We’re 30 days away from the “big match” and both the US and England have released their initial 30 man rosters. For the most part, Fabio Capello’s picks were fairly obvious but there are some interesting selections as well as some glaring omissions.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.
Certainly not England’s strongest position but all three will make the final 23. Capello will be using these next two weeks to assess which one will be number 1. Green seems to be the first choice but his form with West Ham has not been excellent, keeping only 5 clean sheets all year. Given his defense was horrendous all season (see Upson below), and it’s a wonder that he kept 5 clean sheets – it’s his shot stopping abilities that have earned him Capello’s favor. David James is the most experienced and that goes a long way in a world cup, but he is injury prone and though has shed the unfortunate nickname of yore, “Calamity James”,
he is still prone to the odd gaff now and then. Joe Hart is the keeper in form and made the PFA Team of the Year but he is only 23. Unless the others succumb to injury or he has a blinding training camp, he will go to South Africa as the number 2.
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.
Capello chose 10 defenders in his 30 man squad. At least 2 and maybe 3 will not be in the final 23. Englands defenders are either old (but experienced), creaky and slow or young and inexperienced. The two that don’t fit into either category are Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson, both of whom will make the final 23 and will probably be in the starting 11. Terry, Ferdinand and King are also shoe-ins and Dawson who’s uncapped will most certainly make the trip after a fine season with Spurs. The rest of the spots are for backup positions and the most interesting battle will be for the back-up left back position between Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock. Both had fine seasons for Everton and Aston Villa respectively, but Baines is younger and better with set pieces and will get the nod.
Upson will be sent home as well as he just isn’t what he used to be. He’s getting older and was at fault for many of West Ham’s goals this season. This was a waste of a pick as Capello could have brought someone like Gary Cahill to gain some valuable experience and even have a shot at the 23 man roster.
When all is said and done, Jamie Carragher will be on the plane to South Africa. He’s versatile and experienced playing against international competition. He’s a no-nonsense defender, offers little in the way of going forward but is solid in the back. Sadly he’s about two years removed from his very best (one the top 3 CB’s in England from 05-09) and his form dipped noticeably this past year but he will bring up the intensity at trainings and can play any one of the defensive positions in a pinch. Considering England’s health concerns at the back, this could be very useful.
Not going – Warnock and Upson.
Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Out of the 12 midfielders picked, only 8 will be South Africa bound. Who is taken will depend on Gareth Barry and his ankle injury. If fully fit he will slot in as the defensive midfielder, but he is a major doubt which is why Scott Parker, Michael Carrick and Tom Huddleston were brought in. Normally Carrick (or Hargreaves if he wasn’t injured for the past 19 months) would be the automatic back up but Carrick has shown poor form as off late. Parker who last played for the three lions under McClaren was one of the shining stars in a dismal West Ham team this year, is a booking waiting to happen and is a very long shot to make the squad.
The England midfield options are versatile which presents the Italian manager with some difficult decisions to make. Lampard, Gerrard and Milner are all going and could very well be in the starting 11. Barry if healthy will go. The remaining 4 spots are all training ground battles that can go either way. Huddleston versus Carrick, Cole versus Johnson and SWP versus Lennon versus Walcott. Carrick has the experience and though poor of form is reliable and tested, whereas Huddleston might be a little too green for the 2010 World Cup. He’s young and one for the future and hopefully will make the most of the next two weeks, but in the end will be watching the world cup from a TV in a sunny vacation spot. If Barry is injured I would slot Gerrard or Milner as the CDM with the other playing on the left and Lamps in the top of the diamond.
Joe Cole, once proclaimed by a Brazilian manager in 2006 as the only member of the England squad that could make the Brazilian team has either been out of form or injured for the better part of 18 months. His second half display against Wigan though was vintage Cole and earned him the call up. The question is can he recapture the form that made him an automatic choice for club and country 4 years ago? and if he does go, at whose expense? Choosing between Lennon or Walcott is just too hard and if both healthy will go to South Africa. Cole has two weeks to show that he has recaptured his form from two years ago otherwise his place will go to Adam Johnson
The biggest question is why wasn’t Ashley Young given a chance to prove himself. The pacy winger who can also play as a forward had a great a year for Aston Villa. He’s young, good on the ball and exceptionally fast. The only explanation is that Capello see’s Lennon and Walcott as obvious choices but then why include SWP? He’s been pushed out of the City starting lineup by Johnson and when he does come on as a substitute, he hasn’t done anything of note.
Not going - Parker, Huddlestone, SWP and Carrick (If Barry remains fit, otherwise the United midfielder is on the plane)
Forwards: Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney.
The remaining 5 people on the list are all forwards. Fabio Capello made it clear when he was first hired that he would make selections based on form. Accordingly both Heskey and Dafoe should not have been invited let alone go to South Africa, but both will be on the plane. Dafoe is an incredible finisher and will be a terror of the bench so he will go. Crouch is also a definite as he possesses great ball skills, is an unselfishish player and his height are all good for a different option off the bench. He could also start depending on the opposition.
Heskey has trouble getting a game at Villa, hasn’t scored since February, and has the least amount of assists out of all the selected forwards BUT BUT BUT…he does have what none of the others do, and that is something which is incredibly important to Englands chances of doing well in South Africa. He has a great understanding with Wayne Rooney. They play very well together and Capello knows this and its for this reason, why not only will the big man be in the final 23 man squad but why he will also be in the starting 11. Unfortunately this means that the EPL’s second leading scorer Darren Bent will be the odd man out. He has been given several chances to prove himself at the international stage and has not impressed.
Not going – Bent
All in all Capello has picked a very solid 30 man roster. With the exception of SWP, Parker and Upson, all the rest can make a strong case for being included. Personally I think you take all 5 strikers and drop a defender or midfielder as Bent could make a difference coming off the bench.
Capello makes his final choices on June 1st. No matter who he takes or drops, this will be a solid team. Will it win the world cup? No. Will they make the semis? Maybe if they practice penalties and enjoy a little luck, but they will cause problems and are not to be taken lightly.