England vs. Sweden: Fabio Capello's Winners and Losers from Yesterday's Game
With no international scheduled for the foreseeable future, Tuesday’s clash with Sweden was a crucial game for so many on the cusp of selection for Euro 2012. Fabio Capello assembled a youthful, inexperienced core of players who, despite the win, enjoyed contrasting fortunes on the pitch.
Undoubtedly domestic form will become critical for when Capello mulls over his final squad choices, but for several players, how they performed last night will remain paramount in the manager’s thoughts. With such competition for places, a poor game would surely submerge a contender under the many others vying for selection, whilst any strong showings should keep that hopeful involved.
Here is a look at some winners and losers from last night’s game.
Kyle Walker: Winner
The official Man of the Match, Kyle Walker, put in a powerful performance. He linked up with Theo Walcott, complementing the Arsenal man's game well, whilst attacking aggressively and remaining solid in defence. Going forward, he and Walcott looked particularly in sync together, suggesting they could form an exciting, rapid, right-sided tandem in the future.
His energetic surges forward have become a feature of his game over the past year, first on loan at Aston Villa and now with Tottenham. By continuing his club form for his country, he overcame Capello’s main gripe about when players reach the international stage and suddenly play with fear. Should he continue to prosper at Spurs this season, it should all augur well for the right-back.
He is still facing a tough task to make the trip to the Euros. Chris Smalling, Glen Johnson and perhaps Micah Richards (if Capello eventually gives him another chance), should push him all the way. Although after last night, Walker heads the running order.
Bobby Zamora: Loser
England are likely to take four strikers to Euro 2012, with Theo Walcott as a fifth alternative. Wayne Rooney seems guaranteed a spot despite his looming suspension, and Darren Bent seems to be on the right side of Capello at the moment.
That leaves two from Danny Welbeck (whom Capello also seems to be in favour of), Daniel Sturridge, Andy Carroll, Bobby Zamora, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and a few others right on the outskirts of current squads.
With a solid showing, Zamora would have kept himself in amongst this competition, but his timid, error-strewn display seems to have pushed him back down the pecking order and caused many to label him short of international class. Leading the line, the ball never quite stuck up front, and when presented with a couple of decent openings, he sadly fluffed his lines.
Perhaps feeling the pressure, he seemed to play with panic, mistiming and even completely missing the ball at times. With England now so often playing fluid variations of 4-3-3/4-5-1, he may not be given the game time he received last night again.
Jack Rodwell: Winner
Although he hit the post when it was easier to score, a miss he has since revealed he expects to have sleepless nights about, Rodwell was unquestionably a winner from yesterday’s performance. Many media outlets today have been heaping praise on the young Evertonian, and rightly so.
Charged with bombing forward and linking up with an isolated Bobby Zamora as often as possible, after a slow start he impressed. He continually went box-to-box and made valuable contributions at both ends of the pitch.
Bursting onto the scene at just 16, many forget Rodwell is still only 20. He has yet to fulfill his abundance of potential, but is certainly enjoying his most consistent season for the Toffees. Hopefully, for Everton fans, this new lease of life given to him by Capello and gushing media praise can all help him to truly blossom and ignite his career at Goodison Park.
Given his age, Rodwell could have easily been forgiven for seeming overwhelmed and putting in an abject performance, as Zamora did, before consequently disappearing off the international radar for the immediate future. However, he took his opportunity and shone.
Although his Euro 2012 chances of selection seem slim, with a plethora of options for Capello to sieve through, last night's promising showing keeps him in the reckoning.
Daniel Sturridge: Loser
Daniel Sturridge lost out on two counts yesterday, although none can be directly attributed to anything he did. Firstly, he only featured for a third of the game. Capello surprisingly plumped for Phil Jones in midfield when Danny Welbeck pulled out, robbing Sturridge of valuable game-time in the limelight.
Secondly, when he eventually appeared from the bench he was deployed out in wide positions, firstly on the right and then latterly the left. Whilst this is the position he is currently holding down and prospering in at Chelsea, his chief threat is surely as a central performer.
Against an aging pair of Swedish defenders, he would have been able to showcase far more of his obvious talent had he been permitted to roam centrally. Capello frustratingly kept him from doing this with the score only 1-0.
With so much young talent getting chances to shine, it is curious why Sturridge, so prominent at Chelsea this season, has yet to really be given a platform on the international stage. At this rate, Euro 2012 may well come too soon for him.
Theo Walcott: Winner
For an hour last night, Walcott was arguably England’s premier player. Every time he was in possession he looked threatening, and he gave Martin Olsson and Mikael Lustig a torrid evening. End product is often something he has struggled to achieve in his career. Having made the darting run, he has frequently struggled to find the right killer pass.
Last night his delivery was on song, and generally menacing. Had Bobby Zamora, for one, been more on his game or Phil Jones squared the ball after his bulldozing run, Walcott would have marked his hour on the pitch with a goal and an assist.
So far, his England career has been patchy at best. Scorer of a hat trick in Croatia, he has been unable to get on the score sheet at any other time during his international journey. Despite not adding to his tally last night, he undoubtedly delivered.
With Capello likely to install a rigid 4-5-1 formation against elite opposition, Walcott's presence is essential to bring a genuine threat in these games on the counter attack. A unit spearheaded by the three-pronged attack of Walcott, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney would cause most teams a headache, regardless of how much possession they are afforded.
So unlucky to miss out on the World Cup squad in 2010, were Walcott to miss out this time, it would provoke far more of an inquest.
Phil Jones: Loser
Despite picking up various complimentary remarks in the media today, Jones, for me, has not improved his international future by last night’s performance.
An outstanding prospect at centre-back, he should be tested as such in an England shirt and not be made to lumber about midfield, where he often looked exposed yesterday. With some of England’s older options at centre-back ailing, a solid performance could have really promoted his case for inclusion.
Is it so out of the question the see him starting there at Euro 2012? He certainly will not if he never plays there before the tournament.
In midfield his passing was often awkward, his positional sense off and his control was cumbersome. For a brief period it even looked as though he was in charge of bringing the creativity from midfield, as he looked to spray the passes about.
Jones will surely go to Euro 2012 as versatile insurance at right-back, centre-back and midfield. Sadly, this twin set of internationals provided a perfect opportunity to blood him in the international arena as the natural central defender he is, something Capello missed out on doing.
Jones has now played three times for England, in central midfield, as a defensive anchor in midfield and as a right back. He is most likely to only play one of those positions at club level now and even that will be only on occasions.
Stewart Downing: Winner
Possibly the biggest winner of the night was Stewart Downing, who for so much of his England career has only been an afterthought. Many of his 32 caps have been won from the bench, but against Sweden he was finally a leading light in an England win.
He took the game by the scruff of the neck and was central to England’s creative ideas. He recognised the important role he needed to play, rose to challenge and was England's most dangerous weapon, tormenting poor Mikael Lustig who had to be unceremoniously withdrawn after 54 minutes. In the first half alone, he created more chances than in his previous five England outings combined,
As with most areas of the squad, competition will be severe, but if he continues on from last night’s performance there would be few jibes were Downing eventually selected. He finally showed he has the international pedigree that so many have been waiting to see, and with some solid showings for Liverpool over the coming months, he will surely remain in the frame for Euro 2012.
James Milner: Loser
As with Daniel Sturridge, this is not so much on Milner, but the game ended with more questions and confusion over the Manchester City man’s ideal role and true identity as a player.
Is he a box-to-box midfielder, a crafty central creator or a wide man? At the moment he does not quite seem to be any of the three and more worryingly, even he does not appear to know the answer.
It was barely 18 months ago that he was one of the Premier League’s standout talents at Aston Villa, coveted by most before eventually signing for Manchester City. That summer he featured regularly for England and appeared in the World Cup, yet since then his England career has become far more punctuated.
He has been usurped by the likes of Ashley Young out wide, and Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker centrally. Although he was only permitted half an hour last night, many others did far more to boost their chances of selection than him.
He is certainly a player who needs to go away and find himself at Manchester City. For guaranteed Euro 2012 selection, Capello will need to see him get back to the form that saw him named PFA Young Player of the Year in 2010.
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