England Camp Focus – Capello names his provisional 30-man World Cup squad

Fabio Capello today announced his provisional 30-man squad to eventually whittle down to a final 23 to represent England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. As expected, Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Frank Lampard et al were all included but the Italian has sprung surprises aplenty. Omissions and inclusions were always imminent but the England Head Coach truly has risked his reputation with some of the selection choices.

The 30-man squad is divided into three goalkeepers, 10 defenders, 12 midfielders and five strikers. It is assumed when Capello trims the squad down to the final 23, there will only be eight defenders, eight midfielders and four strikers. Which fringe players, such as those that were surprise inclusions, are unlikely to make the squad? Of the goalkeepers, Joe Hart, David James and Robert Green were almost all certainties to be picked and all three go to South Africa. However, there is still ambiguity as to who will be Capello’s definitive choice for the tournament as No 1.

It is in defence that the biggest curveball has been thrown by the England Coach. Two weeks ago, the suggestion that Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher could be named in the squad was incredulous. Carragher, who has come out of international retirement to make himself available, has question marks as to whether he warrants a position. For much of the season, the 32-year-old that admitted Liverpool’s failure this season spurred him to ending his self-imposed retirement, has been lambasted by pundits for inadequate and inept performances. Capello obviously holds the centre-half in high regard but with John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Matthew Upson and Ledley King all seemingly above him in the pecking order, it is unlikely that Carragher will make the final cut, fitness permitting. Elsewhere in defence, Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines face a fight to win the second left-back spot – Baines appears to be winning currently. Joleon Lescott would have been an option but his infrequency in performing to a high standard, coupled with injury, has led to his omission.

In midfield, Gareth Barry, the 29-year-old Manchester City midfielder, made the final cut despite worries about his fitness. Given the choice between Barry and Owen Hargreaves, two players tempering injuries, Capello seems to have used pragmatism. On paper, Barry is the logical selection and although Hargreaves has World Cup experience, Barry has performed well this season and most importantly for him and most derivatively for Hargreaves, the gulf in the amount of matches played between the two is massive. Should Barry not be fit in time, Capello made sure there is adequate cover by selecting West Ham midfielder Scott Parker. The combative midfielder has played well this season and has justified his selection through excellent performances towards the latter end of the league campaign. Tom Huddlestone, who would be competing with Barry, Parker, Michael Carrick and James Milner for selection, seems to be in the same position as Jamie Carragher – there are too many players to have staked a better claim, too many players with more experience, in front of him to see him make the final cut.

Out on the wings was perhaps the most hotly discussed position in the build up to Capello’s announcement. Aston Villa wingers Stewart Downing and Ashley Young both missed out which as Villa fans will know, is not massively surprising given their good but not inspiring form collectively over the course of the season. Adam Johnson appears to have taken their spot – the 22-year-old Manchester City winger has been coined as the new Stewart Downing and his sparkling performances since joining the Manchester club have impressed Capello sufficiently. Indeed, Johnson may have done enough to avoid being omitted in the final cut, but his lack of experience counts against him. Also on the England wings are Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Assuming Capello takes five central midfielders, there is room for three wide men. As A Different League suggested earlier in the season (Part one & Part two), Capello’s options all have different merits. Perhaps the most disputable position, none of the players above have cemented their positions. Lennon’s injury interrupted his charge towards guaranteed selection but even still, should he be fit, he seems like England’s best option on the right. The upcoming friendlies will be a great arbiter for Capello as it will give him an opportunity to see the five contenders and make his decision based upon immediate form.

In attack, Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe were all certainties. Peter Crouch, who offers a new entity in international football and has an excellent record for England, and Darren Bent, won the race ahead of Carlton Cole and Bobby Zamora to be the other two strikers. One of Bent and Crouch will have to be let out and as with the wingers, the friendlies against Mexico and Japan will be the two respective strikers’ last chance to prove to Capello that they deserve to be the fourth England striker.

Looking from afar, this squad has an abundance of talent and there is no reason that should the levels of performance be high, it cannot go far in the tournament. Now, it is up to the Capello to make the tough decision in dropping seven players in time for World Cup. Jamie Carragher, Stephen Warnock, Michael Dawson, Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, all five wingers and Darren Bent and Peter Crouch will be looking over their shoulders. The contentious inclusions – Carragher, Huddlestone, Adam Johnson – although interesting, will in all probability have no impact on the final squad. Arriving into the fray this late suggests that they have not been in Capello’s thoughts enough to warrant a place. Indeed, for those 12 players that could all realistically miss out, the upcoming weeks will be one filled with anxiety. Those weeks will be filled by England supporters discussing the merits of every single player. The nuances will be dissected, the intricacies made vulnerable. Whatever comes of this 30-man provisional squad, the biggest question will forever remain – is it good enough to win the World Cup?

Provisional 30-man England squad

Goalkeepers
David James (Portsmouth)
Robert Green (West Ham)
Joe Hart (Manchester City)

Defenders
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)
John Terry (Chelsea)
Matthew Upson (West Ham)
Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa)
Ledley King (Tottenham)
Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)
Leighton Baines (Everton)
Michael Dawson (Tottenham)

Midfielders
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Aaron Lennon (Tottenham)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Gareth Barry (Manchester City)
James Milner (Aston Villa)
Joe Cole (Chelsea)
Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham)
Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City)
Adam Johnson (Manchester City)
Scott Parker (West Ham)

Forwards
Emile Heskey (Aston Villa)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)
Peter Crouch (Tottenham)
Darren Bent (Sunderland)

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