On this occasion, the high-profile omission for the latest instalment of the Capello post-World Cup shakeup was Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, who was left out despite captaining the side for a friendly against Denmark earlier in the year. With Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere both ruled out through injury, the visitors’ midfield was anchored by Manchester City’s Gareth Barry and Tottenham Hotspur new boy Scott Parker.
In attack, lead striker Wayne Rooney was supported by Manchester United teammate Ashley Young, while United’s Chris Smalling selected for his England debut at right-back, days after United manager Sir Alex Ferguson claimed his side were not appreciated given their record of nurturing players who have gone on to become established England internationals. In the absence of another of Sir Alex’s squad, Rio Ferdinand, Bolton Wanderers’ Gary Cahill took his place alongside captain John Terry in the centre of defence, and it was the Bolton man who opened the scoring, latching onto Gareth Barry’s pass to score his first international goal, before a brace from Rooney secured the points for England before half-time.
With Liverpool’s Stewart Downing and Arsenal’s Theo Walcott once again included in wide areas, the once fringe players are becoming increasingly regular figures around the England setup. As previous England widemen such as David Beckham and Joe Cole are seemingly cast into the international wilderness, Capello appears intent on creating a new-look attacking system for a side who severely struggled for goals in previous competitive games.
The build up to the game included the notable away form of Capello’s men, with a 100% record on the road since World Cup 2010, which was duly continued in Sofia. With the injection of new faces offering pace and energy, combined with the absence of a continually expectant home support, England appear to be honing a new approach, looking to bring in a combination of the country’s finest young talent to reverse the fortunes of a footballing nation crying out for reform. With established figures in the shape of Terry as captain and Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole alongside in defence, as well as Rooney and Barry, two well established as senior players in the England side, Capello’s young guns continue to be supported by a core of experienced internationals.
While a series of strong performances will lead the cynics to suspect another wave of English optimism, Capello’s new-look side continue to impress on the road. Consistency will ultimately be key to long-term success, but the emergence of new faces offers some promise as England look to progress to the finals of European Championships 2012.