Crouch 56, 80 Wright-Phillips 75
Peter Crouch’s match-winning brace pushed his name up the pecking order of England strikers, shunting Carlton Cole down in the process. It was not all bad news for the West Ham forward however, as Jermain Defoe’s impotent first-half display left Cole and the Tottenham Hotspur striker jostling for a place in Fabio Capello’s final 23.
The burly front man spent most of the game watching from the substitutes’ bench, only being called on to replace Wayne Rooney for the final five minutes of normal time, not nearly long enough to make his case. What Cole had seen from his perch on the sidelines was a timid offering from Defoe and an impressive cameo from Crouch – each greatly affecting his own chances of going to South Africa in June. Cole’s similarity to both Crouch and Emile Heskey is what will really count against him as Defoe provides England with something they lack in his absence – an out-and-out goal-poacher. Although Cole’s recent goal scoring record remains impressive, he does not hold the same kind of self-centred ruthlessness of Defoe.
While Defoe is a good all-round player, his single-mindedness could count against him. The former Portsmouth striker rarely looks to feed a teammate regardless of position, instead relying on his missile-like accuracy and bullet of a shot when in front of goal. Chances are often few and far between at international level and so when a colleague is better placed, that is where the ball should go. Cole is much better at teeing up teammates than Defoe, playing with more of a head-up style, but both Crouch and Heskey are every bit as selfless as Cole while carrying more experience at this level. The former Chelsea player does posses more athleticism than Crouch, however, while arguably carrying a greater goal threat than Heskey.
That Cole was given a run-out at all means his World Cup dream is not over. He is clearly in Capello’s plans, with the Italian resisting the good form of Bobby Zamora to keep faith with the Hammers’ No.12, But he may prove to be the odd-man-out of this 24-man squad when the list has to be trimmed in June. Rooney is obviously guaranteed a place, as is Heskey, despite his non-appearance against Egypt, while Peter Crouch’s name is also concreted into England’s strategy and Defoe’s tunnel-vision style presents England with a valuable attacking option they do not have without him. Four genuine strikers is plenty, especially combined with Theo Walcott’s versatility – although the Arsenal winger showed little on Wednesday night – leaving Cole facing an uphill battle to reach the summer festival of football.
England 3-1 Egypt reaction
England Analysis – Crouch and Wright-Phillips stake World Cup claim
First-class England showing pushes Everton’s Baines closer to South Africa
Crouch’s England double bad news for Carlton Cole
England’s substitutes prove their World Cup credentials
England’s makeshift (first-choice) back-line under examination