England Trash Croatia: My Rant On The Team

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England Trash Croatia: My Rant On The Team
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Well, I'm sure you all saw the score..........England 5, Croatia 1. What a great way to avenge the demons of their last Wembley meeting, made all the sweeter because it guarantees them a place in South Africa next year.

The Three Lions were amazing; they outplayed Croatia all over the field and didn't stop the rout until the dying seconds. So, with qualification achieved, how is the squad shaping up for the World Cup?

Goalkeepers

Rob Green has started a few internationals in a row now, and is looking like the favourite to get the nod for the number one next summer. He didn't have a great deal to do tonight; mainly just simple catches.

He made two fantastic saves before the goal, but there was nothing he could have done about Eduardo's finish. Should be in poll position for the World Cup.

Backups and alternatives are mainly looking to be Ben Foster and David James. Foster has all the makings of being a world-class 'keeper, but needs more game experience under his belt to cut out some sloppy mistakes.

While James, meanwhile, is knocking on retirement's door and whilst it is great to see him still playing consistently at the highest level, it's also probably a good thing that others can stand in for him.

Defence

No question about left back; Ashley Cole is one of the world's best left defenders. He's got pace, he's got skill, he likes to get forward and help the offence but is more than capable of getting back in time to snuff out counter attacks.

Similarly, Ferdinand and Terry are irreplaceable in the centre of defence; Ferdinand has the pace, the skill and the calm demeanour whilst Terry has the power, the height and the leadership.

Meanwhile, they have a very good backup in Upson who has shown several times that he can fill in when needed, while at a pinch, Wes Brown could be played there too.

Right back should be the main concern. Nothing should be taken away from Glen Johnson, he is great going forward and without him we wouldn't score anywhere near as many as we do. But he is prone to defensive errors; Croatia's goal today shouldn't have happened but Johnson slipped up - a shame because at the other end of the field he was his usual rampant self.

However, against more threatening left-wings Capello may want to consider Wes Brown; not as strong or technically skilled as Johnson, but a lot better at the defensive play, and generally more consistent.

Midfield

England's midfield is a source of constant headaches to those who try to figure out the best lineup. No matter who is actually picked, it is inevitable that at least one prima donna who thinks they should have an automatic spot will be left out. The upside to this is that there is a backup for every position.

Steven Gerrard currently occupies the left hand role, but Stewart Downing and Joe Cole, both much more accomplished in this role than the Liverpool legend, will both be back from injury in time to compete for their spot, and it is likely that one of them will get it.

Of these two, I would personally prefer Downing. In England's current tactical setup he would fit better; able to hug the line, run at defenders and whip in a left-footed cross.

Cole, on the other hand, is a right footed player and doesn't play as wide, however he is likely to be included on reputation, as opposed to actual merit.

On the right, things are even more complicated. Many rave about Walcott's impending return; but if that return means he is going to start every England match on the right wing then I wish him nothing but more injuries.

Shaun Wright Phillips, Aaron Lennon and James Milner are all pacey players who possess better creative vision and outright skill than Walcott, who is inconsistent, lacks strength and often fails to deliver balls into the box.

On the basis of the last few games for both club and country, Lennon should be the prime right winger, although Wright-Phillips will certainly keep him on his toes. As for Milner, he and Ashley Young are both waiting in the wings for a chance on either side of the pitch.

If my predictions about Joe Cole and Stewart Downing are correct, then Gerrard would likely be moved into the centre, probably spelling bad news for Lampard. There is a common debate between Chelsea and Liverpool fans that I have followed with interest about who is the better of the two, and frankly I don't see a comparison; Gerrard is far superior.

More pace, better dribbling ability, more killer balls and a willingness to get back and defend set him a level above Lampard in my opinion, who is good but not world-class, although the counter-argument is that Lampard's long shots are vital to English success.

Whilst he commonly produces these for Chelsea, they were a hindrance during the last World Cup as he persistently fired wildly from distance and missed almost every time.

Bad luck, perhaps, but unless he produces some mind-blowing club form this year I'll be disappointed to see him start ahead of Gerrard.

The other midfield spot is another hotbed of contention; since it is widely agreed that Lampard-Gerrard partnerships don't work, a holding midfielder will generally play behind one of the two. Barry currently holds this role; but for how long is speculative.

He is a very good player in his own right; his aerial ability can't be faulted and he can do a good job of tracking about covering for the players in front of him, but for my money I'd say that when he gets some club games under his belt this position goes to Owen Hargreaves, who has missed a lot of time injured.

Hargreaves is a demon for opposing midfield's; Barry tracks back to hinder opposing midfielders, Hargeaves simply destroys them. On top of that, he has amazing frizzy hair and a curling free-kick shot - all added bonuses!

Strikers

I don't have to explain why Rooney is always a starter, but I will anyway; unparallelled work rate, silky skills, explosive pace and strength and not too bad in the air either. A great all around player and easily England's best.

The question of partnership is currently a hot one; Heskey, so he can hold up the ball? He does provide a lot of good flick on's for Rooney and his strength a'gainst opposing defenders can be visually seen having an impact, but he missed two clear one-on-one opportunities today and sometimes those chances may have been vital. And, of course, Peter Crouch can win the ball in the air and hold it up, and on top of that he is better technically.

The media favourite is Jermain Defoe, and it's not hard to see why; pace, skill, lots of goals - and let's face it, there's just something lovable about Jermain Defoe. Capello seems reluctant to start him though, and Defoe may just have to accept that, at least for now, he is an impact sub for when England need goals.

Anyway, that's my rant over. It is all just my opinion and I daresay Chelsea fans are going to moan at my assessment of Lampard and Arsenal fans will bitch about my portrayal of Walcott, but at the end of the day everyone can have their say so feel free to add your thoughts to this.

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