As England approach their last chance to qualify for the round of sixteen, the avoidance of certain embarrassment and arguably this generation’s most important make or break match, John Terry and the England squad have voiced their concerns over a beer with Fabio Capello resulting in the request to include Joe Cole (among other things) in the starting line up on Wednesday v Slovenia.
Also discussed in the last ditch effort meeting on Capello’s birthday to save England’s World Cup were the hopes that Captain Steven Gerrard would be played in a central role more closer to and slightly behind striker Wayne Rooney who would play up front alone without a natural strike partner. A change is being called for largely because of the Heskey/Rooney combination that worked so well in qualification has all but vanished in it’s relevance.
As opposed to focusing this blog on Terry’s natural and outspoken leadership qualities, do the England players who’ve taken ownership over their eventual fate in fact have a pretty decent idea for Capello to mull over? You better believe they do.
For England to progress through and win the group and likely avoid Germany in the next round, they’ll need nothing less than 3 points, surely a few goals and most definitely a clean sheet to assure they beat the US in a tie breaker situation if in fact the US is able to beat Algeria. Since the England back line hasn’t been leaking goals thus far, the weight of expectations will certainly fall on the forward moving players supported by England’s full backs Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson.
It’s obvious that England doesn’t possess the quality to achieve a famous victory with the same starting eleven that were on the pitch Friday v Algeria. So where and with whom are the changes needed?
Joe Cole has the ability to add the spark to England’s attack they so desperately and obviously need. Dubbed the England player with the best technique by Wayne Rooney, Cole’s ability to create space for himself and others, to pirouette and take on defenders down England’s right flank and his experience in international matches could be the change England need to unlock Slovenia’s defense.
He’s played for England before in the 2006 World Cup where he scored one of the goals of the tournament and although Cole has battled injury and been second pick to Florent Malouda at Chelsea this past season, he more than deserves his chance for England after watching Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips falter in the last two matches.
Joe Cole’s inclusion to England’s starting eleven on Wednesday may be a harder sell than some would like to believe because of Capello’s obsession with the aformentioned Lennon and Wright-Phillips, two players who are essentially the same in build, pace and ineffectiveness in providing meaningful crosses into the opposition’s box. Yet Capello, in a bold stance of blind loyalty stuck with the two of them in both of England’s first two games with bemused results while Cole languished on the bench wondering if he could have made the difference.
More questions will need to be answered before England’s starting eleven are announced on Wednesday. The inclusion of Cole may add a different dimension to England’s attacking woes, but one player does not a World Cup winning side make. If Steven Gerrard and the England players get their way, Gerrard will move more central and fall in line slightly behind Rooney linking up with the striker while Frank Lampard occupies his normal central midfield role. It’s assumed Gareth Barry will hold while Joe Cole attacks from the right which still leaves the left side of midfield open with a few options to consider.
Will Capello again risk James Milner and grant the Aston Villa man another shot on the left, a spot he was awarded with in England’s opener v the US with terrible results, or will he opt for Shaun Wright-Phillips ability (or inability) to run at defenders, a feat he’s not entirely proved effective at thus far? While Theo Walcott vacations and wonders what his fate could have been had he impressed Capello enough to earn a spot, Joe Cole coupled with the absence of Walcott remains England’s only other attacking option in midfield that hasn’t already failed.
Capello also has a massive choice to make at the back due to Jamie Carragher’s suspension in yet another new partner for John Terry in central defense. The spot will likely fall to Michael Dawson who was solid for Tottenham this year but untested at the international level, or West Ham’s Matthew Upson, another untested defensive option.
Regardless of Capello’s decision, I just want to see England play with a little heart. Whatever mindless thoughts of anxiety, boredom or second guessing of Capello’s decisions have clouded the England player’s judgement, it’s time to man up, shed the frivolous thoughts and focus on playing good football or go home. I want to see England play with pace and power, I want to see them attack with purpose. I want Joe Cole to start and Gerrard to play behind Rooney, surely England’s most dangerous attacking option.
Lastly, I’ve not given up on England yet, I want them to win and advance on to the next round. I want them to build on the three points they must have on Wednesday and prove to the naysayers and doubters that they can shed this false idea that they’re not good enough. A tag that surely must inspire the boys to at least have a go and forget their abysmal display from Friday. But also a tag that will stick with them at least on an international level for the rest of their careers if they don’t play with a little passion on Wednesday.