The England camp was rocked by further injury news yesterday as Frank Lampard pulled out of the Brazil clash on Saturday in Qatar. The Chelsea midfielder has picked up a thigh injury in training and he joins the long list of injured players that have disappointed Fabio Capello this week. Lampard’s absence could pave the way for new-boy Tom Huddlestone or Tottenham teammate Jermaine Jenas who are both attack minded. Michael Carrick is another option but with Gareth Barry already placed as a holding midfielder to protect the back four, England may prefer to mix it up a bit more and start with an attacking central midfielder.
Not surprisingly for an England friendly many of the first choice XI are unavailable for the match against Brazil this Saturday. The only players who would arguably be in the England boss’ first XI if everyone was fit are captain John Terry, midfielder Gareth Barry and striker Wayne Rooney. All three are experienced campaigners who will be able to shepherd the new recruits along the way.
The England boss has staved away from any real criticism throughout his tenure, and with the notoriously blood-baying English Press on his side, the Italian tactician must be doing something right. Since picking his squad for the friendly in Doha this weekend the Italian has gone with several players who are in-form, and playing well for their club. However, if a critical finger can be pointed at Capello’s squad choices it is this; “form is temporary, class is permanent.” Granted many players are carrying knocks at the moment but if players are chosen for the World Cup who have finished the season in form, it doesn’t mean they will carry that form onto the world stage, especially if they are not proven at International level.
The ex-Milan coach also contradicts himself with his policy of picking players who are in-form. This is shown in his decision to use Emile Heskey instead of Jermain Defoe. Heskey has rarely played for Aston Villa this year let alone play well, and yet he starts almost every match he is fit for under Capello. Further proof of this is his choice not to take Gabby Agbonlahor who has consistently scored in the last month or two in the Premier League. The call up of goalkeeper Ben Foster is also baffling, as the Manchester United shot stopper doesn’t even start for the Red Devils and has proven his inability to handle the pressure in the big games for United, costing them dearly. The highly ranked countries such as Brazil, Spain and Germany are not experimenting with average players like Stephen Warnock and Gary Cahill, so why is Capello?
Despite this writer’s reservations in Capello’s policy, the former Milan Coach hasn’t put a foot wrong so far as England boss (apart from a minor blip against the Ukraine in their penultimate qualifying game), and has been around long enough to know exactly how he wants the men in white to perform. The same can be said of the coach across the dugout from him on Saturday night – Carlos Verri known to most as ‘Dunga’ – has had brilliant results since taking over the Brazil national team.
Since the Brazil coach’s arrival they have won the Copa America, the Confederations Cup and topped the South American qualifying table. Dunga has received criticism from some quarters from his defensive style of play, and the inclusion of ex-Arsenal midfield general Gilberto Silva and Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva is a sign of this. The inclusion of a recently fit Joe Cole or Steven Gerrard could have helped England bearing in mind the amount of defensive qualities this new Brazil side have, as without this creativity England may struggle to make opportunities.
On the attacking front for England, Peter Crouch stated on Tuesday that he hopes his goals in England’s last international against Belarus will mean he starts against Brazil. Crouch has scored four goals in his last three starts under Capello and he is certainly a player who seems to play better for his country than his club. He is competing with a rejuvenated Darren Bent – who has seen that his decision to leave Tottenham Hotspur, (even if under a bit of a cloud) pay off. Bent has been prolific for Sunderland this season scoring eight goals in 12 matches for the Black Cats. The former Charlton striker has shown his ability in the Premier League – the question is can he make the step up to international standards and cement a squad place for next summer’s World Cup. To do this he would have to score his first goal for his country – so far he has made four appearances in the white shirt and not done so. The final player looking to partner Rooney up-front is Defoe, who feels like he has to “re-establish” himself since he missed the last two games for his country. However, the Spurs top scorer has not started a game this year for England and may be disappointed again on Saturday as Crouch would be the preferred choice considering the aerial ability and strength of Brazilian central defenders Luis