Is Owen Hargreaves World Cup Fit, or an England Misfit?

As reports continue to surface that Gareth Barry may not be fully fit in time for the World Cup, Owen Hargreaves chances of boarding the plane with the rest of the England squad for South Africa have apparently increased. Despite making only one appearance for Manchester United in the past 20 months, a 2 minute cameo against Sunderland last weekend, Fabio Capello appears to see a role for the tough tackling midfielder. While his opportunities may end up being limited, his grit and versatility could prove enough to make the Canadian-born veteran a risk worth taking.

However, the England staff has a lot to consider if they want to avoid turning the Hargreaves situation into another Theo Walcott, Sven Goran Eriksson fiasco. For the past few months, it is believed that the red devil has been healthy but not ready to play. Sir Alex chalked up the delay to the psychological difficulties of playing on two surgically repaired knees. Due to the fragility of those knees, Hargreaves may not have the steel and nerve to show the determination in the tackle that defined him as a footballer and therefore, wouldn’t have the impact that his national team manager is looking for.

Even if this isn’t this case, it is difficult to find World Cup form after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Players who are injured often have a heavy touch and unusually poor field awareness. There is no way of knowing whether Hargreaves will have the necessary technical abilities to be ready for this level of competition after only two minutes of competitive football in almost 2 years. In the eyes of many, Fabio Capello would be hard-pressed to include him in the England squad.

Still, Hargreaves credentials indicate that, if fit, the only choice for the Italian is to take him to South Africa. Not only can he fill Barry’s void at holding midfield, he can also fill the possible hole that Glen Johnson’s injury may create at right back, where Hargreaves has played many times for club and country, or on the right side of midfield, where he played at times for Manchester United during their 2007/2008 Champions League run.

Also, his experience in big games rivals that of any other England player. He has not only started for Manchester United in Champions League final two years ago, he played for Bayern Munich in 2001 while at the ripe age of 20, winning on both occasions. In 2002, he started twice for England at the World Cup in South Korea, and four years later, he was voted England’s player of the year, mainly for his performance at the 2006 tournament in Germany, where he played a crucial role behind Gerrard and Lampard in midfield. He has the experience to provide leadership for the scandal-ridden side, that if not from the field, will at least be useful in the somewhat divided locker room.

Hargreaves can be a valuable member to this England team; yet, by selecting him, England run the risk of picking a player who isn’t mentally or physically ready for the grind of a strenuous tournament. One often overlooked feature that the3 lions can be confident of, is his ability to convert his penalty in a shootout if ever necessary – a skill England teams have never possessed. While Hargreaves may be an afterthought once England kicks off their World Cup campaign on June 12th against the United States, until then, he will be weighing heavily on the mind of Fabio Capello.

14 thoughts on “Is Owen Hargreaves World Cup Fit, or an England Misfit?”

  1. If I was Capello i’d say go for it…but it is entirely down to Hargreaves himself…if he can fight and has the desire to do well…he can possibly do it…the ball is in his court

  2. There is no way Hargreaves if word cup fit. Look at Joe cole, his injury lay off was long, but not long as Hargreaves layoff, and he still isnt back to his best for Chelsea. Play James Milner in in Barry”s position, I think hes more than capable.

  3. Its a bit of a tricky situation a lot of people don’t recall just how bloody good Hargreaves was. There isn’t a shadow of doubt about the mans quality not only is he versatile but he can break down counter attacks just as well as he can score free kicks and penalties so he has a lot of gifts.

    Having said that he is unquestionably a risk with a long lay off it takes a very long time for a player to regain his form. I think Nate S provided a perfect example in Joe Cole another good player whoose lay off has eaten away at his form.

    It’d be wonderful to see a player like Hargreaves a part of the England line up and it would also do wonders for my confidence but as good as Hargreaves is I wouldn’t risk it. Really crappy situation to be in as I think he is one of the most under rated players in the world but that injury is too fresh in his mind.

  4. He hasn’t played in ages. He won’t go. At least, he shouldn’t go. It would be rather stupid to take him over, as already mentioned, Scott Parker.

  5. The issue is that Parker is extremely injury prone as well, and hasn’t played in the same type of pressure situations as Hargreaves. The other player to consider is Huddlestone, who is tough in the tackle and has a great passing range. I wouldn’t take Hargreaves based on the fact that he has had so little action, but when you play for a club like Manchester United, you are training and playing against the best players in the world every day. I am sure the likes of Capello and Ferguson have a much better idea then we do about how fit he actually is.

  6. it seems easy to figure out to me. put him on the first roster and play him in the matches leading up to the WC. if he’s got it he goes, if he fizzles just don’t include him in the 23 man squad. makes perfect sense to me. better to put him in the 30 man squad and see what happens than include some player you know will get cut.

  7. Well said Tyson: Hargreaves is the plug that England has been missing to protect its back four probably since Butt in his prime. However, the man hasn’t kick a match ball in almost two years. Ferguson’s staff has done wonders bringing him back to “full” fitness, maybe a month too late. If I were Capello, I would take a look at him in the upcoming friendly. I just don’t see him having that match sharpness however.

  8. A half fit Hargreaves is a better risk than a 100% Gareth Barry. A month of training and a friendly should be sufficient preparation for OH to make a major contribution in South Africia.

  9. There is no doubt that if all the England midfielders were fully fit, Hargreaves would be the obvious and unanimous choice (over the likes of Barry) to partner Gerrard and Lampard in the center of the park.

  10. My vote goes for Huddlestone, as Mr. Ruskin stated above: he has a good passing range, with monstrous physique and good tackles. There’s no doubt that Hargreaves was the burning candle in the English squad back in 06, but will he risk a limb for his country? is he psychologically fit? Sir Ferguson is correct, I think choosing Hargreaves is a bit risky, and it would compromise the whole work done for the team! I am putting my money on Huddlestone!

  11. I think its worth the risk, he has the experiance that is needed to come into a world cup game and make a difference.
    If he was fully fit there is no question he would be part of the starting eleven, I mean remember 2006.
    I agree with william above. A half fit hargreaves would be more effective then a fully fit barry. If we are 2-1 up with twenty minutes to go I can think of no one better to bring on.
    It is a gamble I admit, but you can’t win a world cup without a gamble at somepoint along the line.

  12. its a shame about Hargreaves, he was Englands best player in 2006 WC, but an injury for that long has ruined his career, theres no way he’ll be the same player he was before the injury, its the same with the likes of Kanoute and Ledley King – they would have been even better than what they are if they hadn’t had such bad injuries

    We need Barry and if it is only 4 weeks hes out for then we need to take that risk and call him up because hes important for England, but Huddlestone has had quite a good season and could go

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *