England Camp Focus – Serious business for Capello’s squad

Following a training camp in the relative altitude of the Austrian Alps, Fabio Capello’s England players are given a final outing in front of the nation on the much criticised Wembley turf before heading on a journey many feel could potentially see them crowned world champions. Before anyone can get carried away with notions of success in South Africa there is business to tend to and in the eyes of the Italian tactician the serious business starts with the visit of Mexico on Monday night.

Capello is a coach who takes friendly matches seriously ensuring that his team is fully prepared and focused in the training sessions leading up to the match and maintains a policy of fielding a strong starting XI. The amount of substitutes allowed has decreased in recent years, meaning the days of Sven Goran Eriksson style changes are gone, the Italian prefers to start and finish with a strong team only giving certain players the opportunity when he feels he knows enough to trust them and where he feels they can make an impact on proceedings. With this in mind it may be unlikely that those fringe players drafted into the squad will all be given a chance to impress.

A certainty surrounding this fixture is that Capello will not be able to pick his strongest XI following those players involved in the FA Cup final being given extra time to rest and therefore not involved at all in this fixture. As a consequence the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard – all considered to be definite starters against the USA on 12th June – will not be involved along with Gordon Banks’ pick to gain the No 1 spot, David James. Gareth Barry is also out following his ankle injury suffered at the back end of the domestic season – Barry is to have a scan prior to the Mexico match which is expected to reveal the extent of the damage and answering the question of whether he will make the World Cup at all. With the absence of these players in mind the team that Capello picks to start the Wembley encounter could well provide the answers to many of the remaining questions concerning which players are in pole position to make the final 23 named on 1 June.

Reportedly Ledley King is set to start alongside Rio Ferdinand with many reports coming out of the England training camp that Jamie Carragher is also set to start in front of teammate Glen Johnson. If this is to be the case and if both players come through the encounter unscathed then it may be felt that King will have booked his place and Carragher may not only be granted a spot on the plane but he may even be pushing Johnson all the way for a starting berth. Without the services of Cole it may be assumed that whoever lines up from the start against the Aztecas will be going to South Africa as the Chelsea man’s back-up – currently it is felt that Leighton Baines is winning this race ahead of Stephen Warnock.

The real answers which could well be drawn from the Mexico encounter relate to how the midfield and forwards line up. There has been recent talk of Capello switching the formation and utilising Wayne Rooney as a lone striker with Steven Gerrard linking the gap between midfield and attack – if Capello’s changes the line up in this way on Monday night, despite reports of Rooney still suffering with injury, this could well provide an indicator that the former Milan boss’ strategy for the World Cup. This has been cited as a possible tactic to use if Barry does not make the final tournament with the ever promising James Milner slotting in alongside Lampard in a reshaped midfield. There is no doubt that Milner has enjoyed a fantastic season for his club side leading to him being courted by the Premier League big boys but whether a player only switched to a central midfield berth this season has the capabilities to carry this into a World Cup is certainly a question that will constantly be in the mind of the Italian coach.

If as expected Capello will revert to type in picking a strong team for this encounter he may only blood one or two players without international experience with many feeling it is the time to give Adam Johnson the chance to show that his reported impressive play during training can be transferred to the pitch in a competitive encounter. Whether the likes of Michael Dawson, Scott Parker or Tom Huddlestone will be given a chance is certainly not a definite as gaining a win in this encounter is up there on the Capello’s list of priorities as well as looking at certain players.

Capello’s philosophy has been drilled into his players since they joined up for training and is set to be evident with the Italian knowing that a last win on home soil will bring back much of the confidence experienced following the qualifying campaign and again bring the focus of the nation and the Football Association back to his team’s capabilities on the pitch.

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