How Fabio Capello Can Lead England to Glory in South Africa
On May 8, 2006, Sven-Goran Eriksson surprised the footballing world by naming inexperienced 16-year-old Arsenal starlet Theo Walcott to his final World Cup squad.
Two months later, Eriksson apologized no fewer than NINE times in a televised post-match interview after England crashed out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage after a sub-standard tournament.
The media vilified the Swede for his tactics, suddenly and inexplicably switching from a 4-2-2 to a 4-1-4-1 formation.
For many fans and observes, England were doomed to failure as soon as the squad for Germany was announced.
Despite being one of only two fit strikers in the squad, Walcott was overlooked, and the inclusion of Jermaine Jenas and Owen Hargreaves in addition to Michael Carrick can only be described as wasteful and thoughtless.
This year, with the exception of Jenas (who this afternoon failed to impress in the 1-0 friendly defeat to Brazil) all of these players will be in Fabio Capello's thoughts as the 2009-10 Premier League season nears its conclusion.
In 2006, Eriksson decided to choose seven defenders, 10 midfielders and three strikers. His squad was largely experienced, and more than of the 23 players were chosen from the Premier League's 'Big Four' clubs.
In 2010, the squad looks to have a similar make-up.
However, the big difference between Eriksson and Capello is the Italian's strong character and steely professionalism.
While it is clear that Eriksson showed preferential treatment to some players, who he was afraid to drop, Capello has made it clear in words (if not yet actions) that he will choose his team based purely on performances.
Perhaps the biggest criticism he faces is his continued selection of Heskey, who is not scoring goals and who has been left in the cold by Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill.
Capello argues that Heskey's work rate and hold-up play is crucial to the team's success, and that he allows Rooney to play to his strengths.
However, goals win matches. Heskey has SEVEN in 57 international appearances. In contrast, Peter Crouch has scored 18 goals in 38 appearances.
Despite England's prolific goalscoring during the qualifying campaign (their goal difference of +28 was the highest of all European teams) their strength is not their forwards, but rather their options in midfield.
It is for this reason that England need not select more than four strikers for the tournament.
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have phenomenal goal-scoring records for club and country.
Lampard's goals to games ratio on the international stage is better than 1:4, Gerrard's is better than 1:5. Under the Law of Averages, England can expect at least two goals during the campaign from midfield.
Combined with Rooney, Defoe and Crouch's impressive ratios, England have plenty of scoring options from central positions.
Nobody has made a compelling case as a first-choice holding midfielder. Capello may not even feel the need for one, if Gerrard and Lampard can continue to work so effectively in tandem.
If the situation arises, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Tom Huddlestone, and a soon-to-be-rehabilitated Owen Hargreaves will be champing at the bit.
The wide positions are more of a dilemma for Capello. At a glance, the list of options Capello has at his disposal is phenomenal.
On the right side of midfield, he could take two of James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, David Beckham, or Shaun Wright-Phillips.
On the left side, there is a hungry Joe Cole and Stewart Downing to choose from. Aston Villa duo Ashley Young and Gabi Agbonlahor provide real versatility as an option on either flank or upfront.
The most worrying aspect of England's qualifying campaign has been their ability to throw away cheap goals through individual mistakes and collective lapses of concentration.
Capello has highlighted this as a weakness of the side, and has focused in team training on eradicating these lapses.
However, the lapse by Matthew Upson and Wes Brown to allow Nilmar to score the winner tonight for Brazil, and the woeful backpass by the latter which led to Ben Foster hauling down Nilmar for Brazil's penalty shows that England players have still not kicked the habit.
Much has been made of Glen Johnson's defensive inadequacies at right-back, but he has proven to be one of the bright sparks in Liverpool's disappointing start to the season.
Finding adequate cover is surely a more pressing issue. Gary Neville's cool head and successful track record may make him the surprise inclusion. Unlike tonight's opponents Brazil, England has a wealth of options at left-back.
Capello has made his mind up already who his goalkeeper will be next summer. The general consensus is that veteran Pompey stopper David James will get the nod.
Far from perfect and prone to inexplicable catastrophes, James is still the best shot-stopper in the country.
Robert Green, Scott Carson and Ben Foster have all been given a chance in goal, but all have shown defects.
Learn from the past
Capello has plenty of options and versatility in his squad. It has greater depth than that of 2006.
For this reason, it is essential that he chooses the best 23 players at his disposal. He must not, and will pick a player on a whim. He has experience of success and he has overseen great progress since he took over from Steve McClaren.
Unlike in 2006, there will be no surprise inclusions in 2012. This time, there can be no excuses for failure.
As always there is huge amount of talent in the national team. The difference is that Capello has the management skills and focus that Eriksson sadly lacked.
England's 2010 World Cup Finals Squad?
GOALKEEPERS: David James, Paul Robinson, Ben Foster
DEFENDERS: Glen Johnson, Joleon Lescott, Matthew Upson, Joh n Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole, Gary Neville
MIDFIELD: David Beckham, Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young
FORWARDS: Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Theo Walcott
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