After weeks of anticipation and speculation, Fabio Capello has finally named the 23 players that will make up the England squad ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Despite the intense media interest surrounding the announcement of which seven players were to be axed by Capello from his provisional 30 man squad and the widespread disagreement about who should and shouldn’t have gone, England fans will now be hoping that attention can be pointed in the positive direction as the squad make their final preparations after touching down at its training camp in South Africa.
England kick off their quest for World Cup glory on Saturday 12th June against the United States and with the squad now known, discussion amongst fans and media in the build up to the game surrounds which players Fabio Capello will name in his starting XI to face the USA.
There are a number of players guaranteed to line up in Rustenburg providing they are fit. These ever presents under Capello who will look to get England off to a winning start are captain, Rio Ferdinand, along with Ashley Cole, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney. With Glenn Johnson and Aaron Lennon both expected to start on the right hand side, this leaves three positions up for grabs. One of the biggest talking points is who will be selected as the number one goalkeeper along with who will partner Wayne Rooney up front and who will play on the left hand side of midfield.
Following the departure of England to Johannesburg, the FA announced the squad numbers that each player will wear on the back of their shirts during the tournament and any traditionalist will be quick to jump to conclusions as to who will be the three players to complete the starting line up against the USA if Capello was to field a team wearing numbers one through eleven.
David James has been allocated the ‘number one jersey’, the strongest suggestion to date that he could have won the battle to start in goal ahead of Robert Green (#12) and Joe Hart (#23). James is the most experienced of the trio with 50 caps to his name and as such, many people’s choice to start but many have argued that Joe Hart is the best goalkeeper of the three judged on domestic form but only three caps is a disadvantage in such high pressure matches. Whilst Robert Green has been Capello’s number one choice until recently. Some bookmakers are even taken bets on who will start the opening Group C game in goals, with David James the 4/5 favourite ahead of Green (13/8) and Hart (9/2).
Upfront, the debate about who should partner Rooney has been ongoing for some time. Heskey played a key role in England’s World Cup qualifiers and Rooney has a excellent goalscoring record when partnered by the Aston Villa striker, scoring nine goals in the nine games they have played together under Capello. However, Heskey’s critics will be quick to point out that the forward has scored just seven goals for his 58 caps, which spans 11 years and that is perhaps why he has been allocated the number 21 shirt in the squad. Peter Crouch on the other hand will wear number nine, which may suggest the Spurs striker could get the nod to partner Rooney.
Crouch has long had to settle for the bridesmaid role for England, winning the majority of his 38 caps from the bench. However, with 21 goals to his name, Crouch is just four goals behind Rooney’s international tally and has made 22 less appearances. There is no questioning that Crouch makes things happen for England and it looks like he and Rooney are the men to score the goals to fire England to glory. Rooney is 10/1 and Coruch 66/1 to win the Fifa Golden Boot.
The final remaining position is that of left midfield and who fills this slot will largely depend on the fitness of Gareth Barry (#14), who did not play in either warm up match against Mexico or Japan due to injury and although deemed close to fitness, may not be fit enough to play against the USA. If the Man City midfielder is deemed match fit, you can be assured that he will play the holding midfield role in front of the back four and Steven Gerrard will more than likely play on the left hand side of midfield.
If Barry is not fit enough then Gerrard could still play on the left with James Milner (#16) playing in the centre of midfield. However, Joe Cole has been allocated the number 11 shirt, traditionally worn by left sided midfielders and could get the nod which would mean a midfield partnership of Gerrard and Lampard. Cole played a pivotal role in England reaching the Quarter Finals of the World Cup four years ago and could once again be called upon for his versatile ability and experience.
Many questions still remain unanswered as the countdown to kick off fast approaches but one thing remains certain, whoever does line up for England in South Africa, the level of expectation remains the same as fans expect once again to see the side progress in the competition, whether the this will be the case remains to be seen but it will certainly be an interesting ride!
Written By Richard Smith