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Mixed fortunes for England duo

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Phil McNulty | 20:30 UK time, Saturday, 14 November 2009

James Milner and Darren Bent boarded the plane back from Qatar with England careers heading in opposite directions - one can make plans for the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa while the other will regret the opportunity that got away.

Milner, in the stifling heat of Doha and in the face of Brazil's vastly superior range of talent, demonstrated the intelligence and versatility that surely convinced coach Fabio Capello of his worth next summer.

For Bent, substituted after 54 minutes of fruitless sweat and toil, this was probably his last chance to impress on Capello a talent that works well in the Premier League but has failed to make an impact at England level.

And as he trudged off disconsolately, and in the almost certain knowledge his World Cup hopes were over, it was hard not to sympathise with the Sunderland striker.

Bent worked tirelessly, but starved of service and pushed to the margins as England's stand-in captain Wayne Rooney dropped deep in an attempt to inspire Capello's depleted forces, his "now or never" moment passed him by.

He would have hoped for just one chance to at least make Capello think he could jump the queue in England's preferred strike force that appears to be Rooney, Emile Heskey, Jermain Defoe and one other - probably Peter Crouch, but potentially Carlton Cole.

The shadow of Manchester United's Michael Owen will lurk over Capello's selection process, but his exclusion for this friendly suggests the Italian's mind is made up barring dramatic developments at Old Trafford.

Bent's only serious chance came when he got on the end of a first-half cross from Milner, but his effort lacked power, dropped harmlessly wide and the rest was a tale of honest industry without reward.

It was hardly a golden night for Milner, but he showed enough in an England defeat that was narrow in margin but comfortable in manner for Brazil to suggest he could be an important component in South Africa.

Milner was busy, produced the occasional probing cross and almost gave England an undeserved equaliser when he steered a volley over the top from Shaun Wright-Phillips cross in the second half.

Capello will not be panicked by this defeat. No definitive verdict can be delivered on England's World Cup prospects from a game in which they effectively sent out a shadow side against a Brazil line-up containing many of the big guns they hope will fashion another triumph in South Africa.

England were comfortably second best, but this was only to be expected considering how their team was ravaged by absentees. It does not take huge expertise to deduce that a strong Brazil line-up will usually defeat England's reserves and Capello probably knew as much.

It was effectively a chance for second-string stars to make or break their own personal World Cup aspirations as opposed to a realistic gauge of the standing of Capello's team.

darrenbentLonely Bent reflects on his England disappointment

Some fared better than others. Milner looked more suited to the task than Wright-Phillips, who saw plenty of the ball and occasionally threatened, but did not seriously exploit one obvious Brazilian weakness, where Lyon's Michel Bastos was pressed into emergency service at left-back.

Manchester City's winger did not produce anything like enough to suggest he can nose ahead of Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott if they are both fit. He is likely to spend next summer at home.

Ben Foster's potential as an England keeper has been questioned, not least of all here, but he did no harm to his prospects in Doha. He did it not so much with a show of excellence, but by at least avoiding the errors that have dogged his season. He still has work to do, but he did not set his cause back - and that is a source of comfort for Capello.

Foster's Manchester United team-mate Wes Brown produced a mixed bag and did not make a compelling World Cup case. He delivered occasional moments of defensive excellence, but he was caught out (as was Matthew Upson) by Elano's pass that created Nilmar's headed winner after 47 minutes.

And he was guilty of a poor back-pass that let Nilmar in and forced Foster to concede a penalty which Luis Fabiano skied hopelessly. Foster was fortunate to be spared a red card, but the real culprit was Brown.

For Rooney, the chance to mark his temporary appointment as captain with a landmark victory against such illustrious opposition never came. He was effort personified, but with Brazil so much more comfortable in possession, Rooney was always fighting a losing battle.

As were England in the heat of Doha - and for the unfortunate Bent he will fear this was the last chance to make his pitch for a place in South Africa. He is now almost certain to discover his own personal battle has also been lost.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I don't agree with darren bent having missed his opportunity. Capello isn't stupid and knows that the way bent plays is to run onto through balls and hitting the back of the net. His service tonight was poor, and therefore he was chasing lost causes. The world cup squad will have darren bent included if capello sees a weakness in the pace of the opposition's defenders. He hasn't had a proper chance in my opinion

  • Comment number 2.

    first comment!!

    No, in all honesty brazil looked decent without ever getting into top gear. But they clearly have the edge on england in several departments and I feel they adn spain are the ones to beat next year.

    They have pace to burn, creativity and are so physically imposing even the northern european teams might find themselves being bullied a bit. Plus they have the ultimate plan B on the bench (adriano) and are utterly devastating on the coutner attack as seen twice in the last 15 mins against england.

  • Comment number 3.

    Were you at the same game.... Wright-Phillips was the only spark in the team.... nothing, but nothing came from the left.... or anywhere else for that matter, Rooney did what he could, but with no service other than from Wright-Phillips the strikers could do nothing, other than the goal and penalty defence and keeper played well enough.... This appeared to be a relaxed runaround.... and at times keep ball seemed to be the aim.... The England fans who came in from the UK did themselves no favours by not participating in the mexican waves either....

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree. I thought Milner was very good and deserves a place on the plane. Shaun Wright-Phillips I thought was very bad (despite Ian Wright saying his name in every sentence during and after the match). Jenas was exceptionally poor, and Darren Bent was very unfortunate to receive no service. I was very excited to see him up front with Rooney, but with no service there was nothing he could do. I'd like to see him get another chance, but with only one friendly left that seems unlikely.

    I thought Foster was good in goal too, the penalty foul aside, and Brown did excellently except the 2 lapses in concentration you mentioned. Upson and Lescott were surprisingly solid, and Barry and Rooney demonstrated why they have become regulars in the side with solid performances. Bridge performed better than recent weeks with Man City, but did nothing special.

    Overall you would have expected a loss considering the teams, and so in a sense the scoreline was respectable. Especially considering how much Brazil dominated most of the game...

  • Comment number 5.

    England started the game with a strong statement. Keeping the ball from the kick-off and playing a sequence of quick and direct passes to feet resulting in Brazil conceding a throw-in in their own half. This spirit was maintained for a while. Jenas and Barry, supported by Lescott and Upson, defiantly refusing to abstain from play and delegate to the wide players. Predictably and unfortunately this attitude, which requires a great amount of confidence, did not last long. Why? Because what we call the 'midfield battle' was lost. This battle is not fought by means of crunching tackles and wrestling matches, a kind of jungle territorial dispute where pretenders are sent packing with the threat of violence. Brazil won it by refusing to abandon playing football in that area. How could they? That is the way they know how, and they were going to show it. Psychologically they were saying this is our patch. The best England could hope for would be to trade blows with them, not until they gave in, because they wouldn't, but until the final whistle and hope to have come out on top. Alas, they didn't and Jenas and Barry resorted to doggedly making themselves troublesome in defence, yet relinquishing responsibility for retaliation. Likewise, Upson and Lescott began to bypass this outlet in favour of the wider options, and Bridge and Brown favoured the long high ball. It did not cause problems. And thus this is how the game was lost. Brazil dominating the dangerous zone and England struggling to retain a foothold.

    It doesn't take a genius to realise that the most successful teams conduct the game from midfield. Barcelona, and by inheritance Spain, are good cases to refer to in proving this. The defenders want the ball to get to central midfield and, when their chances of scoring a goal are poor, so do the forwards. Primarily it is up to the central midfield players to conduct an attack, decide when the ball will go to the wingers and when it will go to the centre forwards. They are the ones who are best placed to work open the opposition defences. It is regularly mentioned in media coverage that forwards need service, and this is true. But what is less often highlighted is the fact that for this to happen the central midfield players require good service first. When attacking, if these players are bypassed the play quickly becomes predictable and impotent against high quality defenders.

    It takes guts to pass the ball in to the relatively small spaces around the centre circle (who wants to give the ball away?), and it takes bravery to receive and play the ball there, but if England are to fulfil their potential I believe this is precisely what they must persist in doing. They must refuse to give up the fight in the midfield battle.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Phil,

    I am normally a big fan of your blogs but I feel compelled to comment here!

    The reason Bent didn't have a sniff was because of poor service and MILNER was the biggest culprit!!

    Please watch the game again and count how many poor crosses Milner played, because we began counting them and there were AT LEAST SIX!! Surely we can't take a winger with such poor delivery to the World Cup? His dribbling was occasionally effective, I will concede that, but otherwise I was so disappointed, whereas SWP, while less involved, knocked in a couple of good balls.

    Also, from previous blogs I notice that you think Milner brings versatility, but with a squad of 23 men for just 7 matches, surely versitility is fairly irrelevent? Sure, he could do a shift at left back, but so can ashley cole, bridge, upson and lescott who will probably all be on the plane to South Africa.

    I would take Beckham ahead of Milner based on that performance, he brings such maturity and professionalism and attention on him takes pressure off other players, not to mention his work rate, passing and delivery on the pitch. He brings something unique, whereas SWP or Lennon or Walcott or Gerrard can all dribble as well as Milner and have better end product!

    I am up for being persuaded otherwise, would be interesting to hear your thoughts...


  • Comment number 7.

    I'm with #3 - Wright-Phillips seemed to have had a good game to me. Certainly he was one of the few players England had where you felt something could happen where he had the ball.

    As for Milner, he showed some great persistence and I think the game was a good experience for him. He's not the finished article yet but we should find a lot to celebrate in him as a player.

    Bent - well, he's a good goalscorer but he hasn't proved it for England yet. It will be hard for Capello but he will figure it out.

  • Comment number 8.

    Here we go. The Brazil worship starts. It's so easy and so predictable because, frankly, they're Brazil and they have won the World Cup 5 times.

    But which manager will be more concerned after that performance? As Phil says, the result was utterly predictable. The England B Team against what could almost be described as Brazil's World Cup Team. And don't forget, it was played in strength-sapping heat. Things will be very different in the damp, cool South African Winter in 2010.

    I feel fairly comfident that a full-strength England Team will worry the Brazilians. Bent won't be there. In my opinion neither should Milner unless Beckham, Walcott and Lennon can't make it!

  • Comment number 9.

    I have to agree to some extent with tuhhodge - It was a full strength Brazil against a very second string England. Even so, the england players still had to play at their best. For me what that showed was that Lescott is not a world class central defender, and nor is Upson - unless he has someone good beside him. Foster's distribution was appalling - what is the point of booting the ball straight to the Brazilian defence for it to come straight back. And without a proper 'playmaker/attacking midfielder' somewhere in the midfield there is a big problem as the gap between bent and barry/jenas was massive. As for the Milner/SWP debate I'd go for Milner everytime, unless SWP can stop playing only 5 mins in every game he plays and learns how to weight a pass. Bent - learnt nothing new - if he doesn't get the service he will be invisible and if he doesn't get the service what can he do?
    One final comment, do players not communicate on the pitch, because surely Foster should have been shouting for Brown to head that ball out not chest it back - schoolboy stuff, communication.

  • Comment number 10.

    I absolutely disagree that Darren Bent has had his last chance to impress. If he has - then he has been very unfairly done by by Fabio Capello. Darren Bent didn't have a great game tonight, that I agree with. However he was starved of opportunities by a lack lustre England performance. His strike partner Wayne Rooney saw a lot more of the ball, but that was only due to the fact that Rooney is a player that drops deep and goes looking for the ball - And with the type of player that Rooney is, you need an out and out striker like Bent to partner him.

    In my opinion Capello's claim to give any form player a chance in the England team, should have a given Bent a chance long before now. His only chance has come against Brazil - a team that we were never going to get many chances against. It's a big ask to expect him to shine in a game of such class opposition.

    I don't understand how Heskey has had so many caps under Capello, getting so many games and chances to impress against much lesser opponents than Brazil. I don't see why Heskey and Carlton Cole should go to the World Cup before Darren Bent. What on earth does Heskey offer? People say he's strong and holds the ball up well, but from what I see he is a player who can fall over his own shadow and a striker who doesn't score.

    I'd much rather see a player who can score a goal partner Rooney, despite how well the 2 strikers are suited. Call me crazy, but I am not one who is of the opinion that England's entire hopes of lifting the World Cup depend on how well Rooney plays. England have got a chance, but need every player to perform. England aren't a one man team. Wayne Rooney is a class act, don't get me wrong, but he's not a prolific goal scorer and Capello's likely to partner him with a player who doesn't score - full stop.

    The Rooney/Heskey partnership may have served us well in the qualifiers, but what about on the quarters, or semi's of the World Cup when were against the likes of Spain, Germany, or Brazil and only get a couple of chances in the game. I'd rather Capello took a chance on Bent, after all he's got something to prove in an England shirt and that will always make him a threat.

  • Comment number 11.

    Phil, you are probably right about Bent. But then didn't you predict a Liverpool Prem title too..?

    Thought Milner was extremely industrious but not really dangerous (apart from the one unconverted chance) - and I think the Brazilians sussed that pretty early on.

    Why? Because, apart from anything else, there was no-one (especially Milner) on the pitch in an England shirt apparently capable of taking a decent corner or putting in a decent cross from the left. Or taking a free kick from anywhere, come to that.

    Also, as a United supporter, I really wanted Wes to do well. Still not good enough, I'm afraid. But at least he crossed the half-way line occasionally...

    Foster had a good game - positioned himself well for the most part and had no real option after Wesley's joke back-pass.

    As for SW-P - I'm not a big fan but he looked dangerous in the first half and should have been used more. But he was just one among a bunch of frustrated midfield men closed down and by-passed by a quality team.

    He's not good enough, in the end though.

    Was impressed with Lescott, I have to say, but Rooney? Well, hard-working as ever but maybe he needs to have a word with the boss about the service. he might want to say the same thing to Fergie too...

    OK, I'll shut up now.

  • Comment number 12.

    I've thought for a long time that Milner should be in the England squad and going to the world cup and I've been equally unimpressed with SWP for a long time. Bent is a good premiership striker but i'm not sure whether he's international class. I thought he was badly treated at Spurs though and I am pleased to see him doing so well with Sunderland and at least getting a chance for England.

    Phil, you mentioned about Englands likely line-up of Strikers with Rooney, Heskey, Defoe and one other and without naming names as such I wondered what your thoughts were on the squad make-up? I guess standard convention says 3 keepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders and 4 strikers but I wonder if that limits our options in a big tournament.

    LeedsUniFC 4 life suggests versatility is irrelevant but I would argue its vital. With players like Milner and Barry able to fill in at the back I would rather see maybe even as few as 6 defenders taken to allow an extra midfielder and striker taken.

    We've hardly got a great history of penalty shoot-outs so I would have thought more attacking options to change and win a game late on is more important than defensive cover. Wayne Rooney is proof that the most gifted of attacking players can do a job and defend when asked but you couldn't ask Upson, Lescott and Bridge to come on and change a game. A bench with the likes of Beckham, Walcott/Lennon, Milner, Young, Defoe, Crouch and maybe even Joe Cole and Micheal Owen makes more sense to me!

  • Comment number 13.

    re Tim's comment (12). Joe Cole HAS to be on that plane!

  • Comment number 14.

    Why do you need 3 Keepers for 7 matches - never understood that one! As for the comments on more attacking players - couldn't agree more, remember 'carra' coming on to take a penalty against Portugal worked well didn't it.

  • Comment number 15.

    I have to ask, why have we gone back to playing 4-4-2? We looked extremely flat today, and have done every time we have played that formation. The 4-2-3-1 variant was the source of our convincing qualifying campaign, as it allowed us to get four + the full backs into attack without leaving us exposed at the back.

    Johnson Terry Ferdinand Cole
    Lampard Barry
    Walcott Rooney Gerrard

    And I've said it before, but SWP should never get anywhere near the England first team. He dribbles without conviction and his crossing is abysmal. Our first choice on the right should be between Walcott and Lennon, with Milner and Young being cover for either flank.

  • Comment number 16.

    I really do hope that D. Bent gets another chance. Good effort all the guys, Do well in South Africa next year. You guys make the entire nation proud.

  • Comment number 17.

    Quite frankly there wasn't a great deal of difference between SWP's performance and Milner's, although Milner did more when he had the ball in my opinion.
    As has been said, Bent was starved of service, which after all was only to be expected against Brazil. He does offer something different to all the other strikers in contention - the ability to play on the shoulder of the last man. Granted, this has always been Owen's strength (if you count him as in contention at all), but Bent is quicker than him and is much stronger, as well as being more of a threat aerially. If Bent can show he's much more clinical over the course of the season than Carlton Cole, who I believe would get the nod over Crouch for the fourth striking spot, then he could yet go to South Africa. Personally I would not take a cover left back as we have Lescott who can and has played there, and Milner as well if neccessary. This way we could bring five strikers (Rooney, Heskey, Cole, Defoe and Crouch/Bent).
    It's been pointed out that Brown made a couple of errors, but Upson was badly caught out by Nilmar and didn't cover himself in glory on one or two other occasions. Also, I honestly believe Cahill is a more solid defender than either of the two centre backs who played. At the moment he's definitely playing better than Lescott, who judging from his recent City form isn't of international class. Perhaps it's too early in his career to write off his prospects, but if their defence carries on conceding like it has recently (3 to Burnley!) I wouldn't be surprised to see him lose his place. Also, Ryan Shawcross anyone? Or even players like Michael Dawson (if he stays fit) or Michael Turner are better bets than Lescott at the moment.

  • Comment number 18.

    I do not understand why James Milner should think his performance should earn him a place in the England World Cup squad and Darren Bent should think his chances are over. This game made it apparent that we are desperately in need of some decent midfield players to fill in for Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham and the defence looked average without Terry. The strikers had no chance as we lacked creativity in our build up play. Wright Philips showed he cannot service strikers and certainly cannot split defences with a pass, preferring to make solo forward runs. Milner was tested on the pitch tonight and was just average but nothing special. All of the strikers came on and none of them got much service (including Rooney) so does that mean they should all forget about going to the World Cup? (I think not). I doubt Capello would be stupid enough to judge the strikers given their lack of service. Mr Mcnulty's blog is a bit naive to say the least.

  • Comment number 19.

    Please, JOE COLE has to be on that plane.

  • Comment number 20.

    re Tippler (13) - I said maybe because of his injury and absence but yes a squad with Joe Cole in it is certainly a better one and I hope he goes!

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Phil, usually a big fan of your blogs but feel the need to call you up on Darren Bent here

    I don't see how he 'blew' his chance to go the World Cup, as has been stated by almost everyone here, he didnt get almost any service today against the best team in the world. I think Capello's certainly intelligent enough to realise that Bent with a first team midfield behind him stands a much bigger chance of getting chances, and I trust Bent to put chances away more than Carlton Cole.

    Agree with you regards Milner though, have been a fan of his ever since I first saw him at Newcastle and Martin O' Neill has made an excellent signing in him. Nothing spectacular but a workman like performance, unless his immediate form going into the World Cup is nothing short of spectacular he won't make the first eleven but is definately worth taking to South Africa.

    I think all in all it was a decent performance, I didn't expect a win even before Terry and co. dropped out. We were outclassed by the best team in the world, but I think with a fit first XI and we could certainly give them more of a game. All that was proved today, is that while England can match anyone when fit and firing, the need for us to stay injury free in key areas is much greater than Brazils, Italy's and Spains for example.

  • Comment number 22.

    Phil-I tend to agree, we saw the problem for Bent tonight despite his willingness to run and his overall effort, if he cannot get the service, there is no other option he can offer the team.
    In such circumstances the natural instinct to 'chase the ball' takes over and that puts the overall play-making approach at risk - as the game progessed and the service to Bent did not materialise (except for one chance) he started straying all over the place, at one point he was dropping off and in effect he was shadowing Rooney. It was all good honest endeavour from Darren(especially in that heat) but against teams like Brazil, its not good enough, unless your 'chance conversion' rate is somewhere in the 80 or 90%. In the end he presented no threat whatsover and the Brazilian CB's began making even more surges forward.
    There was a similar kind of problem for Defoe, but he was on for a much less time and he tended to stay up front (offering something) - but still not really occupying the CB.
    To be perfectly honest and judging by some of the expressions on Capello's face, I'm not sure he expected anything much better from England - however perhaps the 'B' team line-up has now become the 'C' team???

  • Comment number 23.

    "I don't see why Heskey and Carlton Cole should go to the World Cup before Darren Bent."

    Because Carlton Cole fills exactly the same role as Heskey but he's the 2nd top English goalscorer in the premiership, sorry might be biased as a hammers fan but that seems good enough to me. Not to mention he has done better than Bent with England and has been unlucky not to score. The problem with Bent in my opinion is that he is a one trick pony - hes a pacy striker who has quality levels of finishing and can only be served through long/through balls much like in my opinion as Michael Owen (except Owen no longer has the pace :p). I barely noticed Bent was on the pitch until he was subbed as you say the service was terrible but it didn't stop Rooney getting the ball and passing it around.

    I think Milner should be preferred over SWP as although SWP played better he isn't technically good enough and judging on the failure to deliver crosses i think we still massively miss Beckham. Not to mention Milner's inclusion could provide a fairly decent back up left mid meaning we could drop Ashley Young and bring in another striker.

    The problem for me tonight was the lack of creativity we needed Lampard, J.Cole, Gerrard or even Beckham to partner Barry in midfield as opposed to Jenas who in my opinion is a massively overrated defensive midfielder. I think Upson and Lescott showed their worth if Ferdinand doesn't up his form and that we still need a right back who can defend and attack like A.Cole. Brown was ok defensively apart from one or two mistakes but looked completely incapable when going forward. Saying this without any first team defenders we did conceeded very little. Couldn't understand why Foster was chosen as the keeper; he has low confidence, isn't starting for Man Utd and is on terrible form. Even though Fabio suggests he has the number one sorted he cannot possibly have as he keeps rotating it - Green/James/Foster without any other keepers getting a chance i personally think Steve Harper, although he is at championship level, should be given a chance the only reason why he was never picked for Newcastle was because Given is so good. Or maybe Ross Turnbull if he gets games at Chelsea.

    I would personally take on their current form:

    1. R.Green
    2. D.James
    3. G.Johnson
    4. W.Brown
    5. A.Cole
    6. J.Terry
    7. R.Ferdinand
    8. M.Upson (LB)
    9. G.Cahill

    10. G.Barry (LB, LM)
    11. F.Lampard
    12. M.Carrick/O.Hargreaves*
    13. J.Cole (LM, RM)

    14. D.Beckham (CM)
    15. A.Lennon
    16. T.Walcott (LM/ST)

    17. S.Gerrard (RM, CM)
    18. J.Milner (RM)

    19. W.Rooney
    20. C.Cole
    21. P.Crouch
    22. D.Bent/M.Owen*
    23. E.Heskey/K.Davies*

    *Dependent on form/injury

    Of course im not manager of England just a bitter bloke who wasted a fiver under the daft illusion England might beat Brazil..

  • Comment number 24.

    I think the comments about the performances of Milner and Bent are spot on Phil. Whilst Milner didn't show his true quality, his work rate was beyond any other England player. And whilst you could say that Bent's service wasn't there, he did next to nothing to try to have more of an impact on the game. He also is running very short of chances to impress and surely that is more a worry to him and his fans more than anything else.

    I thought a fair score for the game would have been 2-0 Brazil and that's probably what most of us would have expected when looking at the line ups pre kickoff.

    I think people on here are being a little harsh about SWP btw!

    For me I didn't learn too much else from the game about us, and I thought the game felt more like an exhibition that a competitive friendly.

    Overall the game was dissappointing and I think that stems from the number of players missing. I wonder how many would of played if the game actually meant something...

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm not saying we're better than Brazil - but using tonight's game as proof of that fact is a joke. We had perhaps 2 of our first 11 out - try using Brazil's world ranking or past success as evidence, but not tonight's no show. Shame for Darren Bent if this was his only real chance under Capello - especially after the treatment by the club he top-scored for last year. He works hard and has always got goals - to get 54 mins with hardly a pass in his direction against the World's best...does that really qualify a fair crack of the whip as opposed to Crouch getting starts against the minnows of europe? Of the two I'd rather have Bent, and both ahead of Emile Heskey, who we all know lacks the main ingredient of any striker.

  • Comment number 26.

    I can't honestly believe Bent has had his final chance for the World Cup yet, if he had several opportunities and failed to do anything then maybe there would be a I think Capello will give him another shot and hopefully we will have the main guys back to help create an opportunity or two for him and see if he can get it done...... I wasn't too happy with the selection of Brown at right back if it wasn't for the commentators I would have thought it was Charlie Brown playing 2nite....making 1 or 2 excellent tackles isn't a good performance and that is without taking into account the 2 howlers he was involved in 2nite......he is not good enough plain and simple, as for the wright phillips and Milner debate, I think Milner will go as cover for the wide players, he may not be outstanding but he is steady and reliable on either flank defending or attacking, unfortunately Wright-Phillips is not and we all know Joe Cole will be going so versatility is gonna count more than the odd 5 minutes of decent play u get from wright-phillips......Warnock should have played tonight and i thought Cahill should have got a game to see if he is ready for the step up, it would have been interesting to see....Am I the only one who thinks that Lescott is overrated and I can't understand how he is even in consideration for a place...maybe it is just me but i think he is absolute pants and the most expensive grass fertiliser known to man!!!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    They call the England press and fans fickle......I wonder why?

    It's complete nonsense to judge players (at least to the point of suggesting that they should be in or out for the WC) based on this game.

    An England B team against an almost full strength Brazil side, and a game played in searing heat. Capello is a smart manager and will take the rest of what is a long season to evaluate his selections. Of the 'fringe' names being discussed, regardless of who goes or who doesn't, none are likely to see a lot of playing time anyway.

    My focus would be far more on watching the best 14 play and hoping that their form and fitness are good when June arrives.

    @14: Imagine this scenario. Your 1st choice keeper is injured in the group stages. Your 2nd keeper gets sent-off for bringing down an opposition striker in the QF. You then have to put an outfield player in goal.

    Even if you get through the match you line-up in a WC semi with no keeper. Would you want to be that manager?

    That's why 3 keepers travel.

  • Comment number 28.

    Those knocking Milner tonight, give him a break. He has been good in each of the three previous appearences for England, and he has one below par performance is strength sapping heat (far from the South African conditions), and he is criticised. He has shown more consistency in these three previous games the SWP or Lennon has done in there entire England careers.

    As others have pointed out, with Milner, if he is having an off day, you will still get his industry and tracking back etc, and this is more than can be said for the mass majority of England players. His distribution from wide positions and dead balls has generally been good for England, so I don't think he has anything to prove there (despite being off his game tonight) and his big tournament experioence with the 21's will stand him in better stead than others. I thibk he would thrive in SA.

    It seems ridiculous to write a player off after one indifferent performance, and that includes Bent aswell tbf.

  • Comment number 29.

    Watching that game I don't think all is doom and gloom, it was England's second team VS Brazil at near enough full strength. How about 4-3-3 as below:

    Brown/Johnson, Terry, Rio, A.Cole
    Hargreaves, Gerrard, Lampard
    Rooney, J. Cole
    C. Cole

    A lot of Coles, but to be honest I think this team plays to England's strengths as I don't see Rooney as an out and out disciplined centre forward and Joe Cole's guile and footwork would be better as part of a front 3. Plus it covers England's glaring lack of a (quality) left footed winger- Downing is not an option.

    Hargreaves over Barry any day, Barry is a good premiership player and useful against good teams but overawed by greatness. Preferable to Carrick though. Plus there's always Beckham and Crouch as the cliche Plan B. Also players like Walcott or SWP can fit into this system easily.

    Today highlighted how crucial Gerrard and Lampard are to this team- they give stability, composure and quality to the midfield which is where games are won and lost. Players like Jenas and Huddlestone are not Champs League standard, plus no-one really wants to see Spurs players in the England squad (except Lennon and maybe Defoe as a goal-getter). 2 of Milner, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor or even Wilshere as wild card. Also always had this vision of Heskey as the best centre back that never was...

  • Comment number 30.

    For every one that says bent should get a chance, do you all mean in the last remaining friendly before the world cup. Quite right phil he has had enough chances and i think that he doesnt fit our style of play, thats why he scores at sunderland and charlton, teams that hoof it over the defence for him to run onto. Milner should be on the plane swp shouldnt same player as lennon and walcott just a worse version, and i hope never to hear ian wright as a pundit when swp is playing again it just gets boring. I hope carlton cole gets on that plane and starts instead of heskey, he is stronger and more athletic version that can actually play football and score goals. Squad should include the following





  • Comment number 31.

    I thought that only one player, Wayne Rooney looked in the same class as the Brazilians and only two others, Milner and Barry didn't look completely outclassed. Foster, as usual looked good shot stopping but his disribution was woeful, Lescott had an ok first half but poor second, Upson is no where near the required standard making positional errors continually, Wes Brown and Wayne Bridge both tryed to get forward but both made glaring errors which you largely will get away with in the Premiership but not at this level, the reason Wes doesn't get a regular berth at United. SWP is industrious but his control is still poor and although this was the best chance he would have to impress, against a make shift left back be just couldn't do it. Was Jenas playing cause I couldn't really tell, and Bent tried but the one clear chance, with his head he couldn't get on target.
    Although I think with all the sick notes back (watch them play for their clubs next week, Steven Gerrard this means you) we will have a better chance, but on this show any injurys and we can expect quarter final at best

  • Comment number 32.

    Lol @ 30, not taking Ferdinand and only 6 defenders, that's not too smart at all and Carrick isn't good enough to clean my balls (footballs for all the dirty minded git's out

  • Comment number 33.

    Here's my assessment:

    Foster - did ok in goal, talked to his defence for once which made a difference. His delivery was a bit poor though.

    Bridge - ok performace, one really good tackle in first half
    Upson - did ok some nice tackles but painfully slow. Got skinned once tho
    Lescott - same as upson, generally good, some times very good some times poor.
    Brown - Pretty poor performace, rubbish chest down, out of position many times failed to mark the winger on numerous occasion, kept drifting into the middle

    Milner - good game, you get what you expect from him solid player but nothing special
    Barry - Coped well against kaka can't think of anything he did wrong
    Jenus - Should have been subbed after 1 min, very poor, totally out of his depth
    SWP - occasional ru at the brazil back line but generally not good enough to make too much of an impact

    Rooney - gave as much as he could, dropped deep but service from midfield wasn't the best tonight
    Bent - was he on the pitch?

    CBA to comment on subs ... no one really cares about this game anyway. All i got from this game is a list of players who shouldn't be on the plane.

  • Comment number 34.

    Just had to double check the date. Thought it was April 1st when i read you praising Milners performance.

    I mean i don't see him week in week out, but i've seen my share of Villa on the TV and of course tonights game and frankly i couldn't think of a more average winger in football if i tried.

    Yes he works his socks off but come on, he's just a runner. He doesn't posses quality and tbh, apart from Barry our midfield tonight simply couldn't pass to a while shirt.

    No way should Milner be considered infront of Beckham, Joe Cole or Lennon or Walcott who can all change a game.

    As for Bent well tbh i don't think he's England class but lets be fair to call the service they received today 'poor' would probably be complimenting it. I mean if we were basing a decision purely on todays game, then Rooney hardly looked any good either. As for Crouch, well, it's embarrassing really isn't it. Although to be fair, he'd obviously do better on the pitch at the same time as Beckham who can actually pick him out.

  • Comment number 35.

    I thought Milner had a great performance with pretty much no support from Bridge whatsoever he had to do most things on that wing by himself and then tracked back selflessly to help out Bridge all the time.
    With regards to Brown on the right hand side, he had a fairly solid performance apart from the awful chest back to the keeper. To be fair to him, Brown's performance at right back has come against one of the top teams in the world, but Johnson has looked shocking against some of the worst teams in Europe. How do you judge who is better under those circumstances?

  • Comment number 36.

    I have no idea how people are so ignorant. Can nobody see why we failed today? Can nobody see why this team lost? We lost, a game we could've won. We are AS good as that Brazil team with only two regulars in the starting eleven. Imagine with our first choice. We go to the World Cup, with I think the knowledge that other than Spain, no country in the world matches us.

    I believe that we lost today because we were so negative. Milner and Wright-Phillips on the wings were an embarrassment, they were so boring in the way they checked back and looked for any other option than to challenge the defence. How can Michel Bastos play right wing for Lyon one week, and play left back for Brazil the next week. How can England not test him, how can we play so negatively? It baffles me. We can win games like that with our reserves, because if we had been a little bit more positive, we would've been better.

  • Comment number 37.

    I remember reading somwhere Capello said he would be taking 7 defenders, 9 midfielders and 4 strikers, although I may be mistaken. That seems like the best option to me, and if that is the case, this would be my team so far (assuming their fit and playing well):

    James, Green, Foster

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

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

    Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Heskey/Cole

    Obviously there's plenty of that time to change. Can't yet decide between Bridge and Lescott, it depends how good Lescott is at LB. Brown can play at RB/CB and usually does so convincingly. If he keeps playing well he could be our 4th choice CB/2nd choice RB, thus removing the need for Lescott and giving us Bridge at 2nd choice LB. However Steven Warnock could stake a late claim at left back if he has a good season and/or if Bridge gets dropped/replaced at City.

    Robinson, Hart, Bridge/Lescott, Cahill, Warnock, SWP, Carrick, Young, Bent, Agbonlahor, Owen etc.

  • Comment number 38.

    Realistically speaking, Brazil should have won 3-0. That England looked ordinary with their supposed B team says a lot about their bench strength or the lack of it. Specially when it was quite evident that Brazil was always playing 2nd gear. Still a long way to go for England to claim a World Cup...honestly..

  • Comment number 39.

    Alot of people on here slagging off Milner are very wrong to do so. He has quality, industry and great attitude and will never let the side down. He go stuck in and helped keep Maicon who is an excellent forward thinking right-back quiet.. which helped keep the score down as he really can deliver.

    It was impossible in the heat for milner to play at his very best and at least he still worked his socks off unlike numerous players on that pitch.

    When Milner is playing for his club and the same goes with Ashley Young, they have an outlet that England just did not have today, and that was Gabby Agbonlahor. Gabby is a player who makes runs down the wing and through the centre and it allows Milner and Young to release the ball forwards instead of backwards or sidewards. Today Bent not once did that to stretch the brazilian defence which mean the space Milner gets a Villa was not available to him for England. Gabby should be ahead of Heskey, Bent and Cole as he will give us that raw pace as well as good finishing that will make England far more affective.

    In terms of wingers it should be between Young, Milner, J.cole and Lennon. People will think im being honest but i am not, im just stating facts... With Young and Milner you will get quality deliveries, a real threat in the final third and two players that would make Ashley Cole and Glen Johnsons jobs so much easier with their industry and defensive skills, as well as pace. J.Cole is the best winger England have but id like to see him in a 4-2-3-1 formation behind the striker. SWP and Lennon are too inconsistent with their deliveries and leave their full backs too open and will be exposed in a world cup.
    My formation would be:

    Johnson Terry Ferdinand Cole
    Hargreaves Gerrard
    Milner J.Cole/Rooney Young

    That sort of team would have a perfect balance and have everything we need to win the world cup.

  • Comment number 40.

    Wayne Rooney should take plenty of the blame for not getting the offense started and for debilitating Bent. He continually dropped back into midfield to get possession, which isolated Bent, and made one bad pass after another trying to break down the Brazilian defense. He came 25 yards away from goal, received passes to his feet and tried to turn and slip balls through...that were caught out every time. It wasn't good at all.

    Fair enough, Jenas was never going to do that job and Barry would rather pass to the wing than play another year for Aston Villa, but Rooney was a disaster trying to be the playmaker for England.

    As for Milner, I think the idea behind the article was that he got a seat on the plane, not that he cemented a starting spot. As a utility man, he should be considered. 60 minutes of dampening the Brazilian attack at right back was pretty impressive, I thought. And he was willing to run at Maicon as well. Admirable. Then he got tired and should've been substituted. I guess it was part of his test. Anyway, still successful.

    Lescott played well, by the way.

  • Comment number 41.

    I live in Qatar (for the next 2 years)and I was at the match last night with my wife daughter and future son-in-law. What a waste of money! The game was of a really poor quality and ALL of the players should feel ashamed of having taken part. It is no use trying to single out the ones who were really bad. All four of us thought Wes Brown had a good game despite what has been said, so too did Lescott. And no we support different teams. Liverpool Man Utd and Man City. So glad that Kaka made his decision not to go to City.
    SWP at leat tried and his little jinks past 3 or 4 Brazilian defenders late on in the second half was the only pleasure to see apart from the light show at the beginning of the match.
    And it goes to show that many of the reporters latch on to certain phrases of others to use (especially those that were not true and which they could not be bothered checking out) the main one was strength sapping heat, searing heat etc. It was 25C with low humidity over here while the game was being played and hangs around 31C during the day. In other words perfect weather for the game. Has anyone any more excuses. Even the Scottish expats over here would agree, quite easily identified as the white men with Brazilian shirts on. How pathetic can you get? They don't have a team to support so they go for England's oppostion. Same thing with the Welsh. A young Taffy was in front of me in the queue to get in wearing a Brazil shirt and when I asked him why he couldn't explain. His girlfriend had a red shirt on and looked embarrassed at her boyfriend's choice.
    Qatar's hopes of getting the 2022 can only be considered as a non-starter because in June July and August the temperature varies beteen 45-50C and at night stays around 40C with humidity of 85%. I can ssure you that this is true. My other daughter and husband were here in September and couldn't sit outside at 11 pm because of the heat and humidity. And she is a sun worshipper who went back home as white as she came because she couldn't sit out in it at all during the day.
    But, getting back to the match, save your comments until Mr Compelling makes his biased choice (leaving Owen out!) for the England squad. He must be trying to improve his English by reading English newspapers and listening to who they should be in the squad.

  • Comment number 42.

    I went to the game. I have read the blah !

    It was a pleasantly cool evening in Doha, probably about 28 deg C.
    Your correspondents talk of "stifling heat" is plain nonsense.
    Were they there ?

    The rest of the reporting enjoys a similar of accuracy.

    England were not a team. They were a rabble in white and red shirts.
    England were a bunch of disjointed individuals apparently trying to make it up as they went along and making a hash of it.
    Hopeless hopeless hopeless.

    Brazil were organized and knew what they were doing and where they were going.

    England were just bad ! I cannot believe that anything so bad can produce positives !
    Is everyone so linked to the gravy train that they cannot see that the Emperor has no clothes ??

  • Comment number 43.

    The biggest disappointment for me is how lack luster our performance was.
    It was a chance for all to fight for a place and I don't think anyone seizes the chance.
    SWP did nothing to impress and has had plenty of chances to and only occasionally shines. Lennon, although no way near the finished article at least has the confidence to take players on and defenders do not like people running at them. Lennon, Cole, Beckham and .... one other but not SWP, probably Milner maybe Young.
    Up front, yes I agree that Bent didn't have a great game as far as service goes, but with Rooney, Crouch, DeFoe and Carlton Cole we have four good strikers. I personally would throw in Owen who is still one of the best finishers in the game.
    Wes Brown maybe useful cover but was unconvincing and I still have doubts over Barry in midfield. I hope Hargreaves is back in action as he could again be the surprise star at next years finals.
    Next friendly in March... I hope the tinkering will stop and the squad finalized for that match as far as possible. Give those who are definites a chance to play together.
    The others...have missed the plane.

  • Comment number 44.

  • Comment number 45.

    It shows how little some people who post on this site actually know about football when they write that the conditions at the time of the game were perfect for playing football.
    By their own admission it was 25/28 deg c.
    How often do footballers in our country play in weather like this?Answer......never!
    We play in the winter.
    It may be great to watch football at 25/28 deg c but to play?
    This may or may not be an excuse for the performance last night but whatever these " fans " think it is a factor.
    A friend of mine once said " let's play the world cup in an english winter and see how good Brazil are then "!
    I for one think it would be a great leveller.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Phil,
    Remember the "Rooney will win it for us" piece that you wrote a few weeks ago? Reality check! One man does not make a team, sorry.
    The other point is that national sides do not play in leagues. You can not lose to the other top 3 and still win the league at international level. Lose one match after group stages and you are out. Much talk about Capello's record with England. For me he has played 3 and lost 3. Matches that matter are those against teams that have a relistic chance of winning the WC. So far he has lost to the usual suspects: Spain, France and Brazil. There are others that he might have lost as well. Prepare yourselves for the World Cup in football..

  • Comment number 47.

    You cannot criticize Bent and at the same time concede the service was poor. Especially if he was doing what he was told: to be the point man and wait for the long balls, which almost never came.

    I think Milner is too inconsistent and lacks maturity in the final pass. while i think beckham has the extra second needed to calibrate the ball, beckham is also unable to cope with physical and fast teams, which is what brazil has become. similarly, swp is not a world class player. he is erratic and cant deliver the killer pass when under pressure. he is fast but lacks the talent of lennon who is in my opinion much more gifted, when in form, than theo.

    it was clear that capello has issued orders to do against brazil what zinedine's france did in the world cup final against them. deploy wide wingers and bring in the balls. with big strikers such as cole, bent and crouch the crosses from the side are crucial. but at the same time, it became obvious that Capello had issues orders to take the ball wide right to swp precisely to exploit bastos as you rightly say. swp was not able to do that. it was in the lack of crosses from the right that bent became irrelevant. but i do think that cole is a very similar option but better than bent. it would be in the end between bent and cole that capello will have to choose from, giving rooney and heskey the go, obviously. and despite your wishful thinking phil, owen is not making the plane, defoe is a much better all around striker.

    but fundamentally england's biggest weakness was the lack of fight in the midfield. perhaps the return of gerrard and lampard might rectify that but it is striking how england were completely unable to pass balls from the midfield to the strikers forward, mostly rooney who flourishes in these circumstances. the return of joe cole will also help enormously.

    however, the one big positive to take from the game was barry's performance who is a calm and seriously competent holding midfielder in the epl as well as the international scene. in him, england have a real asset.

  • Comment number 48.

    For those who keep doubting Walcott as a selection, despite his current and concurrent injuries, might I add that your memory is, as our English memories so often are, short-term? Who scored a hat-trick against Croatia in September 2008? Yes, Theo. I think that whilst Walcott was a most bizarre selection in 2006, he must be on the plane to SA. One must bear in mind that his worst injury of late was a dislocated shoulder suffered whilst jogging in an England training session: cf. Terry, who hurt his ankle in England training whilst doing some running or jogging or whatever the report is on his own (i.e., not in a specific drill, according to reports). SWP must be dropped. Milner might be a good selection; but why not take Beckham, Lennon, Walcott (who can play admirably at the front right in a 4-3-3 if needed) and Joe Cole, our most creative and properly left-footed man capable of scoring goals and/or harassing defenders?

    And at left back, who will deputize if Ashley Cole is injured? Is it just me, or do you think Kieran Gibbs could be an option? He did come through the ranks as a left midfielder, one must bear in mind; so when uses the "versatility" argument in favour of Milner, one must bear in mind the versatility that Gibbs brings. I'm throwing him in there as a wild card.

    I'd take Carlton Cole over Heskey any day. Why anyone would rate SWP ahead of Walcott, Lennon, Beckham is beyond me. Frankly, I am not so worried about our right flank as I am about our left. With that said, I am worried about our right back. Does anyone have an alternative for Wes Brown (dismal today)? Sure, G. Johnson is an easy choice; but does he not spend too much time on the ball and thus delimit the midfielders from retaining the space that they will have worked to find?

    Finally, Lescott: is it just me, or is he grossly overrated? Has his transfer fee got too much to his head? He's the sort of player that I, as a retired manager, would go out of my way to tell my strikers and attacking midfielders to exploit as a weakness. His concentration is dismal.

    In sum, I think we ought to take the debate away from the midfield--which to me seems safe in the hands (or at the feet) of any among J. Cole, Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, Walcott, Lennon, Carrick, Hargreaves--and focus more on (1) our back four and (2) a proper strike-partner for Rooney.

    With that having been said, and again, our memories are short-lived: "a proper strike-partner for Rooney", I just wrote. What if Rooney gets sent off, or is on a yellow card and looking hot-headed--surely we need not only a strike-partner for Rooney but also a substitute FOR Rooney?

    These are just some questions, folks; I'm not throwing down the gauntlet here nor purporting (nor pretending) to do our manager's work for him: he knows more than we do from individual manager's reports (which, being FA, are confidential). But really, we have more serious things to consider than (1) the non-issue of SWP v Milner (neither should go); (2) Bent (he has had the chance to prove himself but has not done).

    On one point I concur with Phil: if Owen notches some goals in the EPL, he should go. As I'd argue with Beckham, club form aside, experience will count in SA. We English seem peculiar in our propensity to laud and to champion the inclusion of outsiders. Look at Italy and Spain, for instance: they include players who are doing virtually nothing at the club level, yet are trusted at the international level to perform, and, signally, to retain possession. I know the 2006 WC was controversial on a number of fronts; but surely Italy's age and experience paid dividends. I don't mean to say I like Italy: I decidedly do not. But let's stop with tinkering with that which is not broken, and focus on what needs mending. In my view, our midfield is solid. We need more options going forward. Rio's form has been questionable. We need some more insight as to who will play the back four. I really think Gibbs needs some close analysis: he has looked first rate, but, again, I am not throwing down the gauntlet, just posing questions.

  • Comment number 49.

    I don't think you can ever read too much into a friendly. Considering the circumstances England were "ok" against a superior Brazil side. Although what I think the match did expose which is worrying was a lack of depth in the England squad, especially in defence. It heightened the importnace for the best first eleven to remain fit and to be in form come next June.

  • Comment number 50.

    Bent didn't get a look in last night due to the terrible service from the midfield, and one of the worst culprits was Milner! It would be a travesty if this was Bent's last chance as he is possibly the best out-and-out striker we have got.

  • Comment number 51.

    Ok - not a whole lot of point discussing the ins and outs of last night's game because in all fairness it was an England B vs Brasil (virtually full strength.) That said Brasil could easily have walked away with 3 goals, but I'm pretty confident England (full-strength) could beat Brasil B at least 1-0. Apart from that the old English malaise of looking and playing apathetically returned to haunt us. It won't impress the coach. SWP is not a World Cup player, Wes Brown was another player in a long line to have made a ridiculous error and James Milner was the only midfielder to have casued any problems going forward. Jenas was alright, as was Huddlestone - but they're not really contenders for a midfield spot when you have Barry, Carrick, Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Cole, Rooney and possibly Hargreaves who can play through the centre. Darren bent, while effective in the Premiership, and like SWP, is just not World Cup material. It's written all over his face. Sorry, but it's true. You need real winners - as well, in my mind, most players playing at the top 5/6 clubs in the league if you truly believe you can lift the trophy. He only had 54min, but proved nothing over all of his caps (has he ven scored for the national team?). The same can be said for not getting over-excited if he had scored tonight. Bare in mind that Jenas has scored 2 goals under Capello to Bent's 0. And that's coming from midfield.

    So, anther defeat to a top 10 team (under Capello that record now stands at P6 W2 D1 L3 - that's a 33% success rate compared with 73% for all games counted).

    Anyway, here, again, is my final 23 (hypothetical of course):

    James Green

    Johnson Ferdinand Terry Cole
    Lescott Upson Gibbs

    Lennon Lampard Barry Gerrard
    Walcott Beckham J Cole Hargreaves (RB) Milner (LB)

    Rooney Heskey
    Cole Defoe


    Hart Richards Cahill Jenas SWP Carrick Crouch Owen

  • Comment number 52.

    Post 50: I agree. Erasing pedigree, one could well say we ought to drop any of the strikers who failed to get good service. My issue was what Bent did whilst NOT getting service. Rooney dropped deep, and we can blame that as a factor wherefore Bent was isolated. However, Bent ought to have been able to read the game well enough to know that, if Rooney is dropping deep, he (Bent) IS going to be isolated. I think FC needs to monitor any Man U game here on in: see if, and how, Owen and Rooney complement (or fail to complement) each other. I know we have doubts over Owen's fitness, but I also have doubts over Rooney's temper. Much of what he escapes with in the EPL can easily be a booking, if not a sending-off, on the international stage. Defoe should certainly go; Crouch could go; Carlton Cole needs more analysis but is certainly a candidate. I stand by my prior statement: We English have a tendency to look for a new-comer whom we think will change everything, instead of adhering to experience. Owen, if fit, should go. I don't think it would be a "travesty" if bent did not go on account of tonight's performance. But I seriously doubt his ability to do more than latch onto a through ball. Let's be honest: If we have the opportunity to carve space up the midfield, do you really think any of our midfielders (or strikers) would play in Bent? Surely someone like Lampard, Gerrard, or Walcott would be more likely to latch onto a through-ball from an unpredictable position than would Bent from a predictable position. Bent is the kind of player whom an international CB will have no trouble marking. Owen, however, if fit (which I reiterate), can score a goal out of nothing because he has instinct that is not contingent upon service. We still need to address the question of Rooney, which the English fans and media seem to have ignored: What do we do if Rooney is injured, on a card, or outright sent off? What if he is having one of his petulant days? He does not have a week to shake it off and cool his head. Aren't we being too Rooney-centric? Look at the top opponents: No one team is built around one player so precipitously as is England. That remains my fear. Which is to say, we are debating vociferously whether Milner, SWP, Bent, Carlton Cole, etc., etc., etc., should go; but my more elementary question is: Whilst Rooney should go, are we not being tautological in allowing our sense (exaggerated?) opinion of Rooney to dictate our (eo ipso, exaggerated?) opinion of who our other strikers ought to be? I do not think we ought to think in terms of the media-driven "Plan A" and "Plan B". Perhaps we ought to think more organically in terms of what players can perform at the international stage regardless of plaintive cries of "no service" and "isolation". No, I am not saying this on the basis of today's performance, which I thought was neither a reason to weep nor a reason to rejoice. I am saying this on the basis of a campaign which does NOT reflect the reality of the World Cup. Walcott nets a treble, now he is in question; Rio is taken as a given, though he looks incompetent this season; Wenger mentions Gibbs, and the media laughs; we take James as a given (no pun intended) GK, but he lacks focus. Sometimes I think the English fans think of the World Cup as Fantasy Football: choose your captain based on Value. Really, I am not trying to be dogmatic; I am simply suggesting that we have problems bigger than "Should Bent Go". Let's leave the midfield as is. We need an honest right back, a deputy for A. Cole, and pace and nous in the likes of J. Cole, Walcott, Lennon, and a dark horse perhaps in the likes of Milner. I see no reason why not to send Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, and, as fourth striker, Owen. At least that gives us four strikers with different aptitudes. And, no, to those who keep thinking that Crouch is just a target man who "holds the ball" (as the cliche goes, from crosses delivered by Beckham, right?), he can score with his feet too. Unlike Bent, Crouch has not had a chance to start against top international teams. I'm confident that he will threaten defenders more than Bent will. Owen (and, no, I am not a fan of Man U) has often surprised me as regards his ability to score goals when there was no ostensible opportunity. Bent lacks such spontaneity. Anyhow, again, these are questions. Do you trust Lescott? And Wes Brown--can't you just see him getting sent off or scoring an own goal? I see it in my nightmares.

  • Comment number 53.

    Phil, what are your thoughts on Ashley Young, or more importantly, how he's being used or not used for England? He got 3 minutes on the pitch last night, an experienced coach like Capello must have known it was a silly amount of time to have an impact, so why send him on? I think everyone knows that Young has bags of ability and could be a big player for England, but Capello seems to overlook this in favour of iving Wright-Phillips countless chances when in reality we all know he's prabably Englands 3th choice right winger at best.

  • Comment number 54.

    Milner worked hard but 90% of the time he either lost the ball in possesion or made sloppy passes that went to opposition. His free kicks and corners were dreadful.the came comments apply to Wright Philips. Bent never received any service but neither did he try to help his team mates.We will not do well in any competition with players like that.

  • Comment number 55.

    50: Thank you for selecting Gibbs. I really think he should go. One added dimension he gives is that our opponents will have no idea what to make of him as he has not been adequately scouted by anyone. Like Milner, perhaps, Gibbs could be an outside choice who adds the dimension of surprise. That is a dimension we decidedly lack. And no one has yet addressed this: What if Rooney goes tonto?

  • Comment number 56.

    Thanks 54. Did anyone watch Egypt last night? Notice how certain players took the game into their own hands? Of course, Algeria is no Brazil: but the point stands: we need players who don't shrug and gesticulate when they don't get service. We need players who make things happen. Really, if Walcott is not on that plane, I'll be shocked. And I concur with 53: Young needs more of a look. His pace (like Lennon's) can be threatening, and I think England as a whole just do not look threatening. Quite the contrary, we look impassive. Again, this is not on the basis of last night's game; this is on the basis of a campaign which does not reflect the reality of 23 men in SA playing constantly.

  • Comment number 57.

    I've always reckoned that James Milner had the credentials to turn a big asset for England, having made superb progress over the last couple of seasons with Aston Villa, and he looks as though to have edged closer to sealing a place on Capello's final squad for South Africa.

    I wouldn't rule out Darren Bent, however, on a single display given that England lacked all their natural play-makers, namely Lampard, Beckham and Gerrard. Rooney is a spectacular talent but is better suited to playing off the main centre forward with plenty of space, he's not a sheer creative player. Therefore, service forward was always going to be short.

    To my mind, Capello shouldn't turn his back on Owen, who's been making swift headway since arriving at Old Trafford. One can't afford to miss a player of his range and prowess. Sir Alex Ferguson knows how to make the most of his players and there are still several months leading to the World Cup.

    In my view, Wayne Rooney, Jermaine Defoe and a fit Theo Walcott should definitely be on the squad, as should a fully fit and sharp Michael Owen. Gabriel Agbolanor is another excellent choice, but you would also need either Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch to have more physical presence inside or at the top of the opposite box.

  • Comment number 58.

    Just a few early observations.

    To RedArmband. As you may or may not know from previous blogs, I am an unashamed fan of Darren Bent at Premier League level, and I deliberately steered clear of criticising his actual performance tonight because he rarely got top quality service.

    My point is that he really had to do something to keep his World Cup chances alive and he didn't. And it was not all his fault by any means. I still admire him, the brutal truth is that he just couldn't get into the game to make an impact - and I do not place the blame entirely at his door.

    This was going to be a tough assignment for him at the best of times, and he has my sympathy. I would love him to get further chances to prove himself - but I fear it will not happen. Sunderland still have a fine Premier League striker though.

    On SWP. Yes, he put over one or two telling crosses, but too often he was wasteful in possession and he was playing up against an extremely makeshift left-back in Bastos. Just doesn't cut it for me at international level.

    One poster earlier makes the point about the over-the-top admiration of Brazil starting already. Funnily enough I agree with that. I believe a full-strength England side will give them a very close contest should they meet at the World Cup. The team I believe England would have real problems with at the World Cup is Spain.

    And just another point on Capello's 4-4-2 system. I think he went with that because depleted resources limited his options.

  • Comment number 59.

    Lescott cannot be allowed to go to south Africa! If Jonathan woodgate is fit for the remainder of the season, he should be on the plane!! If it's possible for joe cole to be considered after his injuries and lack of involvement, woodgate should be considered as well!

  • Comment number 60.

    Darren Bent didn't really have a chance to claim a place last night. The service was shocking. We need a forward that is constantly pressing forward, to counter Rooney who is always going to track back. I think Bent is the man for that job. We do need to have some service to him though if he is going to be of any use, and there was none last night. His goalscoring record at Sunderland speaks for itself, and for me there is no better English goalscorer in England at the moment.

    What's worrying for me is that every time that Cappello has come agaisnt big opposition with England, we've lost the game. I can see the world cup being a disaster and us not getting through the group stages, if we are drawn with two other big teams.

    And Phil, you can't judge a player by 50 minutes of football.

  • Comment number 61.

    Phil, you are totally wrong.
    People on here are saying that Bent didn't get the service, well he should have gone looking for the ball then. He can't just blame poor service, he should have changed to play with his back to goal to move England further up the pitch, like Fabiano. Bent just proved how unadaptable he really is. When he did get the ball his touch let him down. Defoe is shoe-in ahead of Bent because he can change a game with a moment of magic and offers so much more than him, he works off the ball, can dribble at speed at players and is a threat from outside the box.
    Milner saw a lot of the ball and had no invention. NO ONE, NO ONE can beat a player like Lennon or Joe Cole in the England team. Milner is an honest hard-working player but so was David Batty...
    I thought Brown was awful as was Upson, Lescott, Barry, Rooney all did ok. SWP saw a lot of the ball and showed some nice touches, one good cross, little else.
    For me the squad at the current time going to SA should be

    #GK: Foster,James,Green
    #DEF: Terry,Ferdinand,G.Johnson,A.Cole,Lescott,Woodgate,Richards,Baines
    #MID: Gerrard,Lampard,Barry,Lennon,Beckham,J.Cole,Huddlestone(replace with Hargreaves if fit)
    #ATT Rooney,C.Cole,Defoe,Crouch,Walcott

    I am really worried about the LM position but I suppose under Capello we don't play with a wide man on that side but a combination of Rooney and Gerrard.
    I have changed my mind about Beckham, I believe he should be on the plane. Also note the exception of Heskey, the man is a pile of dross.
    Woodgate, technically, is Englands third best CB because King is so injury prone. Huddlestone has been in excellent form and offers something different in the middle and at the moment is playing better than Carrick, although I admit if Hargreaves is fit, he HAS TO BE on the plane. Also I suppose you could take Richards out of there if Capello wants to take another midfielder.

  • Comment number 62.

    Also why am I being pre-moderated a a'new member'. I have been registered on this site for almost 4 years now. What a joke the Beeb is, take my money for some people, who aren't famous, to dance around wearing stupid outfits. What a joke.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think Darren Bent is an OK player, with blistering pace, nothing more. He dosen't possess the football intelligence to conjure up something special on the international stage.

    He is a confident individual but he needs to recognise that he lacks consistency, and that sheer pace is simply not good enough for international football.

    Here's a few pointers for Darren: Technique, technique, technique!

    Good advice for those average footballers out there: Stay grounded and don't think you are a world beater, because you aren't, but maybe with application and thought you could be!

  • Comment number 64.

    Utterly useless article.

    Bent blown his chance? Nope. What chance did he have against Brazil, his first chance to shine?! Even Torres would have struggled in that England team last night!

    As for this Owen boy, i wish he would stop going on about how he wants to play for England again, it does my head in. Hes past it, long gone, he offers nothing now. There are younger players to take his place, better players

    As for SWP, i dont know how people can say he played well last night, he was awful. I thought he was a winger, arent wingers supposed to take on defenders? Of goodness sake they had a lm playing lb, and could SWP be bothered taking him on? NOPE. He passed it nice and easy back to the midfield. Milner at least tried to take on Maicon, showed skill and determination, final ball wasnt great but was far better on the night than SWP.

    I dont even support England, and i found this article very annoying

  • Comment number 65.

    I thought Milner had a good game. I think those slating him need to realise that the other players in the team didn't give him to many options. I'm not saying Villa have been playing fantastic footy this season, but I feel when he plays for us he has more options in terms of runs from people like Agbonlahor. He put in the usual 100% effort which is more than can be said for some of the players. Have to admit was a bit disappointed by the corners but thought he had a pretty solid if not spectacular game.

    With regard to the team as a whole, I think you have to realise that this is a group of players who bar two haven't played a full game together ever before. Its not like it was a few players joining a normal team, it was pretty much a whole new team. Even professionals need time to develop a relationship with each other, to know the runs people are going to make, to know the positions they are likely to be in and develop that understanding.... All this against one of the best teams in the world. Personally I think last night was a ok result. I don't know how much it will influence Capello given that most of them wouldn't be in the first team but I think for me Foster, Rooney and Milner where the players that showed what they can do.

    Lets not be to harsh on any of them though, Bent is a quality player and will hopefully get more of a chance if he can continue playing well in the league.

  • Comment number 66.

    Lots of comments on Bent and Milner (plus SWP) in direct response to the blog. Let's hear from you about the others who played.

    What did you think of Upson and Lescott? Wes Brown? The floor is yours to give your verdict on all the England players you saw last night.

    What did you think of Ben Foster? I thought he was adequate and at least no serious blunders. Surprised some people said he was out of position for the goal. Upson and Brown were caught out - Foster was blameless in my opinion.

    And what was the verdict on Brazil? I would not be filled with doom and gloom if a full-strength England faced them in South Africa.

  • Comment number 67.

    61 and 62: Judging by your grammar, your screen name, your usage of all-capitals, your diatribe against the BBC (whose forum you simultaneously use and abuse), and, more importantly and more shockingly, your delusional rating of Woodgate and Huddlestone, might I hazard to guess that you are a Spurs fan? You might as well take King on your imaginary plane to SA, drop a 23rd player for 12 stone of ice and crutches, and throw Jenas in for good measure; consequently, insofar as you seem to be a Spurs fan, you can then blame the loss of your putative England team on the referee. This is not a video game. Please do not inflict your club allegiance upon our national side.

  • Comment number 68.

    First, let me make it clear that I think it's all fairly irrelevant discussing last night's performance because THAT team will not be playing in South Africa (thank goodness). Am I the only person who found itv's commentary yesterday particularly annoying when they kept asking each other what the performance told us about England. What a stupid question. The performance blatantly told us that there was no point speculating or getting upset by the result because this sceanario will not be repeated at the World Cup. Take away 3 or 4 of Brasil's top players and they may too have looked distinctly average. However, what last night did tell us was that a) Doha is not a football city and the atmosphere was like an u21 international or woman's FA Cup final b) SWP can't pass c) Wes Brown can't defend and he will be a complete liability if he boards the plane next year and d) England are useless without the likes of Lamps, Terry, J Cole, Theo Walcott and Stevie G.

    Yes, SWP did see a lot of the ball in the first half and made a few penetrating runs and (possibly) one good(ish) cross. However, Brasil's left back was woeful and my gran could have skipped past him wearing high heels. SWP must have lost the ball at least a dozen times, consistently overhit the ball and if he wasn't overhitting it, embarrassingly underhit the ball only to be intercepted by a surprised Brasilian. Please Capello DO NOT take this man to SA. Oh and Wright, as much as I love you, please stop banging on about SWP in every sentence of pre and post match analysis. Wes Brown is such a liability. Despite hoping that England can really win the next World Cup I predict now that we'll get so far as the QF, come up against good opposition and then one of our defenders (and/or goalkeepers) will royally cock it up. Wes Brown is most likely, followed by Ferdinand and whichever goalkeeper stands between the posts (I doubt Capello has really made his mind up) he'll no doubt also contribute. Foster is not good enough. People think he played quite well last night but let's face it we think English goalkeepers have had a good game if they avoid a major error. Foster's clearances were woeful and he didn't command the box. Ok, his hands looked reasonably safe last night but in all honestly he wasn't really tested. Leading up to the finals he'll also probably only have had a few games playing against low league opposition in the Carling Cup.......not really good enough preparation for the biggest football tournament on earth.

    I thought Milner had a good game, industious and a player who will track back and bust a gut for his country.....something a number of our other players would do well to copy. Really hope he'll go to SA and would be surprised if he doesn't, even if only as a utility player. I could barely tell if Bent was on the pitch last night. Yes, his service was rubbish but he did nothing to get involved in the game. Defoe and Crouch were on the pitch for a quarter of the time he was and they both had more impact(albeit still very little). If Capello isn't going to include him in the next friendly though it would be a shame and a bit of a farce. He needs more time to prove himself and if Capello is honest about taking players in form, Bent has to be right up there. Just for the record, here's my starting line up:


    Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, A Cole

    Barry, Lampard, Gerrard

    Walcott, J Cole


    But I'll end where I started and say it's fairly irrelevant speculating who will be on the plane to SA. There's bound to be injuries in the next few months, some of the fringe players will undoubtedly come through and some of the 'players who are guaranteed spots' will lose form (yes Ferdinand I'm talking about you). The main thing for England, however, is for Gerrard to stay fit. If he's not available, England can wave goodbye to anything other than the typical pattern of scraping through with mediocre perforamcnes in the group stage, playing well in the last 16 and then going out on penalties at the QF stage.

  • Comment number 69.

    Lots of posts saying England was 'OK' yesterday. Looks like they were expecting a 5-0 hammering from Brazil? If you go to SA and get a OK match against Brazil after the group stage, with the same results, you will be on the plane back home. There is no such thing as an OK loss.
    The single (and obvious) thing about England, which has been true for all major championships save '90 WC and '96 Euros, is that England do not impose their game on opponents. You see England in action against other teams and wonder - are these the same players that I see week in week out? How easily can they be slowed down and then punished with a sudden up in tempo? England lets the opponents control the pace and rhythm of the game. The just follow whatever the other team decides. Maybe it is a mental thing. I don't know.
    If you can not impose your game on your opponents, you do not win. Simple as that. Unless you are counting on some lucky counter or something. Why not build the team around Gerrard and give him a free role? At least he has the potential of making opponents sing to his tune..

  • Comment number 70.

    Phil, thanks for steering the discussion away from Bent, Milner, and SWP. Good journalism, and I mean that in earnest. I thought Upson was good but perhaps trying too hard to impress; Lescott looked like he was unfocussed; Brown was dismal. I coach keepers, and I too was surprised to hear that Foster was out of position for the goal: yes, Upson was caught out, but judging by the communication the error seemed at root to be Brown's. Shifting elsewhere, one worry I have is that, if our opponents push out upon gaining possession with confidence, Rooney will be preternaturally offside with his hands on his head and his mouth mouthing some expletive, whilst Heskey huffs and puffs his way back. Lescott probably should go, but he definitely should not start. I think FC might do well to have Lescott deputize at CB and Gibbs deputize at LB. Foster has failed to impress me. I still think James, Robinson, and Green or Hart ought to go. Robinson has been too quickly and cruelly written off. James has had fewer howlers. But without Rio being of sound mind, I can imagine there will be plenty of finger pointing anytime a cross enters our box uncaught by the keeper and/or anytime we concede a goal.

  • Comment number 71.

    Phil, what do you make of Ashley Young for England? I was disappointed to see that Shaun Wright-Phillips was preferred for so much of the match, given that Capello would, I imagine, know what he's capable of. Four minutes plus injury time didn't seem like a fair chance for Young to make his case.

  • Comment number 72.

    Single matches are a better test for defenders than attackers because they're facing the quality they will have to face in the future. In other words Lescott, Brown, Upson and Bridge were doing what they would have to do in SA. I'm not a big Lescott fan but he looked at least adequate. The best I could say for the other three is that they usually look better than that.

    As for Bent, others have said it all. With no service, no striker looks good. How would Torres look if he were lent to Darlington at the moment? I don't see how you can rule him out, Phil. If he goes on to score 25 Premiership goals this season, he'll give himself another chance - and playing in front of Lampard and Gerrard can't be harder than doing it with Barry and Jenas. Of course, at Sunderland Bent has Andy Reid, and Trapattoni's neglect of him is looking very wilful now.

  • Comment number 73.

    Everyone knows in modern football you need strength in depth to win anything and what yesterdays game proved is England don't have a good enough squad to win a world cup. We all know there will be injuries and suspensions next summer to contend with, but if this is all England have to fall back on, then talk of winning the world cup is nothing but media hype.

    And Phil, Brazil were not at full strength they were actually without 4 first team players - Juan, Ramires, Andre Santos and Robinho. Also, don't forget they can still call on the talents of Diego, Pato, Ronaldinho and Adriano; all of whom have shown a return to form recently.

    By contrast, England look lightweight and lacking in true international class outside of the starting 11. Even with the staring 11, England still look technically inferior to teams like Brazil and Spain and I personally think both these facts leave England too bigger hurdle to overcome next summer.

  • Comment number 74.

    Surely in Heskey, it's a possibility that England might be the only country to be taking a stiker to the world cup who might not have scored all season?

  • Comment number 75.

    Why don't you contribute to the debate instead of directing your obvious frustration towards some one you don't know. Have you just sat on this page for the last 3 hours pushing F5? Name a England midfielder who is better form than Huddlestone, who isn't already in the England set-up. Name me a player who has better range of passing and technique. If you can, legitamely, then you can start dishing out that sort of tripe. I noticed earlier you would put Carrick on the plane? Are YOU a Man Utd fan? He has been dire this season and the last and is hugely overrated.
    Woodgate is a quality player and injuries stunted his England career when he was getting a look in. Obviously I can't be unbiased but I rate him him above Upson. He doesn't make errors, he is experienced at the highest levels. He is faster, better technically than Upson, always gives 100%, so why shouldn't he be on the plane.
    You seem to forget that Upson has been part of a defence that has leaked goals, left, right and centre all season. Also I stated in my original post that I DON'T think King should go, yet you berated me nonetheless.
    Also I can have a go at the BBC as much as I want, they take 130 pounds off me every year! Second to the taxman!

  • Comment number 76.

    Milner gave a positively Bentley-esque performance. All sound and fury..... He will be in South Africa watching from the stands.

  • Comment number 77.

    Why all this focus on indiviuduals !

    Football is a team sport!
    Surely the ability to combine and play together is most important ?

    What are all these excuses about the B team ?
    A properly coached junior school team would have shown more shape and purpose than England did last night.

    The Brazilains were quick and slick. Were there really only 11 men on the field ? They were all over the place !

    England could not pass the ball. They had no pattern . They had no idea.

    As someone behind me remarked : "To think they get paid tens of thousands of pounds per week for doing this !"

  • Comment number 78.

    Actually, I support Darlington, where we would be happy to have Torres on loan. I'd take Carrick over Huddlestone because Huddlestone does not read the game adequately. He can score a splendid goal now and again, but that is not what we are looking for when we have, spread across the midfield, the likes of Gerrard and Lampard. I also doubt FB will play a flat 4-4-2. Anyhow, if Huddlestone goes, I shall reimburse your £130. Woodgate? Regardless of allegiance, you must concede that Baines is a better deputy. Baines has the advantage of being able to deliver lovely balls into the box and to score on set pieces. I don't think Woodgate is a fit deputy for A. Cole. On the subject of Ashley, Young this time, I concur, he did not receive an adequate look by FB but who knows what goes on in FB's mind. Oh, by the way, I support Arsenal. Still, I like the idea of Torres on loan at Darlington. I'm a fan of Dean Windass and I think they'd make a good strike pair.

  • Comment number 79.


    Well done! the most sensible comments on this subject thus far.

  • Comment number 80.

    Kieran gibbs is definately not international standard for whoever was suggesting that please dont joke and to say he is versatile and could cover left midfieldis just out of order could you imagine starting a game with kieran gibbs playing left midfield haha! It worrys me how england football is centered around rooney these days. Bent is not international standard full stop neither is swp when lennon and walcott do the same with more class and confidence. Wes brown is a disaster please dont put him any where near that plane, the same goes for ferdinand who is embaressingly out of form and so injury prone he makes ledley king look like a fit youngster these days. I think 5 strikers should be taken and walcott maybe sacrificing a defender because i dont think 8 is neccasary

  • Comment number 81.

    Regarding Foster, I think he had a good game, everytime a cross came in you feared he would come out and flap at it but he did everything he was asked. A few awkward shots like from Dani Alves he dealt with well, got his body behind. Admittedly he didn't do anything spectacular, but from our current crop of goalkeepers, I'd quite happily take 'solid' against any team.

    None of the defence where first XI and it showed, they looked edgy and nervous at times. Bridge didn't really do much at LB, solid but unspectacular, which I think sums up the team performance. Plenty of industry and intent but nothing spectacular that is going to rock the top teams.

    If there are injuries coming in the World Cup, and lets face it there will be, then we will need to be lucky with the teams we play with a depleted team. We should be able to beat teams like North Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and the like with a mostly B team, but if we're going to compete alongside Spain and Italy, and turn ourselves from Quarter Finalists to winners then we need a bit more inventiveness throughout our side.

    And it might be worth noting, that a Plan B is going to have to be formed in place of the 'bring Crouch on and hope for the best' strategy. But I trust Capello to do that or start to rectify that soon.

    As for your comments on Bent, Capello is more than intelligent enough to know that he had no service yesterday I think. Admittedly this was maybe his last chance to really impress in an England shirt against top class opposition, but surely if he keeps up his goals per game record towards the end of the season then Capello has to take him as Englands leading goalscorer?

  • Comment number 82.

    In all honesty I would take the following 23 players (all being fit):


    Johnson-Brown-Lescott-Upson (or Cahill)-Terry-Ferdinand-Cole-Warnock


    Rooney-Heskey-Defoe-Owen (or Crouch)

    I think that would be a very good squad to take to the World Cup and feel that we would have a good amount of cover. Plus there would be some good impact players able to come off the bench and change a game.

    SWP should not be on the plane in my opinion. If he is then the only player he should be challenging is Beckham. Milner should be ahead of them both, being that he offers so much more.

    Our defence looks fine, apart from Johnson at RB who can't defend to save his life. Our midfield looks very strong with the players I have listed, giving plenty of options. However, upfront the choices will be difficult. Do we take Owen or not? That will be the big talking point in my opinion. Another one would be about taking Crouch over Heskey possibly? Thus making him the one big forward and leaving space for three of the smaller and pacey forwards.

    I am also shocked that everyone is forgetting about Agbonlahor. I have left him out of my squad selection above because I believe that the forwards I have listed would be the best hoptions. However, I am wondering why some people rate Bent so highly yet completely dismiss Agbonlahor? It truly is beyond me but there you go.

  • Comment number 83.

    #82: I have considered Agbonlahor - I do rate him, but he doesn't score as consistently as Bent. For me the pecking order is something like Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, Heskey (only as a foil for Rooney or Bent), Cole, Bent, Agbonlahor. I do think five strikers should be taken, rather than four. They should be Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, Cole and Heskey or Bent depending on whether we want an extra goal threat or an extra utility player. (unless of course Owen stays injury-free and starts scoring by the bucketload)

  • Comment number 84.

    I fail to see the point of this game as Capello could have learned very little from it. The majority of the squad will and never was to be going to the World Cup. If a more realistic English (World Cup candidates) side was available then he may have learned something. Only thing the FA can take from it is a £400,000 fee for turning up!

  • Comment number 85.


    "I am also shocked that everyone is forgetting about Agbonlahor."

    Agree and am also amazed that Micah Richards is being overlooked especially in view of the fact that inferior players such as Glen Johnson and Wayne Bridge are getting a look in!

  • Comment number 86.


    Richards has been truely awful the last 2 seasons. When he broke through into the national team i rated him highly, but now fame has got to his head, his performances has slipped and now (rightly so) he doesnt get a look in.

    As for the pop at the 'inferior' Johnson and Bridge. Johnson was the best RB in the league last year, playing well for liverpool, although they have been woeful as a team. And Bridge has been solid for City. Does Richards even get a look in at City first team now?

    Sure lets bring back Owen and drop the 'inferior' Cole
    Lets go the whole hog and give Carrick his first team place and drop 'inferior' Lampard

  • Comment number 87.


    "Lets go the whole hog and give Carrick his first team place and drop 'inferior' Lampard"

    Couldn't agree more. Lampard has about 70odd caps (I haven't checked the exact number) for England and you can count on one hand how many good games he's had!

  • Comment number 88.

    "Agree and am also amazed that Micah Richards is being overlooked especially in view of the fact that inferior players such as Glen Johnson and Wayne Bridge are getting a look in!"


    Johnson may have room to improve defensively (even though he is better than many make him out to be) but he is definitely the best RB we have and is playing well. We are not exactly blessed with goal machines and Johson offers a lot attacking wise and as such he will be invaluable come the World Cup.

    The problem we have is that we lack strength in depth. Should our first choices be fit and healthy we have a chance, but its when a couple of them are missing that we are found wanting.

    One thing I just hope Capello does (which I don't think he will) is for him to play Gerrard in his BEST position, which is either behind a front man or being allowed to run CM. Why should he be shifted to accomodate lesser (not poor) players? When you have a player that good you play them where they can have the biggest impact.

    Would the likes of Brazil, Argentina or Portugal play Kaka, Messi or Ronaldo out of position? I think not.

    Wake up to that fact Capello, otherwise you could make the same mistake as the two previous managers and not get the best out of Englands best/most influencial player, which in my mind is cruical to England's chances in South Africa.

  • Comment number 89.

    To Elpenor...agree a few minutes of Ashley Young was neither here nor there when judging him. A very talented player but competing in a congested area as far as England are concerned. I think he falls into the category of someone who would really need to produce something out of the ordinary to make the squad. Got real ability though.

    As for the suggestions that England have somehow missed a trick in discarding Micah Richards. They haven't actually.

    He has gone backwards in the last couple of seasons. Sad, because there was a real opportunity to establish himself at right-back but Glen Johnson has overtaken him.

    Agree Brazil were missing some players, but I actually feel England could give it a real go against them in the World Cup.

    Take the point of questions asking what Fabio Capello could have learned. Having seen Capello at close quarters throughout this England campaign, rest assured he always learns something.

  • Comment number 90.

    The issue with england historically is that our strength in depth is weak. This is in part due to the fact english players don't go to other top leagues and very few are a regular part of the champions league which means they don't play against the best at club level every season.

    for context - my personal ENGLAND I v ENGLAND II no injuries.

    -----------------GK GREEN -----------------

    ----------------GK JAMES-------------------


    I am not asking for a granular disection of my 1st v 2nd pick. My main point is this:

    in pick 1 - 9 of the 11 are guaranteed starters in sides playing CL football, and foster is getting a run with man U currently.

    in pick 2 - 3 of the 11 are in sides playing CL, if one includes beckham post move - and there are also several people who are not regularly making first team club football either.

    If you compare this with say spain - where you have fabregas struggling to make the national side - that illustrates the problem. Our first team is a match for anyone - but the gulf in quality between first pick & second means we need alot of luck regarding injuries & suspensions to progress far.

  • Comment number 91.

    Peter Crouch was given a very brief run out last night. Do you subscribe to the theory that his England goals record is only so impressive because he has played against lesser opposition? Could he start as the foil to Rooney in the World Cup?

    I am not sure about that, but I think it is unfair to criticise his England goal tally. You can only score against the opposition facing you.

    Just to take the debate about what Capello may or may not have learned a step further? Why don't you try to answer that question here. Let me know your thoughts.

  • Comment number 92.

    -----------------GK DAFFY DUCK -----------------




    ----------------ROAD RUNNER---------------------

    That 11 should just about cover it.

    and yes I am taking it seriously as well.

    if you want my choice of subs just ask:

    Shine ON

  • Comment number 93.










    This is my team for the world cup....milner misses out....due to the fact that if hargreaves is fit...which he will be... then he cover the full backs postion if someone gets injured...reason gerrard on the right...brings stability and cole will bring the flair in attack....and say if lampard gets injured then> gerrard moves into center with walcott or lennon movin on the right....yes im taking owen. Proven goal scorer and he will make a difference. I believe that. oh yh realised no dont like heskey...but some how he will bring the best out rooney...but if he flop now until the world cup...scrap heskey and becks in.. please tell me what u think


  • Comment number 94.

    "Peter Crouch was given a very brief run out last night. Do you subscribe to the theory that his England goals record is only so impressive because he has played against lesser opposition? Could he start as the foil to Rooney in the World Cup?

    I am not sure about that, but I think it is unfair to criticise his England goal tally. You can only score against the opposition facing you.

    Just to take the debate about what Capello may or may not have learned a step further? Why don't you try to answer that question here. Let me know your thoughts."


    Like you said he can only score against the opposition put in front of him. Anybody that knows anything about football will tell you that Crouch is a good player. He has scored a perfect hat trick against Arsenal, a couple of Stunners that we would be raving about if they had been scored by a Ronaldo, goals in the CL and plenty of other goals wherever he has been.

    What more can he do?

    He is much more deserving of his place than Heskey as he can do all that Heskey can plus a fair bit more. For me You should play him up front with Rooney just behind and then Gerrard just behind Rooney. I feel this could cause the opposition real problems as those three players have numerous aspects to their attacking game all of which the opposition would be wary of just on their own.

  • Comment number 95.

    There are a couple of obvious questions to ask, if Bent didn't get service who was not servicing him. SWP and Milner and the midfield. So its not Bent's problem but a midfield and wing problem. Though had Glen Johnson been fit his runs would help.
    One other point the WC will be played in mild temperatures this time, Winter in SA. This will allow more of the traditional running game that English teams play. In hot temperatures possession football, dribbling and short passes such as Spain and Brazil play is the only way to play, which is why England wilted in Japan/Korea against 10 man Brazil. The high paced English style game was not possible in Doha. Last Wembley match with Brazil was a better guide..

  • Comment number 96.

    I think our midfield is almost completely sorted think there are one in two places in the back ups Milner/SWP/Young/Walcott which i imagine form and injuries will determine. As for Owen i wouldn't take him. We have been scoring goals fine without him, and Defoe is a similar and better player - he got 2 goals against Holland which Milner assisted. C.Cole for me should definitely be there Man Utd, Liverpool and Juventus have been scouting him he's the second top english goalscorer in the PL. I don't think our strike is under question we have been scoring a fair amount of goals the real worry is defense.

    Thought Upson and Lescott played well together but the big question is who takes over from Rio if he doesn't improve his form?. I personally fancy Upson when we beat Germany with our B Squad Upson and Terry had a very good game both bagging a goal each apart from a blinding error from Terry they did well. But then again there probably would not be enough pace at the back especially with Johnson and Cole running forward all the time.

  • Comment number 97.

    I'd agree it was Bent's last chance - With Cole, Crouch, Defoe, Rooney and Heskey all proven we don't need another striker and if we do there is Owen, Ablonghor (spl?), Walcott all in competition which in my opinion are better than Bent

  • Comment number 98.

    My honest assessment was that SWP was poor in the first half, giving the ball away cheaply with poor passes. He made Brown run beyond him just to toss the ball away. England have at least 5 better wingers IMO (Lennon,Walcott,J Cole,Beckham,Milner)so injuries aside he isn't on that plane.

    Milner did better and I was impressed. Obviously he won't be a first choice but showed his ability. He's done no harm to his case IMO.

    Bent didn't really have a chance to impress really. I think we learnt little/nothing which is a shame but that's how it was. It's not like he missed any chances or even had much of the ball.

  • Comment number 99.

    I have read your article and many comments. I agree that Bent was starved of service but it shows that playing with a world class forward like Rooney (who will start every game) there was not virtually no communication or interplay that would suggest Bent being drafted in for the second half sub of Heskey/Cole/Defoe. Yes it was against a world class side, but Bent was so non-existent it was embarrassing.

    Milner I thought had an adequate game. His engine as everyone knows is very admirable and I personally believe that his desire when being on the pitch is good for England; his industry/pace not being entirely exceptional though he has a balance of ability which I believe is good enough to be on the plane though If I was going to choose 4 wingers, he would be my 5th. SWP I thought was not as bad as you commented on although I agree his time on the ball was not used correctly (especially when there was an overlap) and quite simply he drifts in wayyy to many games for England, more so than Lennon and Milner.

    I noticed that people thought Jenas and Barry were not good enough, well more so with Jenas. I disagree, their first half performance was on par with what Capello expected the early goal killed us and especially Jenas' confidence which was thereupon woeful for the rest of the game and should of been subbed instead of Barry and much earlier.

    Their threat came from the wings mainly up until the last 20 minutes, ESPECIALLY the left, where Brown and Upson from that side were out of position a number of times worryingly. Brown was terrible, schoolboy errors and positioning concerning. Likewise with Upson, although at times showing excellent defending, Nilmar, which was his man for the night managed to stray away from him (the goal of course) and many other times. Upson showed himself to be cumbersome and clumsy on occasions when up against the Brazilian counter-attack, are West Ham not sitting in the relegation zone with Upson and Green playing every game, hmm?. Lescott I was impressed with though - Foster was ok it was not his fault for the goal although his standing ground was not the best, the delivery was just too good. I'm not a fan though, sometimes for Man Utd he has not taken his chance well or convinced me to say he is our England No.1 - he must be impressing in training and to be honest even if he does not play towards the end of the season he still is a better bet than others. Robinson/Green/Upson for 2 and 3 choices.

    This match showed not who should be on the plane - but who is not going to be on it which should of focused more in your article.

    Wallcott, Hargreaves have not kicked a ball yet, I have no idea how these players can warrant a place yet. Though I do not doubt their class, how on earth can people pick them when they are not playing regular premiership football, an argument which a lot of you use for Heskey. Wait until these players are playing.


    JAMES - FOSTER - ROBINSON (has experience)

    LESCOTT - FERDINAND - TERRY - JOHNSON - A.COLE - W.BROWN (needs to improve after his last performance if he wants to start) - BRIDGE - CAHILL/WOODGATE/UPSON

    GERRARD - LAMPARD - BARRY - LENNON - J.COLE - HARGREAVES/CARRICK (depending on Hargreaves return, I'm no Man Utd fan but why do people bash Carrick off? I swear he plays the majority of your games and have did you not win 2 prems in a row and 2 successive Champ League finals) - BECKHAM - WALCOTT/MILNER (depending on Walcott's return) -

    ROONEY - COLE - DEFOE - DAVIES (At CF play, better than Heskey with the job Capello sets him do and toss up between Crouch though)

  • Comment number 100.

    Let's talk about the persistent omission of natural England goal scorer Michael Owen. There is this talk of England winning the world cup but in my opinion England will go nowhere in this tournament without the dedicated services of Owen. The qualities possesed by Owen are so unique and can almost never be duplicated. Atleast the Rooney game is duplicable as portrayed in the style of Agbonlahor, Defoe, Darren etc.
    To me, the totally unique strikers in England are Michael Owen, Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey. Of course Rooney currently is best amongst the many players who have similar qualities as his.

    When i look at the temperaments of all these strikers, Rooney has the worst meaning he can easily be frustrated in a game hence fails to score and may be gets a send off, Heskey (when did he last score), Crouch fantastic and Michael Owen very patient, calm and only needs the backing of the manager because we the fans are behind him.
    Mr. Capello, why did you have to exclude Owen; a man who scored a suprise goal against Brazil in the world cup; do you know that football today is all about luck and history repeating itself?

    Mr. Capello is a man of controversy but one good thing with him, he is not ashamed of eating his shit! He did this Madrid when he totally benched Beckham and called him back to come to his rescue. He vowed that he never play Lampard and Gerrard on the same pitch and further emphasising that he would only play one or none of them. Today, the pair happens to be the best and almost untouchable in the Capello squad. I pray he does the same for Michael and doing so he would have taken a step to bringing the 6kgs of gold into London.

    Should England fail to go far in this world cup, then we have two people to blame; Michael Owen and Fabio Capello.


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