Tottenham Hotspur’s Peter Crouch, struck twice against Egypt on Wednesday to secure his position as England’s most lethal striker-when it comes to a friendly match. Crouch’s overall record reads 20 goals scored in 37 games, which is just about better than a goal every other game.
However, whilst Crouch has proven he is able to score goals at international level, is he the answer to England’s forward line in South Africa?
His Premier League goal scoring record, coupled with his international strike rate against top opposition suggests not.
Against top opposition, Crouch’s statistics for England make poor reading. Crouch has started or been involved in matches against Argentina, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Brazil, Germany, Russia, France and the USA, and has managed just two goals. One came against Croatia in a 3-2 defeat at Wembley, and the other against Uruguay in a 2-1 friendly win at Anfield in 2006.
In fairness to Crouch, he was not involved from the start in the majority of these matches. However, considering that Crouch has played against many of these nations twice, it is noteworthy that he has scored so little. Even if Crouch is seen as an impact substitute for example, his impact against the top countries has actually been minimal. Only against Croatia was Crouch’s impact noteworthy, where his goal and contribution appeared to temporarily rock the Croats, as Beckham aimed his crosses at the big man on a sixpence.
The fact remains, the majority of Crouch’s goals have come against minnows. Whilst Egypt were a busy team, and have won the African Cup of Nations on the spin three tournaments in a row, they are not top opposition. However, these are the teams that Crouch seems to score against. Of Crouch’s 20 international goals, 10 have come in friendly fixtures, and only six of his goals have come against teams in the top twenty of the FIFA World Rankings (Uruguay (1), Greece (2) Croatia (1) and Egypt (2)). His only competitive goal against a team in the top twenty remains the goal he scored against Croatia in Steve McClaren’s last match.
The problem that may occur in the World Cup then, is that against top opposition if Crouch isn’t scoring, as he has failed to do thus far in his England career, what does he bring? His height is useful from set-pieces, but you cannot rely on set pieces to win a World Cup. Further, with Beckham no longer first choice, the deliver from wide areas will not be quality. Gerrard will drift in from the left, whilst Lennon, Wright-Phillips and Walcott can hardly be counted upon to deliver the desired service to Crouch’s head.
Crouch’s second flaw is his inability to provide space for Rooney and Gerrard. Whilst Emile Heskey’s scoring record is pretty woeful, his ability to work the channels and occupy a defence single-handed, provides time and space for Gerrard and Rooney to flourish. Whilst people criticise Heskey for his failure to score goals, Crouch’s record against the top teams is not significantly better. For example, neither are particularly prolific in the Premier Leage. Crouch’s highest return for example, came in the 2004/05 season with Southampton, where he netted twelve times.
Should Crouch be selected for South Africa, he will no doubt offer Capello and the England players a different option. Even the best defences will struggle to deal with the player’s height and physique. However, England’s long ball days are over, and nobody wants to see the ball hit long to Crouch in the summer. Hopefully under Capello, England will endeavour to keep the ball, and so at best, Crouch should be a last resort.
Whilst Crouch cannot hope to be England’s first choice striker this summer, the player has a decent shot at making the squad. Furthermore, whilst he continues to score goals, whom ever they come against, Crouch will never be far from Capello’s thoughts.
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