England play Andorra in Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium at 1900 BST on Saturday evening and then travel to Zagreb for their second qualifier against Croatia on Wednesday, 10 September at 2000 BST.
Players out with injury include Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick and Micah Richards, with Portsmouth’s Glenn Johnson and Fulham’s Jimmy Bullard brought into the England squad as backup. Robert Green finally gets a call up while Lescott comes in as backup for Terry and Ferdinand.
The most notable omissions are Michael Owen, Jonathan Woodgate and Peter Crouch. Woody I can understand might be for fitness reasons (he seems fine atm though) but there have been questions over why Owen and Crouch (both can be considered prolific scorers compared to the 4 strikers included) were dropped in favor of Theo Walcott and Emile Heskey, respectively.
Speaking before the squad was announced, Capello told the FA’s website that no-one was guaranteed a starting place, saying: “No-one is untouchable, not the captain, the vice-captain, no-one.”
Then I suppose Cap thinks Rooney has a better chance of scoring a goal than Owen? Sorry, United fan or not, for England in the last two years it’s Owen has done better despite injuries than Rooney has while being relatively fit.
The thing is, England traditionally play a specific way – throw as many ‘match-winners’ on the pitch and then just sit back and hope. Owen is a match-winner, no questions about it. If Capello is going to get England to play differently, as a ‘team’, then Owen’s exclusion can be justified (it can always be justified if England beat Croatia in Zagreb, but that’s another story) to an extent. If not, then it’s back to Macca dropping Beckham and then regretting it.
But then again McClaren wanted England to play as a team too – can Capello succeed where Macca failed?
England squad to play Andorra and Croatia:
Defenders: Lescott (Everton), Bridge (Chelsea), A Cole (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Brown (Manchester United), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Johnson (Portsmouth), Upson (West Ham)
Midfielders: Barry (Aston Villa), J Cole (Chelsea), Lampard (Chelsea), Bullard (Fulham), Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Downing (Middlesbrough), Bentley (Tottenham), Jenas (Tottenham)
Strikers: Walcott (Arsenal), Rooney (Manchester United), Defoe (Portsmouth), Heskey (Wigan)
And as you’ll notice, Jimmy Bullard is part of the England squad. I didn’t want to make too much of this as he’s unlikely to get a game ahead of Barry, Lampard, Jenas, Cole or Bentley (all 5 capable of playing central midfield), but maybe he’ll get a cameo in Andorra? Methinks he was picked for his experience, although I’d like to see Reo-Coker get a shot at a senior England call-up sometime soon.
Thoughts on the England squad?