With a little under three weeks remaining until England begin their World Cup campaign against the U.S.A, thoughts have now begun to turn towards which players will be lining up for that first rendition of the national anthem on June 12th. Fabio Capello will no doubt be forced to make one or two changes as the tournament progresses, but injury and form permitting, see below my England team selection. Do you agree?
David James – Whilst none of the England goalkeepers fill supporters with any great confidence, David James gets the nod. As such an imposing figure between the sticks, opposing players will find it difficult to find a way past him. In such a huge tournament, experience and decision-making will prove crucial. Joe Hart looks like possessing the potential to be a great goalkeeper in the coming years but this tournament may have come too soon for him. With the glare of the world’s spotlight, it would be potentially damaging to Hart’s confidence and career if he were to make a crucial mistake.
John Terry – One of the more obvious choices despite his off-field misdemeanours. His desire and leadership qualities will be crucial to the team.
Rio Ferdinand – The newly appointed captain, Ferdinand is sure of his place in the side. If fully fit, Ferdinand remains one of the world’s best centre halves. Able to keep calm and composed under pressure, Ferdinand possesses the skill and composure to bring the ball out of the defence and into the midfield. Terry and Ferdinand compliment each other well in the centre of the defence.
Ashley Cole – One of the best full backs in world football, it was welcome news for England’s chances to see Cole return from his recent ankle injury. Cole, despite some confrontations with England supporters over the years, has not let the team down when needed most. His performances against Cristiano Ronaldo in previous tournaments were exceptional. Crucial at both ends of the pitch, Cole is also capable of scoring goals.
Glen Johnson – Johnson poses a threat from the right-back position which England have maybe lacked when he has not played. His goal in the warm-up game with Mexico demonstrated the ability he has going forward. His presence certainly gives opposing wingers and full backs something to worry about. Johnson will have to focus first on his defending though, which has been exposed at times last season. At the highest level of football, Johnson’s concentration must remain total. He remains the best English right-back at this time though.
Steven Gerrard – A dead cert. Steven Gerrard is due a big tournament on the international stage. His performances seem to have improved since Fabio Capello’s appointment and he is one of the players that can win games for England with one moment of quality. After such a disappointing season with Liverpool, Gerrard will be eager to atone for it with the national team.
Frank Lampard – Another certainty. Lampard’s goal scoring record and performances last season were exceptional. Following such a successful season with Chelsea, Lampard will certainly be buoyant and looking to make his mark in the World Cup. In what is realistically his last World Cup, Lampard will be desperate to achieve success. In Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, England possess two of the best midfielders in world football.
Gareth Barry – If fit. Barry will play the holding role that allows the likes of Gerrard and Lampard to advance more into attacking areas. Barry has the composure and control, as well as the passing ability to begin attacks as well as the ability to break up the play when the opposition are in possession.
Joe Cole – Perhaps many will be surprised with this choice, given Cole’s prolonged absence from the side, but he has the skill and quality that the England team, at times, can lack. Despite his recent injury record, Joe Cole, when fit, remains one of the more creative players in the Premier League and was one England’s best players in the last World Cup. Cole also has the experience and positioning sense to play on the wing and maintain the team’s shape. Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon will both go to South Africa I believe but they will be great impact players to bring off the bench. They both at times lack the final ball, the experience and the defensive capabilities, which can leave the full back, exposed. When opposing teams being to tire though, their pace off the bench should benefit England immensely.
Wayne Rooney – Needs no argument. If England are to have any chance of lifting the trophy in South Africa, Rooney has to remain fully fit. The only truly world-class striker in the England squad, a player which opposition teams will fear.
Peter Crouch – Chosen ahead of Emile Heskey, Crouch deserves his place in the line-up. His goal scoring record for England is fantastic and he has always made an impact when involved. Crouch can be a good foil for Rooney given his size, attracting defenders to him, which could allow Rooney more space to attack. Many of the defenders at the World Cup will not have come up against a player of the size of Peter Crouch.