England Camp Focus – Joe Cole cements place as Capello turns to experience

The much discussed friendly against South African Premier Soccer League outfit Platinum Stars ended in a 3-0 victory but more importantly for England provided no new injuries and solved at least one positional quandary. 21 players in contention for the USA game (some more so than others) made an appearance on Monday afternoon in their attempts to convince Coach Fabio Capello of their worth. One man did that above all others.

Earlier in the build-up to the World Cup, A Different League (England’s winger debate – Part One and Part Two ) mused upon Joe Cole’s suitability as an England winger. At the time of writing, Cole was deemed to be one of England’s better options but because of a lack of playing time at club level, there was a possibility he would be overlooked. Yesterday’s performance, and uniqueness in that he played the full 90 minutes, suggests Cole will be starting on the left-wing against USA on Saturday. As was thought, Cole has the skill to bring something to England’s left-side that would not be offered by, say, Steven Gerrard or Shaun Wright-Phillips. His goal was well taken and although any performance should not be taken too seriously because of the competent but not excellent standards that England were up against, he appeared to have a good understanding of the duties Capello required of him.

Should Capello ultimately put his faith in Cole, the Chelsea winger will be hoping to emulate his efforts of four years ago in Germany. The truly memorable goal against Sweden aside, Cole, along with Owen Hargreaves, was one of the only players to garner some respect for his efforts at the 2006 World Cup. Because of the confidence he will have from his last major international competition, and the experience he has now accumulated, Cole will provide England with yet another schooled international player. Depending on personal inclination, that added exposure to international football (in comparison to Aaron Lennon appearing on the left with James Milner on the right which is another viable option) that England’s midfield will give them something different to other teams. Some would say England are too old to win, but there is another view.

As has been mentioned recently, this England outfit represents the oldest ever relied upon in its World Cup history. Couple that with the unparalleled 900 caps between them and it is clear to see Fabio Capello is heavily expecting age and experience to bring about success. His much-discussed decision to drop Theo Walcott, ignore the merits of Adam Johnson and Tom Huddlestone in preference for the experience and maturity of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jamie Carragher and even Paul Scholes, whom Capello tried to tempt out of retirement, pay homage to this idea. The philosophy of Capello is certainly not new and has been given berth by many excellent clubs and nations. Capello’s ageing squad is similar to that of the Italians as both have an average age in the late 20s, so too Brazil and Australia. Indeed, England are not alone in their reliance of experience over the eagerness of youth. The most successful Italian club of all time, Milan, have for a period of time had an infamously and at times much maligned squad of older players. In 2007, they won the Champions League final against Liverpool with a team that averaged at 31-years-old.

As it is, England’s set-up is bolstered by experience off the field too. Coach Fabio Capello is a massively travelled and knowledgeable Coach that expects the best from his squad. As a manager, he has won five (seven if Juventus’ revoked titles are included) Serie A titles, one Champions League and two La Liga titles. David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand would have added valued on-field ability had they not been unlucky enough to be struck down by injury. However, with Beckham taking up some form of liaison role with the squad this summer, and with Ferdinand staying in South Africa until the first game at least, England have their experience as well. Finally and perhaps most poignantly, is Stuart Pearce. Pearce, who collaborates with Capello during matches as a Coach, has previous with England and international competitions, namely his infamous penalty miss in the Italia 90 semi-final penalty shoot-out against West Germany. But, with the spirit England fans will be hopeful still exists with the current squad, he rectified that miss with a courageous spot kick against Spain in Euro 96 six years later. Should the broad experience from the above names be channelled in South Africa, Capello’s experienced squad may just have a chance of justifying Capello’s reliance on age.


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