Joe Cole's absence from England's opening draw against the United States came as a great surprise to pundits and fans alike. His technical skill and trickery might have been able to play a part in overturning the equaliser made by Robert Green's calamitous error in the 40th minute.
James Milner's brilliant form during the 2009-10 Premier League season rightfully led to his inclusion against the Americans. Unfortunately for England, Milner battled a stomach virus up to kick-off and was quickly brought off for Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 26th minute.
Wright-Phillips was able to manage a decent shot from long-range but overall had difficulty getting past American defenders. Aaron Lennon proved a consistent wide threat by skillfully evading defenders and making bursting runs. Neither though were able to deliver a decent end product validating usual media criticisms of the pair.
Once praised for his terrific pace as a youngster, Cole simply does not possess the same quickness at 28. His technical skill, creativity, crossing ability, and timing of runs are all hallmarks of his game that still remain. These, along with his flexibility to play in a variety of attacking roles, make him an excellent option for manager Fabio Capello.
Cole has earned high praise due to his match-winning heroics during his Chelsea career. The winger contributed a number of late goals for the club in 2004-05, helping the Blues achieve their first English top division title since 1955. Cole's incredibly clever 61st minute goal against Manchester United in April 2006 secured Chelsea's second consecutive title under Jose Mourinho.
His national team performances are equally vital and impressive. In the 2006 World Cup he scored England's opening goal against Sweden and his cross set up Steven Gerrard's 85th minute equalising header.
In the final match before 2010 World Cup qualifiers, he saved Capello embarrassment. As the Wembley crowd rained down boos upon the under-performing England, Cole grabbed an injury-time equaliser against the more dominant Czech Republic.
He was also able to get England's qualifying campaign off to a strong start by scoring each of the two goals against Andorra. After a frustrating first half, Cole was sent on scored the opener in the 49th on a blistering volley before sealing the victory in the 55th minute.
Without him in the lineup, England lack a proven wide-man. The likes of Lennon and Wright-Phillips haven't shaken the tag of being speed merchants who are incapable of delivering a quality final ball. Milner's disappointing performance as well as his uncertain heath status is a concern for Capello. The England boss would be wise to turn to the experienced and inspiring Cole.