England Camp Focus – Capello’s final 23 – Walcott, Baines out, Warnock, Wright-Phillips, Barry in

The 23-men that have been entrusted by England Coach Fabio Capello to meet the high expectations of the nation have been selected, with surprise inclusions and omissions. The interminably frustrating enigma that is Theo Walcott is perhaps the biggest exclusion. A hero and an annoyance for England in equal measures, the 21-year-old winger with previous World Cup (bench) experience evidently failed to assure Capello that he had the sufficient ability to provide England’s attackers with an adequate delivery.

The quotes attributed to Walcott, spoken by former England international Chris Waddle, will be resonating round the ears of the young winger. Waddle suggested Walcott did not have the required intelligence or footballing brain to succeed – it appears the man that presides over England’s national team agrees. Immediately after the victory against Japan, Capello told the Press confidently he knew the 23 men he would take with him to South Africa. Because of Capello’s admittance he was certain of his final squad, Walcott appears to have missed an excellent opportunity. Capello would not have given him a starting berth if he had no intention of musing over Walcott’s inclusion or omission. Unfortunately for Walcott, he failed to impress.

Elsewhere, the 5 000 or so miles between England and South Africa appear to have been the deciding factor for Fabio Capello concerning Leighton Baines. The Everton left-back was mooted as a certainty to be Ashley Cole’s understudy for the competition, an idea that was reinforced by Baines’ selection ahead of Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock in the friendlies prior to this decision. However, rumours surfaced, along with quotes, that Baines was concerned about his happiness so far away from home: “Everyone wants to be a part of England, to come away and play, but I have always found it really hard, even when I was teenager, being away from home.” These quotes may have been the final death knell in the possibility of Baines’ inclusion. His omission leaves Warnock, who has just eight minutes of international experience to his name, as England’s reserve left-back. Warnock’s preference to defend stoutly and leave the attacking to the winger may have attracted Capello more so than Baines’ infrequent tackling and sporadic attacks, many of which, for England, resulted in no threat.

One of the most visible signs of faith shown by Capello is in his selection of Manchester City’s Gareth Barry. The Manchester City star has been recovering from an ankle injury that has prevented his involvement in training and the recent friendlies. His place in the 23 shows how important Capello feels he is – he maintains the equilibrium in the midfield and will offer a solution to the never ending Steven Gerrard / Frank Lampard problem. He is also the highest capped player, along with Wayne Rooney, under Capello and is England’s best defensive midfielder. Taking his injury out of the equation, it was an easy decision.

Further up the field, Capello has dealt with the attacking quandary in the way that was widely expected. Unfortunately for Sunderland striker Darren Bent, his 24-goal strong season was deemed insufficient to make up for his record of no goals on the international scene. The four men that have beaten Bent to the plane all have far more international experience and have all played a bigger role in getting England to the World Cup. For Bent, just like Adam Johnson of Manchester City, this World Cup may have come a year early or even in the wrong era. It is a positive reminder of England’s attacking threat that a man of Bent’s proficiency in front of goal can be omitted. There will be, as there have been in the past, times that a player of Bent’s ability gets into an England World Cup squad. In this instance, Capello picked experience ahead of form. Whether this decision is correct is debatable – after all, at the beginning of the World Cup saga, Capello intimated that the final squad would be filled with form players and not be laden with players that only provide experience and reputation. Emile Heskey is the prime example of a turnaround on this policy – the Aston Villa front-man has had an unremarkable season but just like Shaun Wright-Phillips, who Adam Johnson was vying for a place with, he has found himself on the plane because of experience and reputation.

In a similarly predictable outcome, Tottenham duo Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson, and West Ham’s Scott Parker, all missed out on the final 23. Of the three, Huddlestone was the only one that was given a berth in the two friendlies and whilst his performance was not inept, Gareth Barry’s fitness seems to have taken the only possible place for Huddlestone. The same tune rings true for Parker – an equally excellent season was outweighed by a lack of international experience, and, an overriding suspicion that Parker does not have the same ability as Barry nor Michael Carrick. With the omission of these three men, Capello has once again picked international experience, something that will be vitally important, ahead of form. Carrick put in a poor display against Mexico yet his 22 international caps have helped override this for an inclusion. Capello has picked Matthew Upson and Jamie Carragher ahead of the hugely impressive Dawson. It is one of many understandable decisions from Capello who throughout the squad, appears to have been tentative to rely on players that lack experience.

Now with the 23 men selected, the intervening 11 days will be filled with strenuous training, tumultuous debating about the merits of each player and the usual worry from fans. This is a squad filled with experience and talent in abundance. It has surprise inclusions, such as Warnock and Carragher (one month ago, he was not even mooted as a possibility). All that is left now is for those surprise inclusions to back up the 11 men that will start against the USA on the June 12 and prove they deserve their place ahead of the surprise omissions.

Final 23-man England squad

Joe Hart
David James
Robert Green

Jamie Carragher
Ashley Cole
Rio Ferdinand (captain)
Glen Johnson
Ledley King
John Terry
Matthew Upson
Stephen Warnock

Gareth Barry
Michael Carrick
Joe Cole
Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard
Aaron Lennon
James Milner
Shaun Wright-Phillips

Peter Crouch
Jermain Defoe
Emile Heskey
Wayne Rooney

Players cut: Leighton Baines, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker, Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Darren Bent


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