Who are Capello’s World Cup wildcards for SA 2010?

After walking through the qualifying rounds, who’d have thought the debate over who should make the England squad would be so pronounced? Time has made fools of us all, and with the World Cup beginning in a little over three months, England’s final 23 man squad is far from an open and shut case.

The goalkeeping debate is very much still alive and kicking. Injuries in defence, coupled with Wayne Bridge’s withdrawal from the squad have left at least one spot available at the back. In midfield David Beckham, Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole, Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips have all struggled to make wide positions their own. Upfront, whilst Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney will be Capello’s preferred partnership, Crouch and Defoe are not guaranteed their places just yet.

Capello doesn’t appear a man willing to take risks however there are always one or two surprise inclusions before a squad is announced. Therefore, let’s consider some of the more unlikely inclusions in Fabio Capello’s 23 man World Cup Squad..

Goalkeepers

Capello will take three goalkeepers. These were thought to be Robert Green, David James and Ben Foster. However, Foster’s form and James’ injury problems may leave room for manoeuvre.

Paul Robinson

Was recalled to the England squad by Capello in 2009 for matches against Kazakhstan and Andorra after impressing at Blackburn Rovers. However, Robinson is yet to appear under Capello, and despite his major tournament experience, the 29 year old is a long shot for the final 23 man squad.

Chris Kirkland

Persistent back injuries are what have held the Wigan Athletic goalkeeper back throughout his career. Perhaps too injury prone to be considered. Like Ledley King, his training method also may cause Capello concern.

Defenders

Capello should take eight defenders to the World Cup. If fit, Glen Johnson, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole, Matthew Upson, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are nailed on to go. Baines got the nod from Capello against Egypt, but his performance was underwhelming. With two spaces potentially up for grabs, there could be a shock inclusion…

Ledley King

King has had a good season at Tottenham, but his age and injury problems are finally starting to effect his performances on the pitch. Further, Capello will not take anyone unless 100% fit. King can’t train, or play two successive games. On his day King is a match for Terry or Ferdinand, but Capello will be unwilling to take King when question marks remain over his fitness. Rio Ferdinand’s back problem has also compounded Capello’s need for reliable cover.

Ryan Shawcross

The former Manchester United defender has had an outstanding season for Stoke City, and Capello clearly wanted a closer look at the youngster. However, his lack of experience or versatility may work against him with Lescott, Upson and Jagielka all ahead in the pecking order. It’s unlikely he’ll get to the World Cup, but he could be one for the future.

Michael Dawson

Capello has been to White Hart Lane often enough to run the rule over Dawson, but clearly doesn’t fancy the ex-Nottingham Forest player. Still yet to play for England and left out of Capello’s squad for Egypt. No chance.

Gary Cahill

Called up for a qualifier by Fabio Capello last June, Cahill has clearly caught Capello’s eye. However, the blood-clot in his right arm is likely to keep the Bolton defender out for the rest of the season. It’s therefore unlikely Cahill will travel, with Capello reluctant to pick an inexperienced defender lacking match practice.

Phil Neville

Could deputise well for Capello in the troublesome left back spot. Has big tournament experience and his versatility is priceless. Capello could do much worse than the 33 year old.

Midfield

Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, Milner and Carrick are, if fit, certain to travel. However, the likes of Beckham, Wright-Phillips and Walcott are not guaranteed the remaining two places. Here are some potential inclusions…

Ashley Young

Joe Cole was the favorite to deputise for Gerrard on the left, but the midfielder has struggled with injuries for the last two seasons, and was not in the squad to face Egypt. Ashley Young has not enjoyed his best season at Villa, but as a specialist left winger, may provide Capello with food for thought.

Stewart Downing

Ahead of Ashley Young in the pecking order, and was selected for the Egypt clash. However, he will need to play out of his skin if he is to compete with Walcott, Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and even Beckham for a wide midfield spot. Being left footed however, may play in Downing’s favour.

Adam Johnson

Quite a distance behind Downing and Young, but again, as a left footer, Capello may take a gamble on the talented winger. He has played well since joining Manchester City, and if Capello likes the look of him in the Premier League, he could head queue of England’s left sided deputies by June.

Jack Rodwell

Rodwell is young, and David Moyes is being careful not to overwork the talented young midfielder. Rodwell’s ability to drop into defence is useful, but his versatility could be a hindrance as Moyes is still undecided over where Rodwell should play. Rodwell will therefore have to score a few more like the one he buried against United at Goodison Park before Capello comes knocking. However, the boy is one for the future.

Scott Parker

Has been West Ham’s best performer this season, and was voted fans player of the season in the 2008/09 campaign. He is strong in the tackle, comfortable on the ball and a good anchor man. However, Capello has thus far overlooked the 29 year old midfielder, andthere’d need to be a rather large injury crisis before Capello considered Parker.

Tom Huddlestone

Huddlestone got injured in the clash between Everton and Tottenham at White Hart Lane, and it is unknown how long the Tottenham maestro will be out. However, he was not named in Capello’s squad the night before he got injured. The player was afforded a late cameo against Brazil in Dubai in England’s previous friendly, but despite performing well, it’s unlikely he’ dislodge Carrick or Milner. Questions over his mobility may also hinder the big man.

Forwards

Capello will probably take four forwards. Barring injury, Rooney and Heskey will be included. Crouch is also likely to travel, and with Defoe scoring for fun this season, there are likely to be few shocks in the striking department. All the same…

Carlton Cole

The forward has just returned from injury, but if he continues to score goals for West Ham, you wouldn’t bet against the West Ham marksmen giving Defoe or Heskey a run for their money. Cole is as physical as Heskey, with a better eye for goal. Any injuries to Crouch, Defoe Rooney or Heskey and Cole will be included.

Bobby Zamora

Capello missed Zamora’s injury time match winning free kick against Birmingham, but he could not have missed the players overall performance. Zamora has been in a rich vein of form recently, but his total of just 8 goals from 23 appearances could dissuade Capello. However, like Carlton Cole, he could be an adequate replacement for Heskey. His inclusion would however, remain a real shock.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

He’s just got one of those faces hasn’t he… Never the less he is a pretty good footballer, and Capello has run the rule over the Aston Villa forward on more than one occasion. Agbonlahor made a competitive appearance under Capello against Belarus, and is clearly not far from his thoughts. However, England’s formation revolves around a target man in the vein of Heskey, Cole or Crouch. When Capello favours a smaller player alongside Rooney he has opted for Defoe. Agbonlahor’s inclusion is not unthinkable, but a long shot…

Well there you have it. There are certainly a few debatable names on that list. However, until 1 June 2010, we’ll all be kept guessing, and until then the argument will rumble on…

You can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mark0turner

 


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