Rooney + 1 but who? Had I been asked that question yesterday I would have said Emile Heskey without a second thought. Having witnessed the performance of the England team last night, it seems Heskey will have a job on his hands if he is to keep the number 9 shirt that has been his throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Peter Crouch was the star of a slow starting show at Wembley last night. He came on at half time, with England 1-0 down, and chipped in with two goals to take his personal tally of international goals to 20. Not bad for 45 minutes work. In honesty, the first half was one to forget and the England players did well to turn it around. Rooney and Defoe started as the two strikers but never really looked like a partnership. The introduction of Crouch changed the game and it seems Capello’s belief in a ‘small man – big man’ pairing up front is one that works well.
Despite enduring a fairly ineffective first half, Defoe is still likely to be going to the World Cup as long as his club form continues but it may be as a potential replacement for Rooney rather than a partner. Rooney is the ‘small man’ in Capello’s equation but the big question will be who is going to be the ‘big man’?
As I said before, until last night, nobody will have looked past Emile Heskey. Not because of his form this season but simply because he has been number one choice for the Italian since he arrived. Last night Peter Crouch scored his way in to the equation and his form for Spurs has been very good of late as well. If it wasn’t for Roman Pavlyuchenko, Crouch would be partnering Defoe at White Hart Lane every week. Another option would be Carlton Cole. Unfortunately he was only given five minutes at Wembley and that is hardly enough time to prove a point. So Cole will have to do it the hard way but, with West Ham facing a battle at the bottom, his goals could become that little bit more crucial and thus springing him into the limelight in the closing months of the season. It is a three horse race.
In terms of footballing talent, Crouch is probably the best player technically, Cole is the quickest and Heskey is arguably the strongest. How Capello would love a combination of the three! They are, at the moment, the three options the Italian has. If we say that Rooney and Defoe will be on the plane, it leaves space for two of them. Heskey and Crouch would seem to be a safe bet but who will start is another question.
Defoe and Rooney did not look great. With Crouch, England looked good. Not only did he score two goals and add to an already impressive strike rate for England, but he also linked up very well with the midfield. Crouch is very under-rated and possibly frowned upon because of his appearance but he has one of the best first touches of any player in the league. If it was up to me I would choose Crouch, Capello has tendency to sway towards Heskey.
Who will start against the USA in June? Well that’s anyone’s guess!
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