With seven members of the current 30-man squad to be cut with today’s announcement, Capello’s statement may make for grim reading for those fringe players hoping to force their way into his plans. It can be assumed that three of the five players unable to make an appearance in either of the two warm-up games have little chance of making the final squad which means that Stephen Warnock, Michael Dawson and Scott Parker will not be taking a seat on the plane. Despite not featuring it may be likely that Matthew Upson will still make the final squad due to his previous international experience. This leaves four other players who will miss out at the final hurdle.
A huge question mark currently hangs over the head of Gareth Barry. Reportedly Capello is keen to give Barry every opportunity to be fit and so in the opinion of this writer will be likely to select him in tomorrow’s squad with the option of removing him and replacing him on the eve of the tournament if it is clear that he will not be fit. Following his below-par performance against Mexico, Michael Carrick is one of the favourites to lose out if Barry is selected with the Manchester United man likely to be on standby if Barry loses his fitness battle at the final hurdle. Looking at Capello’s post-match comments if no player had managed to force themselves into the immediate thoughts of the Coach then it may also be unlikely that Tom Huddlestone will make the final cut following a rather lethargic performance in yesterday’s match against Japan.
Another player given an opportunity from the start against Japan but who again flattered to deceive was Darren Bent. A player with all the attributes and potential to be a success on the international stage, Bent has never produced the goods when given an opportunity for England. The Sunderland man would have had to put in a performance against Japan to show that his goal-scoring form for club can finally be replicated in the white shirt of England. Sadly for Bent this was not the case and looks to have cost him his seat on the plane. This just leaves one final cut to make which looks likely to come from the players vying for a wide midfield berth. With the likes of Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips all looking to operate on the right-hand side of midfield – despite Lennon starting on the left side against Japan – it may be that there is only room in the squad to take two of them. If this is the case, in the opinion of this writer it may be Wright-Phillips who is again unlucky in missing out.
Neither Lennon nor Walcott have set either of the two warm-up matches alight but are both favourites of Capello’s with thoughts of the qualifying encounters fresh in mind. Wright-Phillips has not done too much wrong but it may be his use as a bit-part player for both club and country which counts against him. If this is to be the case then this will somewhat surprisingly see both Joe Cole and Adam Johnson with a seat on the plane. Cole may not have been able to recapture his form for Chelsea throughout a largely uninspiring domestic campaign but it is his versatility which means that he is likely to get a spot. Cole’s performance against Japan when asked to play behind Wayne Rooney was the only real bright spark in a dull performance and could be a tactic replicated at some stage during the tournament. Johnson may remain largely untried at this level but again it is the fact he offers something different than the other wide players. That bit of trickery to unlock defences can be so integral in tight encounters that Capello may well have decided to give the Manchester City man his chance even before the last two matches.
There is not long to wait for players and fans alike to find out who has made the final cut ensuring that the time for debate is almost over with the time for focusing on the task in hand drawing ever closer.