On Sunday’s BBC 606 Football Phone In, co-host Gabriele Marcotti made an interesting point that I believe Fabio Capello has already considered. Baring match fitness and current form, the starting outfield ten for England will mostly pick themselves for the group stages of next summer’s World Cup, and more importantly for now, the June 12th clash with the U.S.A.
Marcotti made an interesting point though by asking a caller if he could name who was between the sticks in 2002 when Brazil won the World Cup in South Korea and Japan. The caller, dumbfounded like myself couldn’t remember. Now, I realize Brazil is known for many things, but consistent world class goalkeepers are not one of them. The answer to the question was Marcos, a solid keeper make no mistake about it, but not dominate. Marcotti furthered his point by asking the same question but this time concerning the France squad who won at home in 1998. Most will remember Fabien Barthez as the France #1 because of his time spent playing for Manchester United, but again, a World Cup winner and highly decorated keeper who by any means isn’t considered one of the world’s best at his position whilst in his prime.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Marcotti was simply asking the question: Do England really need a world class keeper to win the World Cup?
A broad question, sure, and one that’s ultimately not so cut and dry, but an interesting debate nonetheless. Doesn’t England just need someone who won’t make massive mistakes? Won’t a fit back line of Terry, Ferdinand, Cole and whomever Capello selects at right back – Johnson, Brown, or Bridge – be enough to protect the keeper?
Pundits, bloggers and journalists have all pointed out the lack of a surefire England #1 in goal. We all know the four or five shot-stoppers currently in contention, but to this point, as the 2009 calendar year is coming to a close, not one of them has stepped up and claimed the coveted spot as their own.
- Robert Green – West Ham United currently sit 18th in the table and are sure to be in a relegation dog fight, now and for the remainder of the season. Green’s form has been decent at best recently and reports suggest he’s unsettled at the London club due to their recent poor form.
- David James – Like the Hammers, bottom of the table Portsmouth could been in for a long, hard fight to stay in the top flight this year. Recent problem’s staying fit point to James’ 39 years catching up with him. Most definitely England’s first choice when fit and on good form, but both variables haven’t been proven this season.
- Paul Robinson – Maybe the keeper currently making the strongest shout for a ticket to South Africa. Blackburn are 12th in the current table and Robinson’s recent form for the Lancashire club could prove his days of blunders are behind him.
- Joe Hart and Ben Foster – Loads of potential for both to compete for England’s #1 spot, but realistically in 2014.
England fans must now look at the facts. Of the few realistic choices for keeper, not a one sits with club in the top ten of the Premier League table. Can England realistically compete with the world’s best without a world class keeper? Which keepers of the above named even make the flight to South Africa?
What is known is Capello will surely be keeping a watchful eye over the next four to five months on all his potential candidates that could represent the three lions in next summer’s most coveted football competition.