England’s friendly with Egypt was one of the few remaining fixtures in which Fabio Capello has the opportunity to establish his World Cup elite.
Come mid May the England manager has to name his provisional squad and while he is sure to have already penned a few names on his team sheet there are a number of positions that remain in doubt.
Capello called on a mixture of youth and experience in a bid to freshen up his England squad and give a number of players their chance to stake a place on that plane to South Africa.
England don’t play again for another 12 weeks, and with the number of injuries and inconsistencies within the England squad, there was no time like the present to delve deep into the pool of English players available for selection.
This is what world cup rehearsals are all about and England welcomed a new look back four put together for the first time, when I say welcomed, three players were given a warm reception while a certain John Terry, well what did you expect.
Capello asked for support not boos, he didn’t get that and John Terry’s first touch was greeted by a chorus of taunts from the home fans – The Chelsea skipper found out just how much they think of his bedroom shenanigans with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend.
Capello stripped Terry of his England captaincy and his performance was always going to be up for scrutiny. Once again the former England captain proved his place in the England squad. How booing one of our players is supposed to help our team move forward as we approach the World Cup I have no idea.
The England manager would have asked for an uplifting performance he didn’t get that either. It was evident from the start England lacked balance and belief; for a manager that lives to win, he would have been extremely disappointed to see his side trailing by one goal to nil inside 25 minutes.
For much of the first half they lacked any real presence or goal threat and looked in desperate need of a cameo moment from Wayne Rooney, something a little special from the inform Manchester United man – only one of two United representatives incidentally.
England fans got sight of a few new kids on the block…
It’s been a test for Leighton Baines, one he without doubt lived up to. He faced a tough test against some impressive Egyptian attackers and having finally got his much awaited first England cap, a cap that is no doubt well deserved. He’s a player currently in the ascendency of his career and arguably in the form of his life. With Bridge having ruled himself out of international football indefinitely, Baines is his only realistic predecessor. The Everton left back certainly gave Capello food for thought and proved he could, if needed, fill the boots of Ashley Cole.
Rob Green was given the nod ahead of Joe Hart, Paul Robinson, Ben Foster and David James and his performance showed why he is the main to don the number one shirt come June. His international pedigree was tested and a commanding performance was capped by a number of good saves.
Wes Brown and Theo Walcott were far from the Gary Neville/David Beckham partnership of yester year. While Brown put in a sterling performance, Walcott failed to get involved in the game and lacked the influence he’s shown for Arsenal in recent months. Back from injury, granted he lacks the sharpness he displays when fully fit but his inability to provide anything unique in a position widely disputed, his position in the team for South Africa remains in doubt.
England came from a position of peril and it was thanks in no small part to the changes Capello drafted in, in a bid to salvage the game. Shaun Wright-Phillips revitalised the right hand side, his speed and agility gave England options and his creative flair evident in his influence to create England’s third goal.
Capello made changes; is it coincidence that it was the England substitutes that provided the national side with a new lease of life? James Milner, Peter Crouch and Wright-Phillips all playing there part in rejuvenating the England side.
All three had significant roles to play in turning the score around and Peter Crouch can only have further cemented his claim for a ticket to the World cup with a further impressive performance – his international goal scoring record is phenomenal and Capello cannot overlook the 6ft 7in striker.
We didn’t get to see the likes of Stephen Warnock or Ryan Shawcross, perhaps the integrity of Capello’s impeccable history of results outweighed the advantages of giving them a run out. Or perhaps the impressive performances of Baines and Brown didn’t warrant change, after all if it’s not broke don’t fix it.
Overall, and after some magic from Capello, England delivered a confidence boosting victory in their dress rehearsal for Algeria in the World Cup. England now have three months left to prepare; that’s three months to train, three months for Capello to establish his squad and three months of injuries. Strap yourself in England fans, it could be a bumpy ride.