals for the 5th succsseive season!!! Lampard is less effective in a 2 man central midfield then a 3 man central midfield, but he is still amongst one of the best central midfield players in the world and his scoring record from midfield eclipses that of Xavi, Ineista, Gerrard, Ballack, Scholes or any other central midfield player you could possibly think off in the last 10 years! FACT!

  • Comment number 63.

    England have no chance of winning the World Cup. Quarter finals if we're very lucky!

  • Comment number 64.

    I think it is important to remember this is the warm up to the world cup and the boys need to get some actual playing time together regardless of what the score is and who the final 23 players are. Rooney needed some time to play after his end of the season injuries. Yes, it was a lack lustre game but no one got injured and we have to believe that our team is able to go all the way.

  • Comment number 65.

    I don't remember all of the friendlies before '06 but I remember Jamaica being defeated by a sizeable margin, then came the World Cup and there was little exciting play from the team. I see this as a test run only.

  • Comment number 66.

    Lets start to think constructively - I'm sure the team in Capello's head is clear to him - most probably, the team shapes he used in the qualifiers with a goalkeeper and striking partnership change.

    As Capello said, the most important thing to further our chances is to play like a premiership team. Can I suggest that supporters in the ground create a premiership-like atmosphere. What I mean is player focused chants + anthems... BUT no brass bands so what I mean is NO BRASS BANDS or hooters and the like - to clarify again, NO BRASS BANDS. I was at the last world cup and I think generating a festival atmosphere in the ground encourages english players to slow down and slow down some more. We will never play like the spanish or brazilian, do A few tricks like we're in a street carnival, and have a little dance in between each pass. We will never inevitably score like the brazilians. We need to force the ball into the net with pace, power and aggression. Its difficult for the FA or Capello to ask for changes in the crowd (as opposed to the team) so lets try changing things from bottom up.

    Pass and move at a 100mph (about 60% of the time), until we're tired and then ask to get subbed off. Its our best strategy.

  • Comment number 67.

    totally agree with 15. Joe Cole is the nearest England have to a Xavi or Iniesta. Disagree 25; Gerrard needs to work off Cole. Cole gives the team linkage through the crowded middle area and keeps the ball. Disagree with you 25. Joe Cole is not as effective on the wing. England need to be able to move the ball smoothly through the middle with sustained possesion. Cole is the ONLY England player who can provide this dimension and it is nice to see today that the country might finally be waking up to the fact.Gerrard and Lampard are great but they are Roy of the Rovers types; England need that combined with the sublety that Cole provides and that means he must play as an inside forward.
    Also, great point 43. Terry and Ferdinand are a real worry. Couldn't believe the way Terry gave the ball away on a number of occasions and niether of those CB's want the ball.....very concerning.

  • Comment number 68.


    As a Chelsea fan I'm grateful for the 20 plus goals that Lampard scored last season. But he is not the best taker of free-kicks or penalties in the team. He lacks technique (which will be found out in a big way if he joins Mourinho at Real Madrid) and I would put at least Drogba and Ballack ahead of him at Stamford Bridge.

    Despite what he's done at Chelsea he has never done the business for England and does not deserve to be an automatic start, in my opinion. Gerrard has got to be the first name pencilled in for midfield, then pick the rest around him. If that means leaving Lampard out in favour of Milner, for example, then so be it.

  • Comment number 69.

    Although the game was just a friendly so the manager could see the players he wishes to go to the world cup,most of the players where the same old players from the last world cup.Rooney Lampard,both Coles, Terry Ferdinand and Gerrard,the main team that let us down last time.What happened about trying all the new players to take to SA,I am sorry if anyone thinks that this team is going to give England any chance of winning the world cup.At the end of the day who are the fans going to blame this time.....the manager or the same poor players that have let us down before.

  • Comment number 70.

    I agree with the idea of Joe Hart as goalie although he will not make anyone forget Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton. Green and James should be there, but forget Paul Robinson who has been unfavourably compared to Venus de Milo.

    Joe Cole has to be on the team, he is the best ballhandler as in one on one matchups on the team. He can play midfield or forward. Lumpy (Lampard) looks a bit out of shape but could contribute. Steve Gerrard has to be in the starting lineup along with Cashley and we have to find a place for Aaron Lennon along the left side.

  • Comment number 71.

    Whoever England picks, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Holland beckons in the knockout stages and my bet is England's media will be left talking about who should have gone and who should not have.Poor english fans.....faint hopes, false hopes

  • Comment number 72.

    Well, anyone would think the world had just imploded following yesterday's match looking at some of the reactions. It wasn't a pretty match but then most friendlies, either before an important match or ahead of a world cup, are never usually great fare.

    I recollect that we lost 1-0 at Wembley before the 1966 World Cup with Karl Heinz Schnelliger scoring the goal (please correct me if I'm wrong). However, our build up to this world cup has been nigh perfect because Capello has been able to get the team through qualification well (better than ever before) and we have won all our pre-world cup friendlies. At the same time he has continued to experiment throughout, by changing the way the team play from half time yesterday and then changing yet again during the second half. You may say what is so great about that. Personally, it seems to me he is trying to make our players think and use their brains as well as their footballing talents and when the day comes that during the tournament, he needs to makes telling changes because matches are not going right for us, he wants to be able to count on our players in the squad to alter formations at the drop of a hat. I think he is getting there and needs to have support from all of us - it was never going to be easy winning the world cup but it is feasible, with the talent available, that we may do it. We need the players to play as a team and support one another. Whilst it may not look like it at times, I believe they are starting to work well together and support one another with the semblance of the right mind set needed to get to the final.

    As far as the team is concerned, I would include Carragher in the back and Cole, Wright-Philips, Lennon and Parker for the mid-field. Hart looks great and has been great all year and gets my nod as no 1. Heskey, despite all the usual moaners, gets my nod ahead of Crouch. He is an intelligent and totally unselfish forward and I wouldn't be surprised if goals come his way during the world cup if given the chance, although I would include both in the final squad.

    At the end of the day, I trust in Capello and will support whomsoever he chooses to go. I firmly believe they will do extremely well and even have a sneaky feeling they will win it - I have never said that before any world cup including 1966!

    Come on England!

  • Comment number 73.

    @ 68

    I really, really hate to defend Frank Lampard but didn't he score more goals than all our strikers put together in the qualifiers for 2006? And I seem to remember he was just as good as Rooney at Euro 2004. I'd say that's "doing the business" wouldn't you?

  • Comment number 74.

    I don't really want to make excuses for our performances of late, but things need to be put in perspective:

    - We had to give the likes of G.Johnson, Rio, Walcott, Lennon, A.Cole and Rooney (who are all certs to make the 23) lots of gametime to fully regain match fitness after injury-hit seasons.
    - Gerrard also needed lots of gametime after a personally disappointing season, to try and return to his best form.
    - Therefore this left very little room for trying out other players.
    - Plus players like Dawson, Parker etc were only there as back-up in case the first choice players weren't fit enough (i.e. Barry, who I think will make it)

    (DEFENCE:) - Three out of our first-choice back four haven't played that much football in the past few months (hence the reason they needed run-outs)
    - Keeper position far from decided, although I personally think Hart must go, as he is the most capable (PFA KEEPER OF THE SEASON), regardless of age *LOOK HOW OLD PETR CECH WAS WHEN HE FIRST GOT HIS CHANCE!*
    - Lack of Barry was crucial, as he protects our back four so well (only a fit Hargreaves could do what he does for England)
    (MIDFIELD:) - Barry again. He gives licence to the likes of Gerrard and Lampard to go forward and involve Rooney in the game.
    (OFFENCE:) - I have to say this, the reason Rooney's been so ineffective in these last few games is because of a distinct lack of Heskey. Say what you will about the guy, but he's the best partner for Wayne, and he gets goals out of our talisman. Put it this way:
    "Would you rather have Rooney at his lethal best with a barren Heskey, or Rooney playing OK alongside an OK Defoe/Crouch/Bent?"

    Friendlies are so inconsequential whichever way you look at them. Look at TOURNAMENT-FAVOURITES Spain, labouring past SAUDI ARABIA! Portugal couldn't even beat CAPE VERDE! I'd personally rather us play badly and come through the friendlies without any additional injuries, than us play really well but lose a key player due to an over-exertious tackle.

    And let's not forget, this team need time to gel again.

    Stop being so pessimistic and get behind your country!!!

  • Comment number 75.

    I feel sorry for any England Player and Capello because it seems that they can't do anything right. It would appear that if they win, we slate them. If they lose, we slate them.

    We will never win games through beautiful fluid football like Brazil, Spain, Italy etc. However, we still won 3 games out of 3. Which at the World Cup would still be acceptable.

    Do you think French fans moaned about their win against Ireland? I doubt it.

    And I'm sure I keep reading blogs earlier on in the season regarding the sign of a true Championship winning side that can grind out a win despite playing badly. (Sound familiar Man Utd & Chelsea fans?)

    How about we actually get behind our England team for a change and accept that we can go into this World Cup by getting further than the Quarter Finals?

    I don't expect to win the World Cup but if we can get to the Semi Finals, I think that in itself is just as good.

    And to the blogger than commented on replacing Capello with an English Manager? That is the stupidest comment I've read. Did you vote BNP by any chance?

    The only thing I can see hindering our chances is Rooney's temper. The Japan and Mexico games showed this and the opposition will use this to their advantage much like Portugal did in 2006.

    C'mon England

  • Comment number 76.

    All I know is, that at half time I couldn't see who was going to improve Englands play. I thought about Gerrard, but then I thought about his Liverpool form of late. How wrong was I? The guy simply transformed the team with the help of Joe Cole. Two definate starters for me now, probably with Cole on the left and Gerrard behind Rooney.(Even in central mid to replace Barry if he has to.) Say what you like about them, but they force the opposition into doing something and making mistakes or creating space for others. Something that clearly didn't happen previously. People say Rooney is our main man, but he can't do much if no one around him is creating anything, but these two certainly do.

  • Comment number 77.

    Carragher Ferdinand Terry
    Cole Johnson
    Gerrard Lampard
    Rooney Crouch
    This would be my England team.
    Hart in goal mainly because he was the best English goalkeeper this season in the Premiership.
    Terry, Carragher and Ferdinand at the back would be rock soild.
    Johnson and Cole would be attacking wing backs.
    Gerrard and Lampard would be the holding midfielder and Barry as the attacking midfielder.
    Crouch and Rooney would be the two strikers because they score goals with Defoe on the bench.

  • Comment number 78.

    "In the space of a week, Milner, Carrick and now Huddlestone have all squandered their chances"--and who, out of his provisional squad was never given a look-in, an incredible blunder that defies belief, especially in view of your very accurate summing up of the rest?
    Surely any manager whose got his eye on the ball, would, in view of the failings of all his other back-up's have thought, I have to give this guy a run out, to see if he could fill the bill if Barry doesn't make it. But then maybe that's the problem, maybe Capello's already taken his eye off the ball, as his head is half in Milan. Either that, or there are serious problems between him and England's head honcho's.
    IMO opinion, if he turns the Inter deal down in favour of England, that will be a second incredible blunder.

  • Comment number 79.

    i think for England to have a decent enough chance of doing well at this World Cup, Capello needs to perfect the balance between the team's youthful exuberance and tried-and-trusted experience. that, and the belief of our supporters.

  • Comment number 80.

    It is all about tournament management which is quite different from club management. If Capello can make do with the resources he has and above all think on his feet England could well surprise us. Otto Rehhagel did that with Greece and most World Cups have been won by managers who are thinkers and pragmatists. Capello is the successor to Sir Alf whose philosophy he shares bar the wingers that is. He instils the same discipline in the team. I do not think the players enjoy playing for England under Capello but so what. Most of them those who play for CFC or Man U play far better standard of football for their clubs and playing for England is frankly a step down. Carragher was spot on when he made those comments about missing penalties for club and country. If the players put that same perspective into the international game then ironically we might do well. Put simply if the England team relaxes and plays the way they do in PL then we could even win the World Cup. However, we won't do that and will most likely exit to Germany in the last 16 either boringly 2-1 or on penalties. But then again who cares ?

  • Comment number 81.

    Really there is no pleasing the English media. If England had looked impressive and thumped both teams 5-0, the same media would have been saying 'it is easy to look world beaters against poor opposition'.
    If England players had gone in 100% and Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard all got crocked and out of the World Cup, it would have been 'stupid England play with their hearts not their heads'.

    Ideally these games should be played in a closed stadiums with no media invited (would be labelled by said media 'arrogant'). I am waiting for the next reports of an England training session, we will probably have sensationlised headlines of "ENGLAND TRAINING SESSION GAME ENDS 12-9, CAPELLO'S DEFENSIVE PLANS RIPPED APART".

  • Comment number 82.

    Johnson - Rio - JT - A.Cole
    Lennon - Gerrard - Lampard

    Anyone else agree?

  • Comment number 83.

    Anyone else agree that this discussion about players 21, 22 and 23 in the squad is rather irrelevant? How much game time are these players going to get, barring a really unlucky break with injuries. It seems to me the whole "squad of 23" talk is overhyped by the media.

    If England have a strong starting 11 (which they do!) and a handful of subs which can make a difference (which they do!) then there's no reason to believe they can't win the whole thing.

  • Comment number 84.

    As I have always been rooting for - Hart should be our no.1. The confidence, assurance and cohesion he oozes out with the back four is great and definitely at this moment he has outclassed Green and therefore, James in that order respectively (meaning I would choose Green over James). His positioning is good, while his reflexes are very agile and quick (and very much quicker than Green and James). He doesn't lack in concentration - which is key - and has good outspoken communication with the defence.

    I understand that he's young and he could be "reserved" for the future No. 1 - but what I don't understand is why can't he be our No. 1 now?

    Anyways, apart from that, I reckon that Johnson was abysmal during the match against Japan - not only defensively, but he's a bit redudant as an attacking fullback when you've got the likes of Lennon, SWP and Walcott on the right: since all 3 of them are speed demons and are better served running at defenders - and don't usually hold up the ball for the full/wing back to overlap. Even if in the case that they do hold up - Johnson isn't fast enough and his crosses aren't good enough anyway. His shot against Mexico was good, but will only come once in a blue moon (on his left as well!) - which is what we witnessed when he "amazingly" tried a shot from outside the box when he could have passed the ball on. I'm not "lynching" him based on one perforamnce, however, I have never been a fan of Johnson. I don't think he's good enough. Having said that, Capello has not called up a decent right back - although I have to ask why he hasn't given M.Richards or W.Brown a try. I think, based on the Japan's performance - given that our opposition does not have a fast right winger; maybe J.Carreghar should be used at right back. Sadly.

    Joe Cole and SWP - otherwise - have played well enough to be called up. Walcott, unfortunately, has not. His one-dimensional runs and flat crosses are frustrating... and better service is needed for Rooney to score - As we see how Rooney was pressuring Japan's defence into turmoil from both Joe and Ashley Cole's crosses. Gerrard should start. Lampard should not take another penalty for England - it seems that England is too big a stage for Lampard's liking to be composed as he is when playing with Chelsea - where he is probably more comfortable with. Penalty kicks should be given to the most confident (of course, if your shooting is really abysmal, you should avoid taking penalty kicks) in my opinion - for that matter, I would root for Rooney to take one.

    A bit disappointed that Adam Johnson was not tried out on the left. Lennon was unconvincing on the left, although much more on the right. SWP was decent on the left, but Johnson probably would have been better with a left foot on him.

    Otherwise, this is my pick for the 23 players to a 4-4-1-1 formation which proved successful for 30 minutes. I don't think we have a decent string of strikers other than Rooney to play a 4-4-2:

    A.Cole(LwB), Ferdinand(CB), Terry(CB), Carreghar(RB)
    Barry(LM), Gerrard(CMd), Lampard(CMa), Lennon(RW)
    J.Cole(AM), Rooney(ST)

    Green(GK), James(GK)
    Baines(LB), King(CB), Johnson(RwB)
    Milner(LRW), Carrick(CMd), Barry(CM), Walcott(RW), Wright-Phillips (RW)
    Crouch(ST), Defoe(ST)

    wB denotes Wingback... someone whom I see to overlap the relevant midfielder on the flank

    W denotes Winger... someone who has speed and runs at defenders

    CMd denotes Holding Midfielder

    CMa denotes Midfielder with attacking freedom

    This is based on the last 2 friendlies. However, if Barry was 100% fit, I would play him on the left flank instead of SWP due to his vastly superior left foot... and that Ashley Cole can overlap with Barry to produce the same feats which he has done for Chelsea.

    I really hope England can bond and gel up. Teams who are tightly knitted usually play better because they're playing for one another rather than individually. I think this is what Capello was trying to get them to do - to play with an old English Spirit and Grit.

    We used to be a Great Nation solely based on this 2 assests... lets hope we can instill some into these 23 boys on the field come June!!!!

  • Comment number 85.

    #81. Agreed. who needs to give anyone a good thumping right now - unless it's possibly a journalist from a certain Sunday publication. Fluky fumbling wins all the way to the final - that's how the Italians do it! Deeper analysis from a man who thinks he knows at:

  • Comment number 86.

    In recent months i have believed Adam Johnson to be quite talented. He he is able to beat people,cross and scores some nice goals. He should go ahead of Walcott,Lennon and SWP. I think Walcott and Lennon would be good substitutes coming on with 20 mins left.

    I don't think we will win the World Cup but I'd like us to really put in some memorable performances and win the group games.

  • Comment number 87.

    Whats wrong with so many of you journos?

    Is negativity part of the mandate for any article relating to England?

    This was an experimental friendly, we played a formation not use to, players out of position against a side who were well drilled and played with probably their starting 11 and formation.

    What do you think about many of the other nations who have also struggled, much worse than england....spain, portugal, france to name a few.

    Youve worked for sky, setanta, bbc yet why does such an experienced journo write with such naivety?

    Summed up by the last statement......But if England continue to play as they have in their most recent two games, their World Cup adventure will be a short one.......

    You conceed that this is not the England team that will be playing, and Im sure you know they will have a much more settled formation (Were talking about one of the most succesfull managers of recent times, do you really think he doesnt know what he's on about).

    Its nothing personal but so many of the columists for the Beeb have taken this doom and gloom attitude with so many things, its as if nothing is news unless there is negativity in it

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm from the States and I have to say that only the English and those who do not like to see the English succeed could find too much to complain about in the last two friendlies. Mexico is a good side that played at their very best. You will not see them perform at that level in SA. Yet England won 3-1. Japan was under tremendous pressure to perform because of recent poor showings and Honda is a truly world class player. Yet England dominated possession and play, especially in the 2nd half. Holding midfielder is a position that needs sorting out and is a cause of much trouble to England's defense, but Rooney looks absolutely terrifying. The goal-keeping is surprisingly good. Gerrard is coming into form; Crouch, Walcott, Lennon, and Johnson can either attack (walcott, lennon) or score (crouch) or both (johnson). This team looks very very good to outside eyes and will contend for a title. Have to say that the USA looked very good in their second half of play against Turkey and if we can sort out our own issues defensively (we can't defend counter-attacks, and have no depth), I like our chances to go pretty far. See ya in SA and good luck!

  • Comment number 89.

    Well said #81 and #87(and Robbo too, especially if that journalist causes us to lose not only 2018 but also our most successful manager of at least recent times, all in the space of one sordid story).

    The choice of words befits the sensationalist media Dan was previously employed by but wouldn't have seen the light of day in the BBC of old. Unfortunately the beeb has sold its soul so we have to put up daily with the extremes of emotions for regular occurrences from our flagship broadcaster too, eg. the other day the headline was "MURRAY EASES INTO LAST 16" and yesterday it was "MURRAY CRASHES OUT". I'm sure if you asked him Andy Murray would say his entrance into the last 16 was far from easy, and even though I'm sure he was disappointed to lose yesterday, he seems pretty level headed about it to me.

    This story starts with Capello's 'fooling nobody' and 'tried to convince'. In essence Dan's saying Capello's lying. Then it's the 'storm clouds gathered...demoralising shock defeat...drastically..' Remove this fatalistic language and it's a much better read.

    Thanks for those sober comments Horatio #88.

  • Comment number 90.

    I wish people would stop saying our midfield improved second half against Japan because we played Gerrard and Lampard. It improved because we played THREE central midfielders (Cole, Gerrard, Lampard) instead of two (Lampard and Huddlestone).

  • Comment number 91.

    Look at any of the previous winners of the World cup and you will clearly see a very luck lustre even poor starts. Just look at Italy & France last year who got off to very slow starts.
    Please do not fret over the last 2 matches, we are much better than that and fabio knows how to rattle the guys cages and get them going.
    We will qualify top and should be just getting into our stride through the QF/SF matches which is when it will be needed against the better sides.

    We will beat Ghana in the round of 16 3-1

    We will beat France 2-1 in the last 8

    I think we can beat Brazil in the Semi's (AET)

    And then up against the Spanish in the final (we win on pens?)

    My last 23: 3 xGK's

    Def: Cole Baines Carragher Johnson King Ferdinand Terry Upson

    Mid: Gerrard Lampard Lennon Barry Johnson Cole Milner Wright-Phillips

    For: Rooney Heskey Defoe Crouch


  • Comment number 92.

    Surely England is still on course? The team is likely to get through the group stages and may get past the next round, then go out in the quarters. As a top eight country that's about right isn't it, and this is what generally happens if you average it out?

    Every tournament the country gets confused between supporting the country, obviously a good thing, and then getting depressed because unrealistic expectations don't come to pass. Historically England do OK in the two big international tournaments - we won the World Cup once when it was here and had the benefit of a few refereeing decisions, fair enough. In the present we have two or three world class players maybe, our defence is suspect especially in terms of fitness, and as usual we are depending too much on our manager being some kind of genius!

    On the other hand, if we get to the quarters there are only three games left and luck can play a part, who knows, but to compare England with Brazil, Spain or Argentina (despite a dodgy coach) is hopelessly optimistic surely?

  • Comment number 93.

    We need to remember it was a friendly played with a starting 11 that is unlikely to start in the actual tournament and that had not played together before. It was only the third England game this year, Japan had played seven and apart from the keeper this was pretty much the same starting 11 that had started the other 7.

    I think we will get it together once the finals start but somehow doubt we will get beyond the quarters. There are at least 4 or 5 teams better in tournament situations than England going to South Africa and a number of up and coming national sides likely to spring some surprises. Reaching the smeis would be a surprise and a bonus for me.

  • Comment number 94.

    ....."Here's your first proper scoop of the day. My Mrs works at Heathrow airport and Theo Walcott has just checked in with his girlfriend. They are off to the Caribbean, NOT South Africa.

  • Comment number 95.

    What I saw in the two warm up games said to me that actually what the England boys could do with is a couple of days away from football.

    They looked lethargic, going through the motions. Forget their words to the Press, judge with your eyes what you see on the pitch.

    For men, the biggest discriminator between long-term success and failing to build on initial hurdles crossed is how the process of re-energising after climbing a lower peak is managed. That is different in different nations, cultures and groups. But champions know when to train and when to rest. When to focus and when to relax.

    I might be wrong, but I sense that the England boys need to stop worrying about intricate systems in their heads and just get out there and play. Times up for learning new systems for this tournament. Time is to play with all their hearts with what they know right now. As if they were playing kick about with their mates on the beach. Like Rooney played in 2004 in Portugal.

    Gerrard is looking like a dog on a lead. Dogs are more healthy when you let them tear around the park with other dogs. The time to put them on the lead is walking them from the house to the park. And back again. Problems occur if the dog can't dissipate its energy each day. Gerrard's energy needs to be let loose in all its glory on this World Cup IMHO.

    Walcott got much better at the tracking back duties of a right half in the past year, but has lacked self-confidence going forward recently. Beckham's words were wise. Walcott is best playing on intuition. Lennon is the same. Show them the tapes of them murdering Croatia in both matches to remind them how they did it in qualifying. Mind-set is critical for those two.

    All I hope is that the England squad can all say, on the plane home, win or lose, that they played with freedom, desire and self-belief and had no regrets about how they played. If, after that, they come up short, then an opponent was too good, or they were just plain unlucky.

    But if the team are consumed with fear of how the Press will rip them to pieces if they lose or play badly, then the Press need to ask whether they are really a support or a hindrance.

    Now if England can get their 'Told you so' performances out in the Group stages, maybe they'll get their 'gawd blimey' performances in in the knock-out phases?

    Because the way to win a World Cup is for 23 players, the manager and the coaching staff to stick it to all the doubters, whiners and moaners who not once in their life put their soul on the line only to lose and feel the absolute agony of failure. As well as to say 'here's to you' to all the mums and dads, coaches and teachers, managers and fans who supported them at those times of pain, freeing them up to try again next time after learning the lessons of defeat. And, let's be honest, to win the thing as part of their personal fulfilment as professional sportsmen, something no-one could take away from them for the rest of their days once done.

    It won't happen by wishing it. It might be helped by willing it. It will only happen with energy brilliantly channeled through a month of competition.

    The time for talking, planning and hoping is almost up.

    Now's the time for terrifying calm, 100% focus and the eye of the assassin in front of goal.

    This generation's time is now.

    I for one hope that they grab it with both hands.

  • Comment number 96.

    its this english spirit thing of fabio that bothers me. when has he seen it? not during his time, you can count the really spirited performances since say 1966 on one hand, the game with argentina a few years ago being one... between world cups england canter along and so rarely experience the pace and fury that goes on in the wc. does rio for example really think he can languidly slide the ball across to jt time after time only to receive it back, against quality opposition. its chronic to watch anyway and simply wastes time that could be better spent getting the ball forward. england have to wake up and play flat out from the start. I fear another belo horizonte coming on... joe cole must be in the squad. one of the few players with proven spirit when it comes to the crunch.

  • Comment number 97.


    A slightly pointless blog. Basing Englands likely world cup success on these two friendlies is silly. All around the world some of the favourites have been struggling in friendlies, France, Spain etc. But competitive games are a completely different kettle of fish and ive no doubt the favourites will rise to the occassion (England included) when the real stuff gets underway

    Capello will have learned nothing new from these two games, the main benefit willhave come from having the squad together for some time before the tournament starts

  • Comment number 98.

    Why can't people understand: it is a friendly, shortly before the world cup. The players are, rightly, focussing on the world cup and not this game. The WC will be full of adrenaline, something which a BBC journo sitting behind his desk theorising over formations will never understand.

  • Comment number 99.

    If Rooney gets crocked who will England expect to get goals with a non scoring forward and players who are out of form? This manager has consisitently said he will pick only fit and on form players yet does the opposite

  • Comment number 100.

    I agree with both #81 and #98! Mr Roan, congratulations, you qualify as a journalist. State some facts, but not all of them and draw a conclusion from the ones you have stated! You dont mention that England started with a weak midfeild and thats where we looked below par??? Nor do you mention that at half time this was changed and although it wasnt a vast improvement there definately was some. Rooney quite rightly was at half pace and so were some of the others BECAUSE IT WAS A FRIENDLY! Do you really think Capello's pre-match talk was ''go out there boys and give your all. Dont worry about getting injured and missing the World Cup, we need to win this one, it's really important to the media that we do!''????

    Why dont all media not write a thing all the way through the world cup and then comment after, that way maybe our lads might be given a chance!


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