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Capello still unsure of World Cup squad

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Phil McNulty | 00:40 UK time, Tuesday, 25 May 2010

At Wembley

Fabio Capello now has 90 minutes of action to put his final pieces in place for the World Cup - which still leaves time for an experiment that may add the extra dimension England will need in South Africa.

England's players embarked on a low-key Wembley lap of honour after an unconvincing 3-1 win against Mexico accompanied by the wholly inappropriate strains of Take That's syrupy singalong "Rule The World".

It was in keeping with the upbeat party mood Wembley seemed intent on creating for England's farewell appearance on home soil before the World Cup, but hardly an accurate forecast based on a display riddled with flaws and uncertainty.

Perspective and context are always in danger of being sacrificed amid the hysteria of a World Cup countdown. So to write off England's hopes on the basis of an unfamiliar line-up's struggles against Mexico would be as ludicrous as pronouncing them as sure-fire winners should they thrash Japan in their final warm-up game on Sunday.

England players enjoy a lap on honour at WembleyThe England squad enjoy a lap of honour in their Wembley send off
It was a night when the importance of those missing, namely the Chelsea trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole - was brought into sharp focus.

And it was also a night that further exposed the folly of the infamous - and hastily ditched - "Capello Index", the coach's ill-conceived plan to provide online performance data on England's players two hours after a game.

What would the "Capello Index" have made of this? Some of England's lesser lights might have required a long lie down in a darkened room after reading the damning verdict.

But there are questions for Capello to ponder in the days before he names his final squad on 1 June - and a compelling case for the Italian to try an extra touch of tactical finesse that has been playing on his mind in recent times.

Capello worked with Steven Gerrard operating just off Wayne Rooney in England's high-altitude training camp in Austria. All the evidence suggests this is worth further investigation before the serious stuff starts in South Africa.

Peter Crouch's 21st goal in 38 England appearances strengthened his claims to partner Rooney in Capello's favoured 4-4-2 system - with Glen Johnson's superb strike completing the scoring - but a potential partnership between Rooney and Gerrard has rich possibilities.

Gerrard's deployment on the left contributed to a horribly imbalanced England midfield in the first 45 minutes against Mexico. The Liverpool captain's almost gravitational pull into the middle left Leighton Baines exposed and highlighted the shortcomings of the central midfield partnership of James Milner and Michael Carrick.

Once Gerrard exchanged places with Milner, England at least had more control over proceedings thanks to a more authoratitive figure at the heart of affairs.

Capello's recent selections have hinted he is at last prepared to contemplate life without Emile Heskey as Rooney's natural partner. And Rooney's development into an outstanding lone striker at Manchester United gives Capello and England extra strings to their bow. They should be utilised.

The Italian publicly stated recently he would always play with two strikers, but Capello has shown his willingness to be flexible by tempting Jamie Carragher out of England exile and retaining faith in Ledley King despite his many injuries - so why not bend tactically?

Gerrard's superior work from central positions means Capello should at least consider the bolder option of using him in support of Rooney, although much of this depends on Gareth Barry's latest fitness update on Tuesday.

If Barry is fit, Capello could partner him with Frank Lampard in the centre and use Milner on the left with either Aaron Lennon or Theo Walcott on the right. If Barry is not fit - and he has become central to Capello's thinking even after a subdued season at Manchester City - then there may be a vital vacancy in central midfield.

Michael Carrick's decline at Manchester United has been stark, so it came as no surprise to see him perform so poorly against Mexico. A player who prided himself on his ability to keep possession was too careless, conceding in dangerous positions on a night when he did his World Cup aspirations no good.

Tom Huddlestone breezed through his substitute's appearance in laid-back fashion, and Capello may be tempted to give a final audition to the urgency and competitive instinct of Scott Parker against Japan.

If Barry's injury rules him out, it is all up for grabs and Parker ended the season in outstanding form for West Ham United.

If the problems in midfield were obvious, then Mexico's ability to unlock England's defence with monotonous regularity, particularly in the first half, will have pained Capello even more.

This is where context comes in and perspective must be applied - yes it was a disappointing performance, but there must not be a rush to start writing England's World Cup obituaries on the evidence of a friendly.

Lampard will inject added quality and experience when he returns, while Terry and Cole will provide a more assured appearance to England's defence than it had against Mexico.

Spurs captain King had mixed fortunes on his return to the England line-up after three years. He scored the opening goal, but too often looked ponderous, easily turned and also lost his man for Mexico's goal, scored by Guillermo Franco.

King has played and trained to an unprecendented degree in recent times and looked a jaded figure in defensive situations. Whether Capello sees this as terminal when it comes to World Cup selection remains to be seen, but he will miss out against Japan.

If Terry is certain to return alongside Rio Ferdinand, who also disappointed on Monday, then Cole is effectively irreplaceable at left-back given the performance of Everton's Baines.

Capello's decision to give Baines the full game suggests he has settled on him as Cole's understudy, but a player who is impeccable at club level was so poor that Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock may yet get the chance to make a late dash for South Africa.

England's lack of balance did not help Baines, but he had a torrid night at the hands of the pace and intelligence of the Mexicans. He is better than he showed against Mexico, but the international arena is unforgiving. Failings are brutally exposed.

Capello was typically deadpan afterwards, but gave some of the game away when he opened with: "I'm happy for the result." The pointed pause, left for others to fill in the blanks, was telling.

One week remains before England's plane leaves London for South Africa. If Capello had a hunch about a potential partnership between Rooney and Gerrard, now is the time to act upon it.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Englands performance was woeful. Mexico missed two one on ones, and hit the post. The likes of Villa, Torres, Messi etc wont be as wasteful. Yes we had players missing but the opposition will be much better than Mexico that is for sure.

    Ive believed we could do it going into every tournament starting with 2002, but not this time round, no way can we do it. Luckily we wont meet a really good team until the semi final. That is the best we can do and only because the draw is kind.

  • Comment number 2.

    how much is he going to regret not taking any left sides players. I mean its not rocket science is it, balance through the field will add balance to the play. better teams would have killed us down the left. Look at spain. There 4 best midfield players all happen to be central midfields ( iniesta, xavi alonso and febregras who all happen to be better than anyone of england midfields) so what do they do.... the drop 2 of them and play a more balanced side.
    Also i think lennon should be first choice. walcott was threatening without ever being productive. it doesnt matter how many times he can beat and sprint past a player, if he cant cross a ball or pick out another player then there no reason for him to start

  • Comment number 3.

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

  • Comment number 4.

    Very telling that you made no mention of Walcott's fruitless performance on the right. He tried hard, but displayed a telling lack of end product and so often ended up turning back to play a short ball behind him rather than using his pace to whip crosses in. Lennon's urgency when he came on was far more productive and shows the gulf in class between the two this season.

    The whole team was ragged in the first half and the back four looked like they had never played together before. King was being left exposed, but it is noticeable how with Ferdinand taken off and replaced with Carragher how much better the defence looked in the second half.

    I had hoped to see Dawson play, so hopefully he will have a chance to show what he can do in the Japan game.

  • Comment number 5.

    I know its not going to happen,

    But I really wish Capello would go to a 4-3-3 formation.

    The front three could then be Johnson.....Rooney------Lennon/Walcott

    The mid three could be Barry, Lampard and Gerrard.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ok, it wasn't the best performance in the world and if we play like that against one of the top teams we are sure to be played off the park but when you consider all the new faces in midfield, unfamiliar to each other, then it is hardly surprising. I think we will see a much better performance against Japan but I wouldn't be getting carried away about our chances. If we get to the semi finals I will be happy - I was only 8 when we did it Italia 90 so don't really remember it all that well!

  • Comment number 7.

    If I didn't know the score already - after reading this I'd have thought we'd have LOST 3-1! Mexico are rated 17th in the world... and we had plenty of potency going forward... With potentially only 2 first choice players of the back 5 (including GK) we did... I think pretty damn well!

  • Comment number 8.

    crouch does seem to always score goals so england can certainly use him upfront. I agree with phil they should try gerrard playing behind rooney probably in attacking midfielder role. Milner lennon barry lampard to make the rest of the midfield. Is it a certainty that capello will start with 2 up front? I hate when gerrard plays on the left so if he doesnt get a central midfield role i think put him on the bench.

  • Comment number 9.

    Winning when playing poorly is a very promising sign. Of course we'd like to play flawless football in every game and win with style but in the World Cup just winning is what it's all about.

    At the last World Cup Argentina were grabbing all the headlines with some brilliant performances... then they lost on penalties to Germany in the quarter finals. Italy on the other hand were never any better than mediocre but ground out result after result and eventually won the tournament.

  • Comment number 10.

    Regarding Baines I like the footballer. I am not saying he is good enough but he plays far better for Everton. More assured and more attacking but yet with England he looks completely different - nervy, defensive and prone to giving the ball away - WHY???

    Look at Milner he plays far better for Villa than England. He was poor last night but yet won young player of the year for outstanding performances in the centre.

  • Comment number 11.

    #7 - Alex

    Its not the scoreline people are moaning about. 3 - 1 is a good result, but the scoreline doesnt tell the full story. Crouch's goal was offside, and dont be expecting that kind of goal again from Johnson. Nor expect a better team (one in which their players get into their first team) to miss the chances Mexico had.

  • Comment number 12.

    #2 James

    Sorry mate beat you to it ;)

  • Comment number 13.

    While there were a number of disappointing indivdual performances, i actually think there is encouragement to be taken. Under Eriksson (and undoubtedly under McLaren) there is no way England would have scored 3 goals against Mexico last night and i think it is likely they would have lost. There is a new, in-built resilience in our national team and in some respects that could be the most pleasing step forward we have taken in the last 2 years

    On the individuals, i think Carrick has probably played himself off the plane. I agree that Baines was poor, but what other choice do we have as back up to A.Cole? Milner was poorly deployed in the first half and didn't seem to know whether he was a holding player or an attacking one and Rooney/Gerrard on the left of a 5 man midfield makes about as much sense as only giving Adam Johnson 8 minutes at the end

    The biggest worry for me is Ledley King. I think the fully fit version of King from several years ago was better than either Ferdinand or Terry, but the modern version loked cumbersome and uncomfortable running at full pace. You can't afford to be carrying someone in a World Cup squad and i'd rather see Dawson in the squad

  • Comment number 14.

    Stop being so downhearted england fans, it was a good attacking performance and Caoelo still has time to change things yes they were poor defensively but its a friendly maybe they will play diferently at the world cup. Friendlies are for trying new things out, just what Capello did their my england team would be






  • Comment number 15.

    Bring back Chris Charles

    Save QOTW, ROTW & Robbo

  • Comment number 16.

    I thought Milner showed more quality and energy in 90minutes than either Gerrard or Lampard have produced in an England shirt for years. He should be a definate on the plane and should be played through the middle with Johnson on the left. Too many players are getting picked by reputation alone. Walcott, as was stated above has no end product, Defoe was non-existant. Rooney should have been taken off at half-time as 2nd half he was not pulling his weight as if he'd been told to take it easy. We all know what he can do so why risk him?

  • Comment number 17.

    Oh and p.s: I was impressed with both keepers last night, especially how confident and assured Joe Hart looked.

  • Comment number 18.

    Okay, bear this in mind:

    -Mexico have apparently played five games before this one.

    -This was far from the strongest starting lineup.

    -That was essentially a newlook team England put out: Carrick, Milner midfield? Ledley King and Baines at the back?

    Im not really disappointed considering the far superior practice Mexico had. We weren't really in better then second gear but still beat them with room to spare.

  • Comment number 19.

    If luck counts for anything then England should make sure they do the Lottery this week. The scoreline was a travesty because Mexico played all the football in the first half and should have been three up at half-time. England will head off to South Africa burdened by the usual ludicrous expectations, whipped up by the media. Seems to me that Capello's squad have simply peaked too early. They looked a far more effective force last year than they did last night - and I don't think the reintroduction of the Chelsea contingent is going to change matters overmuch. Green and Hart did OK, Gerrard showed in flashes the player he used to be and Lennon looked lively when he came on. Johnson scored a great goal but wasn't seriously tested in defence. Carrick was as poor as he's been for most of the season and Milner looked lost in central midfield. Walcott was wasteful, King looked leggy, Baines just not up to it and it's pointless to comment on the strikers as they got no service worth speaking of. If Capello can turn this around then he's right up there with Merlin & Gandalf as the greatest magician of all time.

  • Comment number 20.

    All this talk of a 'dress rehearsal' or whatever is a bit wide of the mark. It's a friendly match to try out new things and generally get the feel of playing together. It's the first England match since March and the first of the World Cup build up so it's an opportunity to get used to playing with each other again and trying out new players.

    There seems to be a lot of people thinking that the level of performance last night is England's best and it's not that high. But England will get better the longer the squad is training together and playing together.

    It was a better exercise than, for example, when England used to thrash easy teams 5-0 in warm up games and everyone would go to the World Cup thinking we were going to win it and that the team was perfect. The faults the Mexicans exposed aren't massive ones, just symptomatic of it being England's first game for ages and with a load of new players.

  • Comment number 21.

    Is it just me, or is King being blamed for the Mexico goal, when it was actually Ferdinand (ball watching) who let Carlos run off him and have a free go at the rebound off Baines?

  • Comment number 22.

    It was a friendly, we didn't play well but still won 3-1. The team will look and play quite differently when the real games begin.

    I think England will probably start slowly with a 1-1 against the USA (who are a tough team) but then come on strong for the final 2 group games. We will play well after that but it is going to come down to the players keeping their cool and getting some luck! On our day we can beat any of the really strong teams and on theirs they can beat us. The fact is that teams like Brazil, Italy and Germany have theirs days more often at the very highest level. Our best players will have to be at their very best for every game after the group stage. RF, SG, JT, etc all talk a good game but they need to play a great game...

    Oh and my tip for England's top scorer is Crouch!

  • Comment number 23.

    Capello should stick with the team and formation that allowed England to qualify both easily and with some style.

    To mess about with Gerrard and Rooney - or any other new "trick" - would be plain daft.

  • Comment number 24.

    No-one is complaining about the result, and I have been at pains to make it clear England's World Cup hopes should not be condemned on the back of a friendly, but there are points to consider. It is a time for perspective not panic.

    Debate those here today. What worries do you still have about the team? Am I wrong to bang the drum for a Rooney/Gerrard partnership?

    Name your team and 23 here - not just names though, give your reasons behind it and I am sure many other posters will develop themes throughout the day.

    England fly to South Africa in eight days. What does Fabio Capello need to address before they go?

  • Comment number 25.

    Yet again Peter Crouch does the business for England.

    However, if I were allowed to score goals from an offside position, with my arm, I would probably score too.

    Walcott seems to be going backwards - even though I cannot stand Andy Townsend, he's right when he mentioned that Walcott seems to do too much thinking - something one would have thought unlikely of a footballer ;)

    Thought Baines was poor at times.

    And number 9, you obviously forgot about the excellent semi final against Germany, as well as the 3-0 drubbing of Ukraine. Whilst they may not have been the most fluid of teams, to say they ground it all out is somewhat harsh.

  • Comment number 26.

    As a massive fan of Adam Johnson I'd like to think the only reason he only got to play the last 7-8 minutes is because Capello already has his name in the final 23.

    Having watched him play for Middlesbrough and then some appearances for Man City I know what he is capable of and don't be surprised if he makes a real name for himself this summer, if, and I appreciate it's a big if, he's given his chance in South Africa.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think everybody knew what Carrick proved last night, he is not even close to being an England player at the world cup. Against better players he goes missing. Walcott, has so much potential, he seems a clever lad in an interview but on the pitch his decision making is atrocious.

    Baines is another player who cannot cut it at international level. I would much rather play Milner at left back over warnock and Baines.

    Ps. I am praying that Heskey was not being rested yesterday....Fabio leave him, he doesnt score,cannot hold it up or set up goals.....

  • Comment number 28.

    Had mexico had a decent striker[Torres Messi Fabiano etc] England would have been 2 down in the first 10 minutes if they perform like this in the world cup then for all England fans it looks like being a bleak summer.Its time for Cappello to chop the deadwood and give us a chance,Ferdinand Carrick King Walcott all look out of there depth against a second rate Mexican side who gave us problems.The likes of Spain,Brazil,Germany,Argentina,Holland and others will pose far more serious threats so come on Fabio and come on England.DO IT FOR SIR BOBBY.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think everyone will agree that final scoreline does not show true picture. England was simply outclassed by Mexico particularly in the first half in which their short passing and the linkup play was excellent and something of a learning for English players.

    I have mentioned in my earlier post that Gerrard and Lampard must fire for england else they would be hopeless just like yesterday nite. I am a great admirer of Milner and how he has progressed at Villa but he looked out of sorts and tired(burn out after a long season) playing alongside a poor Carrick. I agree with many other posts here that walcott was non productive and i expected the same from him.

    England looked more in shape in 2nd half with Gerrard in central position. I would suggest the following lineup for starting game against USA

    Joe Hart ( david james may prove costly, mark my words)

    Jamie Carragher (much better player than John Terry and very reliable)

    Rio Ferdinand ( will be back to his true class in big games)

    Ashley Cole

    Glen Johnson

    Scott Parker (He can play the role which Hargreaves did in last WC)

    Frank Lampard

    Joe Cole/Barry/Milner ( i would personally go for Joe Cole considering the indifferent season barry had at Man city and his fitness after injury while Milner is more suited to right flank)

    Steven Gerrard

    Aaron Lennon ( can prove to be a hidden weapon, lightning quick with constant good balls)


  • Comment number 30.

    I think the criticism of the back 4 in the first half is a little harsh, I feel the midfield is more to blame, sure there were two banks of 4 but no one was closing down and a very impressive Mexico had all the time in the world to pass the ball around and wait for an opening.

    I had wanted to see A. Johnson get a full half but maybe he'll get the game on Sunday. Lennon over Walcott any day. Would be nice to see Scott Parker get a game, THudd is more a deep-lying play maker than a ball winner. It's a shame to see Carrick playing so badly and I think it has underlined Barry's importance to England.

    If I could pick 1 player to have an incredible tournament and surprise people I would punt for G. Johnson I can see him doing a Josimar and scoring a couple of peaches.

  • Comment number 31.

    Surely the real point is that we should not be experimenting so much, and trying so many uncapped players, this close to the tournament. Capello should KNOW the squad he wants, and the formation. Three weeks before the WC we should be practising and perfecting, not still be working on the basics.
    Carrick was invisible, which hindered Milner. In turn Gerrard had to come infield which left Baines exposed. So it is not fair to judge Baines or Milner on that one performance.
    King looked unfit? Slow to turn, slow to run.
    I hope they train hard because they look at least one friendly short of a decent warm up to me.

  • Comment number 32.

    I love the way people are so conclusive after 1 game, a team mainly made up of second string players and playing a system that is somewhat unfamiliar.

    Why Capello persists with Gerrard out left I dont know, he has tried before and it didnt work.

    It was almost as if Capello was trying things that were known not to work just in case. Milner and Carrick in the middle????? O.K so Milner has had a decent season playing chunks of it in an Aston Villa side but there is no way he is ready to step up and dictated the heart of a midfield against a team with such pace and the ability to keep possesion. Carrick has been poor most the season and doesnt even deserve to be on the pitch.

    I think Rio was pretty poor, certainly not a captains display, I worry about him for the WC doesnt look sharp.

    Ledders did o.k but needs to be rested if they want the best out of him, but based on last night he could bring more to the team than a tired out of sorts rio.

    One thing I agree on Phil with is up front. Crouch just never looks like he fits into a team, I watch him for spurs and he rarely ever looks well oiled part of a machine, rather just a nuisance who will always pop up with a goal against undisciplined defenders. I cant see him being a key player, yes someone who comes of the bench when we ae running out of ideas but not one to lead the line from the off.

    I think or hope that Capello is keeping his cards close to his chest and will play gerrard just behind rooney who will be up top on his own. We know how effective rooney has been up top for manu and effective gerrard plays behind torres, they both have a good understanding and I think with two wingers either side this is out best attacking option.

    And to the wingers, Walcott again shpwed what he is all about. Notice how frustrated Rooney was with him, this was not the case with any other players and I get the feeling that Walcott's wasteful end product concerns rooney and having him in the team is detremental to his chances.
    Yes walcott is reallly fast, but whats the point if you cant deliver a cross, or get confused whether to run or pass, or pass when a player is offside or pass to a player who is not even there, indecisive and lacking a football brain is why I think walcott should be staying at home.

  • Comment number 33.

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

  • Comment number 34.

    Under Fabio Capello, 45 players have earned England caps and 17 different clubs have supplied those players, including two Foreign clubs - AC Milan & LA Galaxy.
    Gareth Barry has appeared in 20 of Capello's 23 matches to date.
    62 caps have been won by Chelsea players followed by 55 from Manchester United and 38 from Aston Villa.
    Full details & statistics of all 356 England caps won under Capello's reign available here:

  • Comment number 35.

    A rare post in defence of Emile Heskey... His scoring record may be shocking, but when he doesn't play England struggle to hold the ball up as they did last night. Rooney then has to take all the pressure of being the main striker, holding the ball up etc, which isn't his best role. It's ok if like Man United you can control the ball and play from the back. But England struggle to play in that way. Heskey's not played well this season for Villa, which is a worry, but when he has played well for England it means he takes the flak, holds the ball up, and allows Rooney, Gerrard, and Lampard to break and find positions. Unfortunately no other England player appears to have the same ability (Crouch may be tall but it's not his game). It's the old argument, it's not about the 11 best players, but the best team. England could and should have been punished more last night, and the midfield and defence didn't look to be communicating too well. But mainly it seemed to be the inability to keep the ball that caused the most damage.

  • Comment number 36.

    Watching the game last night almost made me wish it was behind closed doors. Let's be fair - these friendlies are practice matches. We don't want any injuries through rash challenges; any hamstrings through over-exertion. The problem is, this will then be perceived as a lack of commitment/style/ability by the press, who will proceed to tell us how terrible the team is, and what little chance we have of winning the World Cup. It would be better for the country if these games were played abroad, and out of the watchful eye of the press - better for the FA's pocket? Well, that's another thing entirely.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm not really sure what Walcott has to do to please some people.

    Last night he put in 2 great balls, 1 awful ball and 1 which would have been great if Rooney had looked accross the line and stayed on side.

    He beat his man numerous times last night, in the 2nd half England were told to be more disciplined, and he tracked their full back all game, making 3 very good tackles behind Glen Johnson, whilst reigning in a little of the forward play.
    Yet he is told it isn't enough etc.

    Gerrard, Rooney, Carrick, Baines, Defoe, Crouch even Milner had far worse games last night...Have Rooney and Gerrard become so untouchable that they are immune from criticism?

    On the plus side - Huddlestone needs looking at again, King played 90, Carragher looked assured, both Keepers did very well and Johnson looked good to

  • Comment number 38.

    Spurs fan here. I agree that King looked off the pace last night, I wonder whether he has been over training in an attempt to play his way into the team. He normally needs at least 5 days to get over playing or training. It takes at least 2 days for his knee to settle down after activity and at Spurs he then normally goes on the bike/swims and only comes to watch the set piece training the day before the game. In other words he doesn't train with the rest of the first team squad at all.

    If he's been training with England in the past week then he's bound to have some reaction with his knee which I think may be why he looked slow and cumbersome last night. He's normally a quick defender.

  • Comment number 39.

    Most of you guys keep saying England was playing with several B-team players... what do you think Mexico were doing? ANY team would have scored any of Vela's chances and Crouch's one was off-side, so?
    You guys need be more compact, solid and pray to keep Rooney fit, if not ANY team will beat you.

  • Comment number 40.

    Interesting analysis of the game Phil, i noticed you failed to give any credit to Robert Green in goal ? i wonder why that is ;-)to be fair hart also gave an assured performance.

    I think we can nit pick all we like, what matters is when the ref blows the whistle for the start of our world cup campaign against USA ! then its down to the real business !

  • Comment number 41.

    It wasn't that bad. I fully expect to see Heskey, Warnock, Dawson and Joe get their run outs against Japan, probably in the first half in a 4-4-2 before switching to what should be the starting lineup if we go with 4-5-1 in the second (Hart; Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole; Barry/Parker, Lampard, Gerrard, Walcott, Milner/Lennon; Rooney).

    If we do go 4-5-1 then It's worth at least considering playing both Walcott and Lennon, allowing then to switch flanks at regular intervals as none of the alternatives on the left will provide any width. And no I don't see them risking Adam Johnson out there.

  • Comment number 42.

    #3 James

    Ha ha what a plonker!!!

  • Comment number 43.

    If this performance taught us anything it's that Walcott must not go to the world cup, nor should Carrick, Baines or Milner.

  • Comment number 44.

    It wasn't a good performance, but then again it wasn't our best side. At least three Chelsea players would come into the team, and if fit Barry. The match at the end of the day was meant to be a seriously work out which it was. I personally think it is better to play a team like Mexico who are good enough to make the last 16 or even the Quarter finals of the world cup, than say playing a team like Jamaica. I remember going to the Jamaica game before the last World Cup and it was embarrassingly easy. The match did not prove anything, we scored 6 against them, but then at the world cup struggled to score.
    Although Mexico got through our defence a few times, we still scored three times against a good team, and also had two cynical fouls made against us, which resulted in yellow cards, and would probably have been Red in a competitive game.
    Baines in particular was caught out time and again, but fortunately we have Ashley Cole to come in and replace him. Terry would strengthen the Central defence, and Lampard would have improved the midfield.

  • Comment number 45.

    Has to be bad news for Scott Parker to have not made it on to the field last night. I can't see him making the final 23 now, which is a shame as he is one the the best midfielders in the Premier League.

    Also surprised Adam Johnson didn't get at least 30 mins. He must be in the 23-man squad - perhaps Capello is keeping him as his secret weapon?

  • Comment number 46.

    Phil, I've long advocated playing a kind of 451/433 type formation with Gerrard playing off of Rooney in a similar fashion to how Torres/Gerrard link at liverpool. As well as Crouch has done recently and and as well as we played with Heskey in the team during qualifying, I feel against teams of quality, as shown last night, playing two uptop leaves us a little bit lop-sided and we don't seem to be able to keep the ball very well or defend convincingly.

    I feel the stength in our squad is in midfield. By playing 3 with two wide men with the ball and a tight 5 without it, it would hopefully give us greater fluency going forwards, stopping us knocking hopeful longballs as much and also giving the defence a bit more protection when we don't have the ball.

    My 23 would be (assuming Barry is fit)

    James, Green, Hart
    A.Cole, G. Johnson, Carragher, Ferdinand, Terry, Baines, King
    Lampard, Gerrard, Milner, Lennon, Walcott, Barry, J.Cole, Parker, A. Johnson
    Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Heskey

    My starting XI would be

    G.Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, A. Cole
    Barry/Parker, Lampard
    Lennon, Gerrard, J.Cole/A.Johnson/Milner

  • Comment number 47.


    In answer to your question - I don't think you are wrong to rule out a Gerrard/Rooney partnership, but why are we asking the question at this stage? We are one game away from the start of the biggest competition in the world and still we don't know what our best formation is. Does that not seem slightly worrying to you?

    Now should not be the time to be experimenting and trying out new things - it should be the time to get back into a rhythm of a system which the players know and are familiar with. If Gerrard behind Rooney is a possibility now, it was a possibility 4-5 friendlies ago so should have been tested then.

    Footballers are no different from any of us in that they can work better at something they know how to do and do regularly. I've said it lots of times but why play a) players out of their usual position in international football, and b) different formations to what they're used to?

    I understand that there has to be a degree of tactical flexibility but playing 4-2-3-1 is unhelpful. Playing Gerrard on the left, Milner as a defensive midfielder and Rooney not upfront also illustrates the point.

    The way we will get the best out of our players is by making the transition to international games as easy as possible.

  • Comment number 48.

    It amazes me how you believe that every match that England plays has to be one sided, Mexico did not come to admire Wembley stadium - they came to put in a good performance.

    If you ask me it was a professional performance, scored the goals and limited the opposition to scoring only one goal.

    What you have failed to mention was that this performance shows that England does not have to depend on Rooney to score goals - that is a plus and not a minus.

    Missing Terry, Cole and Lampard - give me a break. there was no balance in the left of the midfield that was true but I dont really believe that Ashley cole would have been bombing forward as well as defending, he needs a disciplined left sided midfielder to be able to do that.

    My own conclusion 3-1 Job done, lets move to the next match!

  • Comment number 49.

    England made Mexico look like Arsenal. Luckily, like Arsenal, they had no defense.

    And though everyone criticizes Thierry Henry's handball Vs. Ireland, how come no one is castigating Crouch for his EVEN MORE OBVIOUS handball last night?

    I'll take Spain this year - bags of talent all over the pitch.

  • Comment number 50.

    I would also like to see more of Adam Johnson, he causes problems and doesn't seem phased by anything, despite having a relative lack of experience.

    I have to say I agree with Phil that the Rooney and Gerrard option is worth exploring, they just seem to link up so well together. It's always then good to have the likes of Defoe and Crouch on the bench to bring on to add a new dynamic if required.

    Starting line up for me:

    Hart - Consistently the best keeper this year
    Glen Johnson - What other options do we have?!
    Ashley Cole - Can't stand him but is world class
    John Terry - You can't really leave him out
    Ferdinand - Won't be left out if fit
    Adam Johnson - Why not give him a go?
    Milner - Has had a great season, start the players in form I say
    Lampard - Has earnt his place his the side, always a goal threat as well
    Lennon - Looking dangerous again
    Gerrard - reasons explained above
    Rooney - '' '' ''

    Having said all of that, international football is supposed to be hugely tactical, so whether I think that is our strongest side or not, the team that starts should be tinkered with depending on who we play. I'm confident Capello will do that

  • Comment number 51.

    You have to put the match into context, after all it was a friendly game. If you think England were bad, imagine how the Portugesse feel, they drew at Home to the Cape Verde Islands 0-0. Before the game they were 16-1 on to win. Australia played New Zealand, who are probably the weakest team in the world cup and only won 2-1 thanks to a 90th minute goal.

  • Comment number 52.

    Goddamn it, McNulty.

    You write in such an reactive and instructive way, not at all engaging or informative. But that's because you hold your own opinion in such high esteem, clearly. Fair enough, I suppose. Just makes a lot of people switch off from the half-nonsense you spout. You are so fortunate you have got to the position of BBC Sport's chief football writer as your blog has been protected, whereas more informative, engaging, likeable and reflective BBC Sport blogs have been brought to an end.

    Mexico are a good team and, having played a few games recently, were clearly a comfortable unit. Capello conceded before the game that he was he was experimenting with the England team. Players were balancing between playing well and not getting injured on our joke of a national pitch. I'm not gonna name my team or who I thought played well as so many other people have done so that the team/squad I would pick has probably been mentioned already.

    I think we should aim for the semis, that would be excellent progress. We are a one of about 4-5 teams that are possible winners at the outset, and then you get one or two teams who surprise too, maybe Ivory Coast or some other African team; but Spain are such a complete team, I reckon it's between them and one of the usual suspects like Brazil maybe. Probably Spain, every position in their team has a world class player in it. Contrary to what a lot of morons tend to say about our team, we do have maybe 6 absolutely truly world class first team players and a lot of quality players, but Spain have a terrifying first 11. We'll see. Always a few shocks anyway..

  • Comment number 53.

    It was Ferdinand who lost his man for Mexico's goal not King. King was disapointing but if fit he should start - Terry's lack of pace is more likely to be exposed in what will surely be a higher tempo tournamment in cooler conditions than previous world cups.

  • Comment number 54.

    I think the game was all bad, a lot of people are forgetting that under normal conditions Mexico would have been down to 9 men or maybe tho's challenges wouldn't have happened and it could have been 5-1.
    also unfortunatly i stuck up for carrick recently but he was very poor yesterday and i'm now not sure whether he's good enough for england. lennon and Johnson to start with barry/huddlestone and Lampard in the middle gerrard behind roo up front.

  • Comment number 55.

    I enjoyed reading your article Phil, but disagree over the merits of Leighton Baines when you say he is 'impeccable' for his club team. Baines has never been able to tackle and it showed up glaringly last night as he was out of his depth, never made one tackle of note and was literally taken to the cleaners time after time. If ever a man played himself out of the squad then it was Baines last night. He is another, like Warnock, who looks good haring down the left wing when playing in the Premiership, but in this game he had to defend and sadly he had no idea. How could an International defender jump 6 feet in the air when the Mexican guy feinted to go inside and then went outside and left Baines off-balance picking himself up off the ground? Capello must be praying that Ashley Cole remains uninjured because neither of the stand-ins (Baines/Warnock) can tackle. Green - okay he made two good shot-stopping saves (luckily perhaps as the ball hit him) but once again he was struggling when the ball was crossed into the box, and he fumbled a few as well. Hart looked much more composed and secure. Thankfully this 'invincibility' surrounding King is over as he looked cumbersome and lacking pace on many occasions. Terry is streets ahead of him.
    Still Capello had to try these players out and 1-2 (Baines/Carrick) did themselves no favours last night.

  • Comment number 56.

    When you look at the vast majority of what you would call the "first team players", they nearly all play in a 4-3-3 system for their clubs. With the exception of Lennon, all of the forward players would, so why is there the insistence on changing a system that so clearly suits the overwhelming majority??



    Barry (if he's fit)


    Why then, is it so important to have a big man up top? Rooney has had his most productive ever season without one and whilst Crouch would be a fantastic impact substitute, he seems to drift in and out of games too much. As for Heskey, the fact that he is even considered for the 30, let alone the starting 11 I think is a damning indictment of Capello's ignorance. Where is Darren Bent in all of this?

    In addition, if you're going to give players such as Johnson and Lennon a chance to prove they are worth a place on the plane, why not give them a fair crack? 8 minutes at the end of the 2nd half is no good to anybody and this is another indication to me that Capello is confused as to what is required.

    It is only because McClaren was so woefully inept that we think Capello is so great. Make no mistake, any half decent manager could have got us through that qualifying group with relative ease and when it comes to the crunch, we will be found out. I'd love to be proved wrong but when we come up against a half decent side (which could be as early as the 2nd round) we will be back on that flight as soon as you can say "missed penalty"

  • Comment number 57.

    Phil I really hope you are not going to continue with this 'glass half empty' style throughout the campaign, it's boring and patronising.

    It was a measured performance last night against tricky opposition and Capello would have learned a great deal from it. The win was of course very helpful too.

    Exactly what a friendly was for then.

  • Comment number 58.

    You guys do realise this was a friendly right? and therefore almost completely irrelevant and experimental. There's no way England will line up or play anything like that against the USA. I like the way our excellent qualifying campaign has been almost totally forgotten. I'd say that aside from Spain and Brazil we qualified the most comfortably of all the teams in the tournament! It was certainly the best qualifying campaign I've seen in my lifetime.

    Phil I'm really not keen on the 4-5-1 with Gerrard up behind Rooney. Yes of course it should be an option but I think we should stick to the team that demolished Croatia and saw off the rest of the group in style. The fact is that Rooney has had his best international goalscoring form playing alongside Heskey and I'd rather he was scoring. It should also be remembered that Capello is a far better manager than anyone we've had in recent times and should be trusted to make the right decision as such. Heskey may not individually add much to the team but the team as a whole seems to benefit from his inclusion. Last time I checked football was a team game

  • Comment number 59.

    Lots of criticisim for Walcott that is completely uncalled for. Yes he wasted a couple of primising opening first half where his final ball wasn't quite there (once because Rooney had inexplicably wandered offside) but they were openings that he'd MADE himself with his direct running. Yes Lennon got behind them once of twice when he came on, but Mexico were defending much higher up the field at that point and leaving more space behind them to exploit.

    Lennon's final product is moderately ahead of Walcott's at this moment in their careers, but that is to be expected with Lennon's extra maturity. Walcott just seems to find spaces to play in better than Lennon for me and I think that's why Fabio is probably edging towards Walcott for the tightness of World Cup competition.

    Lennon is more effective at this stage off the bench when space has opened up in behind.

  • Comment number 60.

    To mention of Walcott's performance as I actually thought he neither played himself out of contention or made a cast-iron case for inclusion.

    Too many times there was a lack of end product, but I still believe there is a class player in there trying to get out.

    If you wish to put me on the spot, and feel free to do so, I would currently prefer Aaron Lennon on the right flank providing his fitness is not in question.

    Worth mentioning that both England goalkeepers did well last night, especially as it is a position that worries me. I think it is quite an open call on who gets the nod out of David James, Robert Green and Joe Hart.

    I also hope Adam Johnson gets a longer stint against Japan. I do like him and he looked promising, albeit briefly, against Mexico.

    If Gareth Barry is ruled out, I also believe Capello should give Scott Parker a full 90 minutes against Japan.

    Keep the posts coming and let's explore all the England issues. There are plenty.

  • Comment number 61.

    Walcott is proving to be a 2010 version of John Barnes (If you watched WC86 you'll know what I mean). For that reason he'll go to South Africa. All the talent in the world and will unlock doors all day for you but is very frustrating. Hopefully he'll be used as an impact sub. He'll be perfect to bring on after 70 minutes at altitude.

    Scott Parker deserves a chance to impress, especially after watching Carrick and Huddlestone. It also looks like a straight shootout between Heskey and Bent. I'd take Bent purely because Crouch does Heskey's job and better. Bent can at least lead the line on his own or with a partner, oh and he scores goals, which is a bonus.

  • Comment number 62.

    Phil - Gerrard/Rooney up front looks good on paper, but Rooney would be starved of the ball, especially against better opposition where Gerrard would have to drop back into midfield. It would be 2006 all over again.

    Rooney is a special player, the best we've got by far, and we have to build our play around him. Heskey or Crouch to start with Rooney just behind.

  • Comment number 63.

    I was at Wembley last night, overall I left feeling better than I did when England thrashed Jamaica at Old Trafford before the previous world cup. I would rather us make mistakes now which can be worked on than in the actual tournament, also trying to get the mass media to gain some realisation wouldn't go amiss!

    Some of the issues of last night will be resolved through the players staying and training together. I must say I thought Ferdinand and King looked uncomfortable with each other and both were at fault for the 1 on 1's and the goal, however as stated above they will get better.

    My England squad would be:





    I have tried to pick the players based on my first choice 11 which would be 4-5-1 with the following players:

    and ROONEY

    My final point would be that personally I would have chosen W. BROWN ahead of CARRAGHER and would have tried far earlier to get P. SCHOLES to reconsider retirement as he has been far superior to CARRICK for the last 2 seasons, real shame as I thought CARRICK had finally made it after the Germany friendly in Berlin.

    Oh well, COME ON ENGLAND!

  • Comment number 64.

    Lots of the comments on here refer to it being a friendly,yes it was but it was still against a second string Mexican side and the world cup starts in 17 days Capello should now be getting his first team ready not messing about trying different things,Argentina played a so called FRIENDLY but still put a full side out and won 5 0 lets see Fabio do the same against Japan this weekend even if its just for the first half so we can see what our chances really are.If he is worried about injuries then why name so many players either just recovering from injury or who are well known to be injury prone.

  • Comment number 65.

    I know some on here are saying 'get behind your England team' but I have to agree with many others, despite the result, it showed some serious issues that better sides will exploit and punish us.
    Johnson's goal was a cracker but as someone above said, you won't see that again, and I ask this: what would have happened if he missed, Mexico got the ball and broke against us? Probably nothing as Mexico missed two one-on-ones, but now think if that happens against Spain with Torres up front? Johnson worries me, he forgets he is a defender too often.
    Walcott was mildly disappointing but I think he has talent. Lennon was a nice surprise and Milner is helping fuel further speculation on his future. Not quite sure what Steve G. was up to last night???
    Crouch proved he is only good for one thing: someone tall to bounce the ball off. This is not good enough against the elite we will face once through the group stages.
    The defence needs to sharpen up alot.
    That's why I'm not overly chuffed with last night. There will be a lot of seeded international clubs watching that and licking their lips at the prospect of tearing that defence apart.

  • Comment number 66.

    Maybe I was watching a different match.

    I saw an experimental side, which started at 4-5-1 and ended at 4-4-2 which at the end put some good moves together. Yes the team were frail at the back, and missed the shield that Barry gives the team. But Gerrard was, I though, by far man of the match and for the short time that Lennon was on the field we have someone who will scare the willys out of opposition left backs.

    I thought Green did ok in goal, although I would put Mexico's goal down to him. He dealt very will with what was in front of him apart from that. Hart was equally ok, James is still my favourite for the No1

    Johnson did very well in an attacking sense, but he needs vocal centre backs to rein him in and stop him thinking that he is Gareth Bale, he doesn't have the legs for that and his defensive frailties worry me. Great goal though and still our best right back.

    Baines did well enough but he is likely to keep the bench a nice temperature when Cole steps back into the team. The gulf in class between the two is enormous and I'll be very happy to see Cole back for Japan.

    King, apart from being turned once, looked as confident and classy as ever. He has always been one of our better defenders and I really felt more at ease with him there than with Terry. He brought the ball out well and did well. I would argue that Terry would have struggled more than he against small, mobile strikers.

    Ferdinand, looked out of sorts to me and the team settled much more when Carragher came on who seemed to form an excellent partnership with King. Not Ferdinands best game

    Walcott to me seems to be one of the most over-rated players I have ever watched. His pointless running into dead ends, his inability to DO anything with the ball and his terrible first touch make me wonder why so many England managers give him the nod. Remember when he signed for Arsenal he was supposed to be the next Ian Wright/Theirry Henry but he hasn't developed enough to play up front and I wonder if he ever will. For me he is a David Hirst/Francis Jeffers type who promises much but delivers little. If Walcott played for Sunderland or Fulham would he be in the squad even?
    Aaron Lennon came on to some applause I noted and he instantly looked a class above Walcott. His direct running and his use of pace scared the Mexicans enough to bring him down when clean through. A sure starter for Fabio?

    Gerrard for me was outstanding, looked part of everything England did well. One of our best players who needs to step up to the level his ability suggests he is capable of next month. His interplay with Rooney was encouraging.

    It's all gone wrong for Carrick hasn't it? Huddlestone looked more composed and more able to chase and harry than him and I agree that Barry's replacement is more likely to be big Tom or Scott Parker than him. Our central midfield was left exposed when Rooney played up with Crouch.

    MIlner - forgive me, but was he playing? I didn't notice him do anything well or badly. I'd much rather a fit again Joe Cole on the wing but I'd imagine he's the best we've got. Incredible it's been all this time since John Barnes was the last naturally gifted left winger who played for England. Even at Euro 96 we had Mcmanaman playing there. Adam Johnson seems to offer more to me and I'd give him the nod.

    Rooney was a little quiet but showed signs of just how good this guy is. Our best and, truth be told, only truly world class player.

    Crouch scored, but, as when he plays for Spurs, seemed to make the side more long ball and one dimensional. There was a lot more attacking interplay when Defoe came on and I thought the little guy did well. There was no running into alleys and shooting from 60 yards from Defoe last night. His pass to Rooney for Gerrards chance was excellent and I thought he and Rooney played will together.

    My first 11 for the game against the USA


  • Comment number 67.

    It wasn't a first choice team so the result was acceptable; performance could be better but I think the second half was good when they were 'aggressive' (maybe they weren't in the first half because of fear of injury)

    For me the team has to be:

    Green/James (Joe Hart is fantastic but placing him in the big games at a young age is hard and a mistake may kill his confidence - after the WC he could be our GK for many years to come)

    Johnson (he'll do)
    Terry (better form at the end of the season)
    Ferdinand/King (depends on fitness)
    Cole (arguably the best left back in the world)

    Barry (if fit - he holds and allows others to push on)
    Lampard (gets goals)
    Gerrard (needs to find some form though)
    Walcott/Lennon (their pace is essential - saw the damage it can cause last night)

    Rooney (enough said)
    Crouch (invaluable from set plays)

    Then the other 12: Hart; James/Green; Ferdinand/King; Dawson/Upson; Baines/Warnock; Parker; Walcott/Lennon; Defoe; Heskey; Joe Cole; Johnson; Milner

    Something like that. I agree that in the Japan game they should try something different though a 4-3-3 perhaps or a 4-5-1 with Milner/Johnson on the left and Gerrard playing behind Rooney. If that works then by all means go with it - but for sure I think Capello knows what he is doing.

  • Comment number 68.

    Sorry Phil, I think you've got this wrong. Yes we didn't play great, but it really does get tedious the way the media feels the need to tear the team to shreds every time they play below-par - that's football, no team ever plays great all the time, what matters is getting it right when it matters. At the end of the day it was a friendly played after an intense week of training at altitude on a dodgy pitch. And we won.

    Singling out Baines and Carrick was also unfair. People have been raving about Milner playing in the centre for Villa this season but he was equally poor in the first half, and I think proved he has to play out wide at international level at least. As you say yourself, the way Gerrard drifted infield throughout the first half (probably coz he had to to stop Milner and Carrick getting over-run) left Baines terribly exposed, and King and Ferdinand were just as guilty of leaving too much space behind. I thought Baines looked solid enough second half when he had Milner to work with. I actually thought the whole team played pretty well second half, we looked more balanced and seemed well in control.

  • Comment number 69.

    Right, let's all calm down! We beat a decent Mexico side 3 - 1, without playing well. I think it's safe to say that we controlled the second half without too many problems. I was, as usual disappointed with Gerrard, who when not played in the centre, is very ill disciplined when it comes to playing in another position. He should wear the shirt with pride and try to stay where he has been told to play! Our left side was useless due to his lack of positional awareness. I'm a Man Utd fan, but Carrick has lost it. A few good touches in the second half but not a good enough performance to warrant an England place. Huddlestone, when he appeared barely touched the ball, so i believe our problem is who will sit in midfield if Barry doesn't make it. Maybe Milner dropping back abit would work, he's talented enough to do it. Adam Johnson is our best option on the left, when placed on current form, but has very little experience, so i'd like to see Joe Cole against Japan. We will be fine though. We won't win, but a place in the semi's would be a good result.

  • Comment number 70.

    Thought the team looked much better when Carragher and King were at the back and Milner went out on to the left. I also thought Defoe looked pretty decent when he came on. Personally my starting 11 would be:

    Hart - Seems to be the keeper with the most confidence at the moment
    Johnson - Best & only right back in the squad
    Ferdinand - Capello won't drop him, he is the captain
    Terry - Has a good partnership with Rio, will put it all in for the WC
    Lennon - Far more productive than Walcott
    Lampard - Great season, great midfielder
    Barry - Probably best holding midfielder we have, but if not fit, Huddlestone!!
    Milner - Looked good on the left and will have a good work rate
    Gerrard - Just behind Rooney and supporting him like he does for Torres
    Rooney - Class player, best striker, need to make the team tick around him

  • Comment number 71.

    I still think your monotonous call for England to play a lone striker is an annoying one Phil. Yes Steven Gerrard and Rooney link up well but they link in the 4-4-2, you don't have to have Rooney as a lone striker to take advantage of that and if you play Rooney as a lone striker you miss out on the dimensions that both a Crouch or a Heskey would add. Did you miss the fact that both England's goals with Crouch on the field he had a part in?

    I think the friendly delivered what I expected. Yes there were questions but a drubbing of Mexico may have encouraged complacency. As other people have pointed out, Mexico are mid table in the premier league that is the world stage. If Man Utd had beaten, say Blackburn, in this fashion you'd be talking about how it was the sign of champions that they could play so badly at times and still win.

    Also, doesn't it look like Crouch is the preferred partner up front for Rooney? Heskey didn't play against Egypt or Mexico.

  • Comment number 72.

    We can talk about which players should or should not go all day but England simply do not keep the ball long enough to be a major threat in South Africa.

    Spain & Brazil will hold possession for long periods of the game & that is the best way to tire out your opposition.

    England do not have the players who can do this & we look anything but a world cup winning side.

    We dont know our strongest line up & struggle to find a partner for Rooney (heaven help us if he gets injured). King looked out of his depth & Baines is not an international footballer.

    Cole & Lennon are recovering match sharpness after periods out of the game & this might catch up with them during the tournament.

    We can pay any manager £6million per year but we just dont have the players who will adapt to the necessary tactics required.

    We should play more compact like Germany do (& Greece did in 2004) & be hard to beat but you can rely on lampard & Gerrard to try & play like Maradona & keep running down blind alleys all day long.

  • Comment number 73.

    I don't think Beines had a very good game at all, which is a shame. Too often it was Milner defending the winger, with Baines nowhere to be seen.

    I think people might have been blinded by all of Baines' assists this season. He takes corners and free kicks for Everton but I doubt he'd get a look in for England. Defensively, England probably would be better off playing Milner at left back if anything happened to Ashley Cole.

    Once again England's main threat was from crosses - I think people who want to see England pass the ball about along the surface have got it all wrong. The team is always at its best playing back to front quickly and down the wings. I think that's why taking Adam Johnson should be considered - he has a great cross and in tight games one good delivery from wide can change a match.

  • Comment number 74.

    I can't understand all the post about berating Walcott, a winger is only effective as the guys in the box to make the connection, apart from the corner or the freekicks, we hardly had anyone doing a forward run. Did no one notice that the threat from mexico came largely from the left because Walcott did his fair share of defensive duties and created a few freekicks for us due to getting fouled.

    I would say that for the goal keepers its between Joe Hart and Robert Green, and if pushed I would say Joe Hart - none of this nonsense about he does not have experience, if memory serves me well Casillas was only 20 when he played in a champions league final. I can not recall any mistakes Joe Hart has made this season as for the other two....ehmm i have moved to my toes from my fingers and I am still counting.

    The Backline - Ashley Cole - there is no one better
    GLen Johnson - Better and a goal threat when going forward
    King - Goal threat and good at headers and organisation.
    Ferdinand/ Terry I dont care who gets it, they can both fight for the shirt.

    Midfield - Milner - Balance and good with crosses and gives the team balance.
    Lampard - for his passing and vision and for me a lot better than Gerard
    Scot Parker - Hard worker, puts the tackles in and is not a bad passer
    Walcott/Johnson - I thought Lennon was worse last night and all I can remember is the one time he sprinted forward without the ball and guess got to the box and still did not get the ball

    up front - Done Conclusion - Rooney and Crouch - Heskey warms the bench, defoe comes in to replace Crouch if we want a options.

    Or play Rooney and Walcott upfront with Johnson on the right and then Crouch or Defoe comes in for Walcott if we need a new dimension.

  • Comment number 75.

    England were poor last night, but hopefully things will improve – otherwise we have no chance of winning the World Cup.

    King got turned too easily in the first half and, if this game was in the world cup, would have had a penalty against him for shirt pulling. Carragher was also up to his old tricks of holding players in the penalty area and could have had a penalty awarded against him. Baines didn’t have a good game, however, he didn’t have anyone helping out in front of him during the first half. The midfield wasn’t right, was much better in the second half when he swapped Gerrard and Milner around. Again Walcott had no end product. I’m fed up with hearing that he has to go to the World Cup because he has pace. It seems to me that he races past players then can’t decide what to do with the ball, when he eventually does decide it is too late.

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm quite positive about England, on that performance we might scrape out of the group. I can see it now our boys only need a draw in the last group game, 3-0 down to Algeria at half time, Gerrard sent off for overrated-ness, Heskey has a one-on-one with the keeper, row Z beckons, but the ghost of Bobby Moore enters his body and Heskey administers a sublime (hate that word) chip that curls into the top corner. Such an beautiful goal is awarded as 3 goals, Heskey swivels away in delight, his first ever England hat trick, he hugs his team mates and plants a haymaker on all those who deserve it.

  • Comment number 77.

    Would like to point out that Baines plays a lot better for Everton because he usually has Steven Pienaar in front of him rather than Gerrard, who just ignores him and doesn't allow him to get forward.

  • Comment number 78.

    The Gerrard-Rooney partnership experiment is worth a go simply because you need to adapt as you progress through the tournament. I'm concerned about what's going to happen if Rooney can't stay fit for the whole tournament. Defoe hasn't been playing well for a couple of months now and that's a big worry.

    I hope last night's performance has finally made Capello realise Carrick isn't the player he was at the moment and shouldn't be going. Time to give Huddlestone and Parker a half each against Japan to see who might take his place.

    Personally I think Johnson should go but I doubt that he will. I'm not sure who I'd take him instead of either but I think he can be such a dangerous player with a terrific delivery. Lennon gets my vote on the right.

    Overall not a fantastic display last night but we took our chances well, got a bit of luck along the way and had a good test. Think it was a good night really and Capello and the rest of the coaching team know what to work on over the next couple of weeks now.

  • Comment number 79.

    The thing to remember is that England have played poorly and still won 3-1! Like the best club sides, you grind out results, even when you are playing badly. We have better players to bring in and cannot really play any worse than some of last night.
    As a Man utd fan, I was shocked Carrick even got in the 30, so bad has been his form this year. Our central midfield was too easily bypassed and put alot of pressure on the back 4.
    The players that didn't perform were Baines, Walcott, Carrick and Milner. Balance in midfield is so important and I think Adam Johnson should have had longer. Also, I know everyone is scared of getting injured, but the way they went into tackles was sometimes embarrasing. The Mexicans were flying in, leaving some England players rolling around on the floor, like the overpaid prima donas they are! A bit more fight and agression please - you are only playing for a place in a world cup squad!

  • Comment number 80.


    My starting XI would be

    G.Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, A. Cole
    Barry/Parker, Lampard
    Lennon, Gerrard, J.Cole/A.Johnson/Milner


    Hmmm - that's your starting 14 then?

    I'd have:

    G.Johnson, Carragher, Terry, A. Cole
    Lennon, Parker, Lampard, A Johnson

  • Comment number 81.

    #64 Jamiesjoker

    Didn't Argentina play Canada?
    Portugal played their strongest team and drew 0-0.

    Last night was about checking whether certain players are adequate understudies, I would have to say CARRICK and BAINES on last nights performances won't be going and if that means PARKER goes instead (of CARRICK) then excellent.

    I thought overall the plus points were as others have pointed out, we won when not playing well, both keepers were excellent, KING played 90 mins, Johnson looked good, Lennon looked good and Walcott is starting to gain some form.

    Yes I'm going to defend Walcott...
    In the first half the whole team struggled, when he did burst forward only Crouch was in the box with Rooney trying to get involved, which is why he slowed up and had to pass backwards. Having a better centre midfield will hopefully mean Rooney can stay forward rather than dropping back to try and create play.

    Bring on the riposte....
    (Oh and by the way I'm a MAN UTD fan and not an Arsenal fan).

  • Comment number 82.

    England missed the calm and authority of John Terry last night without a doubt. Terry and Carragher would be a dream central defence IMHO. Walcott does not cut the mustard for me, Lennon at least looked lively and knows what to do when he gets to the byline. Why not put Joe Cole back on the left mid, which is the position he made his before he did his ACL. Lets face it he is a phenomenal player and only makes mistakes at the moment because of the pressure on him to perform and get back to his best. He really could turn a game in our favour if he's given the chance. A game or 2 in and he will be brimming with confidence.

  • Comment number 83.

    Whatever happened to Micah Richards?

  • Comment number 84.

    lets not get carried away guys, some of those players know they are on the plane and were never goin to give 100% and risk injury, and as Phil stated, we were missing Cole, Lampard, and Terry, 3 Key players! I would certainly be more concerned about the players getting through the game, then putting on a performance

  • Comment number 85.

    Joe Cole will open the doors on the left side....

  • Comment number 86.

    I agree with some of the posters here that Carrick should be a worried man after his season and last night. For Japan I would give Matt Dawson, Adam Johnson and Scotty Parker a full game.
    Probably been asked before but do we really need three keepers? if not then Hart and Green should go to RSA.

  • Comment number 87.

    Yes as expected England win 3:1 and then everyone tells the coach what he should do to make things better, despite a near 100% record in qualifying..... This is Englands best chance ever because in Capello you have a manager who knows what he is doing, who understands a football index and how beneficial it could be and who is going to be utterly professional in his remit. But if the media have their way England will be an utter failure and Capello a silly italian.....and then you can give Harry Redknapp the job.

  • Comment number 88.

    cant really complain that ferdinand lost his man for the mexico goal when Baines obviously does not know how to clear it three yeards from the goal line and then kneel before franco to allow the easiest of headers. Cole would have probably chested the ball, ran the length of the ppitch and scored ;). there was no real cutting edge to a very lame first half display. Crouch scored against a 5"7 inch keeper? Casialls Buffon etc... all in excess of 6"4 think they may have done better. Also think someone such as the ITalians who can defend as miserly as scrooge on christmas, would not have allowed a corner kick to go in so easily. al be it a friendly. Green with ONE good save last night, the second was striaght down his throat and would have dissapointed not to save it. HART ftw as he is ooozing confidence at the minute although out of the three of them i would back james to make a world class save in the dying minutes of a semi final over the other two.(and then hed porbably mess up in the final).

  • Comment number 89.

    I'd like to See Capello play a 4-2-3-1 formation against Japan with Gerrard behind Rooney. My starting 11 for the WC is below, but first a few of my main points:
    Lennon has to start over Walcott. He seems to have more confidence to run at people and has had a much better season. Final ball is better now too. I also think he's quicker! (would like to see a foot race between the 2 though)

    Bye bye Carrick, hopefully Barry will be fit but I'd prefer Huddleston in the squad than Carrick. If Fabio sticks with his "form players" philosophy then he shouldn't go anyway as he's been awful all season.

    Play Adam Johnson on the left. We haven't had a decent naturally left sided wide man since John Barnes! Now we have finally got one lets use him, I don't care if he's young, he's better than the other options. 2 wide men (lennon & Johnson) would give us a balanced side with everyone playing in position.

    I really admire Crouch but playing him with Rooney basically means playing SG on the left where he's wasted. I'd have Crouch as a sub who can come on and give us another (very good) option.

    Starting 11:


    G Johnson
    A Cole


    A Johnson


  • Comment number 90.

    England XI
    Green- good performance let down by ferdinand
    G. Johnson- plays well can score
    Ferdinand- bedrock of england defence had a bad moment that led to a mexico goal
    King- he can be fit and can play well
    A. Cole- anythings better than baines and andy is soo much better
    Milner- in a defensive midfielder role good but last night had to cover for bains
    Walcott/lennon both are quick and dangerous
    A. Johnson on the left could be man of the tournement- has a spark
    Gerrard/Lampard attacking central mid both world class i'd play gerrard
    Rooney and Crouch - both score goals
    what do you reckon?

  • Comment number 91.


    Hey yeah Walcott played ok, he beat a couple of players but its like a lot of people say, no-one really knows what kind of end product Walcott is going to produce so its hard for the strikers to anticipate what delivery he will put in....

    I think Lennon would be better on the right and Johnson on the left, with Lampard driving from midfield. Have Parker or Barry as holding midfielder and then Crouch Rooney up front. I think England should just drop Gerrard, either that or replace him with Crouch to play behind Rooney - depends which is more effective.

  • Comment number 92.

    Forget last night - it was a warm-up with a team that won't start against the USA.

    The starting line-up for USA will probably be : Green, Cole, Ferdinand, Terry, Johnson, Gerrard, Lampard, Milner, Rooney, Crouch, Lennon/Walcott.

    This team will struggle for pace in central defence and Ferdinand (and to some extent Terry) is an accident waiting to happen. Green, despite ONE fine save last night (the other one any stopper should have saved) remains a dodgy keeper and we'd be far better off choosing Hart and sticking with him for the next 20 yrs.

    Gerrard & Lampard, despite endless trials and permutations CANNOT play together and whoever you put with them - Milner / J. Cole / a clearly unfit Barry, cannot balance the middle.

    Rooney, the only world-class player we have, will have to feed off Heskey (the non-scoring centre-forward) or Crouch, who will be penalised every time he jumps. Walcott underwhelms and falls over all the time and Lennon obviously finds 90 minutes 20 mins too long.

    England for the World Cup ? No. For the simple reason that when push comes to shove there are 6 teams who would beat us : in no particular order Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Spain and Holland.

  • Comment number 93.

    nogsrocks- you nust have been watching a different game to me and many others when you say that Baines looked solid in the 2nd half. He was amateurish in his attempts to tackle and for a Premier player was amazingly naive when it came to covering and stopping the winger from crossing the ball. But again, like Warnock, he's another player that has been hyped up by the press because of his daring runs down the wing. Many people forget that defenders are there primarily to defend and their secondary function is to support the attack. I've yet to see Baines make a decent tackle for Everton!

  • Comment number 94.

    Our midfield were far far too pedestrian especially first half. I agree with your analysis Phil, that once Gerrard came into the middle we upped the urgency, if only slightly. It seems obvious now that Gerrard will not play CM, as he and Lampard do not work well. As a result I would love to see Gerrard and Joe Cole interchanging as left sided midfielders and playing in the hole behind Rooney. Capello has already contradicted himself about only picking form players so giving J.Cole a chance should be no problem.

    I think our massive concern must be Lampard's central midfield partner. Mexico proved last night, albeit against a makeshift midfield, that continental teams will pass it round us with ease. Lampard does add work rate but not enough when we will come up against Spain, Brazil, Argentina ETC. We need some bite in midfield, someone who will break up play and make a real nuisance of themselves to the opposition.
    Parker is the only choice at the moment, Barry I do not think has enough energy to do it.

    One point. If Capello is willing to risk Ledley King in SA, when we know at the very best of times, he will only be able to play half of our games. Why is he not giving Hargreaves a chance? He won't even give him the chance to prove his fitness when he is willing to take a player who we know for definite, will not be fit for the whole tournament.

  • Comment number 95.

    Argentina won 5-0, but it was against Canada. What would they get out of that, apart from confirming that they are much better than Canada which was already a given.

    England's match was much better as the opposition were tough and it highlighted some areas that need working on, which is better than winning 5-0 against dross and thinking everything is perfect.

    Mexico nearly always get to at least the last 16 of the World Cup so they're no mugs. That's also only one round less than England usually reach, so to beat them 3-1 with new things tried and new players is a good workout in England's first warm-up match.

    Also, can the moderators stop people advertising their own personal blogs, it's irritating.

  • Comment number 96.

    # 83


    England's then great new hope is now possibly to be 'discarded' by City for one of the other English clubs chasing the Champs league, Europa league.

    Just shows how much of an effect confidence can have on a person.

  • Comment number 97.

    King got turned too easily in the first half and, if this game was in the world cup, would have had a penalty against him for shirt pulling.

    Remember, Mexico would have had 2 red cards if it was the World Cup as well. You can't just compare a friendly match and a World Cup game as like-for-like, friendlies are designed or ironing out mistakes.

  • Comment number 98.

    Cant understand why there are so many heated comments regarding a friendly. Capello experimented with the side last night as he said he was goin to. It was easy to see the balance wasnt there for the most part last night, a couple of important injuries into the world cup and we might be very grateful that capello has seen that this selection doesnt work so we dont make this make this mistake in the knockout stages.

    England would have been better with the tried and trusted 442, but we already knew that so there was no point trying it. may seem a little unfair to certain players who are trying to prove themselves in a formation that wasnt working but thats how it goes.

    with regard to selection i think carrick has certainly played himself out of contention, just hope parker gets given a good chance as we need a ball winner in midfield.

  • Comment number 99.

    Cant believe how negative people are being - we are our own worse enemies!! Lets get behind the boys!!
    Its difficult to get up for it in a friendly, especially when the game was always in our control, and nobody wants to get injured.
    Rooney had to be played to demonstrate that we werent worried about the safety of our pitch (and damage the chances of getting the 2018 bid), but apart from put on the shirt and do some light jogging he didnt really get involved. Therefore we were playing with an unfamiliar team, and our tailsman was practically reducing us to 10 men.

  • Comment number 100.

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


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