columnist Nick Howson looks ahead to tonight's game in Berlin and
wonders if the England fringe will seize their moment.
This week, Fabio Capello's England travel to Germany to play
their Eastern European rivals in the final international match of the year for
For England it is the culmination of a year that has proved
fruitful, as they top their World Cup Qualifying group with maximum points
after four games.
Due to a number of injuries to Capello's squad, he will be
without up to eight first-team regulars and an unfit David Beckham, who the
Italian refuses to pick while the former captain is out of action.
This provides Capello a chance to give some of his fringe
players a game in Berlin's Olympic Stadium-quite an opportunity for the players
Gabriel Agbonlahor will finally get his international debut
after having it delayed by injury. Alongside fellow Aston Villa protégé Ashley
Young, they are sure to give the Germans a fright.
It's not just the Villa duo that will look for a role in
Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, and Glen Johnson are all set
to start as they stake their claim to a starting berth for England in the next
World Cup qualifiers.
In my opinion, as disappointing as it is not to see a full
strength England side, it will be interesting to see how the squad players
perform in the big stage against a big team.
England had a similar opportunity in the summer when they
faced Trinidad and Tobago but, with all due-respect the Caribbean nation,
weren't presented with a huge challenge.
Germany in Berlin, however, will give the players a huge
test and they will know they can't under-perform the way they could possibly
afford to against Trinidad.
Knowing Capello the way we all like to think we do, he'll
note the impressive performances ahead of his next squad selection in the New
This game is the opportunity for players like the ones noted
above to turn out a performance.
Maybe even Scott Parker can force himself back onto the
international stage. As a big fan of the former Charlton man, I hope he can
stamp his mark on the game.
Not many opportunities come up like this for these players;
sometimes the opposition is too inferior to make an impact or injuries don't
fall like they have. However, these players need to step up to the plate.
They might not get many more chances.