With the 2010 World Cup now under 19 weeks away Fabio Capello is just a couple of months away from naming his final England squad for the final tournament.
The Italian has returned to England to take in games in person after recovering from his recent knee surgery and below we examine what might have caught his eye with a view to preparing for South Africa this summer.
1. The goalkeeping situation remains muddled
First of all Fabio Capello will no doubt be pleased that David James has returned to first team action recently after injury concerns saw him miss eight out of nine Premier League games from the start of November.
However, James has now played in each of Portsmouth’s last five games, including their FA Cup victory over Southampton on Saturday, in which he displayed both the best and the worst sides of his game.
The veteran ‘keeper made one truly world class save in the first half to deny the Saints an opening goal from a point-blank header but also showed that his old problem of misjudging crosses has not entirely disappeared when he came for and completely missed a corner, and was thankful when the subsequent chance was headed over the bar.
Meanwhile at Pride Park Joe Hart also showed that he is far from the finished article despite enjoying recent plaudits for his performances this season.
Derby’s Jay McEveley struck the opening goal with a shot that bounced just in front of Hart and seemingly deceived the goalkeeper who could only then parry the shot into the roof of the net.
Hart was visibly frustrated by the error, and probably by the lack of defensive pressure which allowed the shot in the first place, but made amends in the very last minute of injury time when he demonstrated superb agility to deny Robbie Savage a viciously dipping equaliser from long range at the death.
Capello will be eager to see both goalkeepers, alongside Robert Green, at close hand in training when England takes on Egypt in two weeks time.
2. Nadir Belhadj will be one to watch on 18 June
Yes, it was only against Southampton but the left-sided Algerian once again demonstrated a remarkable turn of pace which has caught out more than a few Premier League players over the past twelve months.
Rather worryingly he has also displayed good form when up against Glen Johnson this season. The Liverpool defender will almost certainly be Fabio Capello’s starting right-back but suffered in December when his weak headed clearance could only find Belhadj who lashed the ball into the net from an acute angle with his weaker right foot.
England take on Algeria in their second group game in Cape Town and Johnson will be have to be wary that he’s not caught out again by the Algerian’s pace and power, which was used to such good effect on the counter-attack at the weekend.
Belhadj received a red card for a reckless two-footed tackle in Algeria’s semi-final defeat to arch-rivals Egypt in the recent African Cup of Nations. It remains to be seen whether his suspension will carry over to the World Cup, which could be a blessing in disguise for England.
3. Defoe only needs one chance
The in-form frontman was barely in the game before Gareth Bale teed him up with a chance early in the second-half at the Reebok on Sunday afternoon. One touch later and a left-footed strike saw the ball rocket past Jussi Jaaskelainen, albeit with the aid of a slight deflection, into the roof of the net.
From then on Defoe was a constant menace to the Bolton defence, firing in a couple of shots from the edge of the penalty area which forced the Bolton ‘keeper into some more smart stops.
In front of the watching England manager, Defoe then came close to winning the game in the very last minute with an audacious half volley with the outside of his boot from 25 yards which was only a yard away from winning the tie for Tottenham.
On this form Capello may well have to give Defoe more game time in the upcoming friendlies to see if he can strike up a working partnership with Wayne Rooney.
4. Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey are both under performing
Despite forcing Robbie Keane out of the picture at White Hart Lane, Peter Crouch has been under performing of late. In fact, with only five goals all season from 26 appearances, the majority of which have been starts, people may soon start to ask questions.
Such questions have long been asked of Emile Heskey and once more he did little for his cause with a performance at Crystal Palace which saw him substituted at half-time.
Capello has so far stood by Heskey as first-choice partner for Rooney, and also by Crouch as a regular squad member. However, if Carlton Cole, or even Bobby Zamora, can recapture their sparkling form earlier this season after recently returning from injuries then Capello may have more of a headache when it comes to his striker selection.
Or with Rooney currently pulling up trees on his own up front for Manchester United, Capello might just wonder whether he needs a partner at all.
5. Tom Huddlestone is not yet ready
Huddlestone grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons on Sunday when he became the latest Spurs player to fail from the penalty spot. A rather tentative run up and poor shot placement saw Jaaskelainen able to keep out his effort with relative ease.
However, the young midfielder, who won his first senior cap in England’s defeat to Brazil in Doha last November, generally failed to impose himself on the cup-tie, especially in the first-half which Bolton dominated.
Competition in central midfield is not the fiercest and with Owen Hargreaves still ruled out for the foreseeable future any injury to either Gareth Barry or Michael Carrick would immediately free up a squad place for the likes of Huddlestone.
Yet, on this form he is not pressing his cause as much as he could be, meaning Capello will be keeping his fingers crossed even tighter that his players can stay injury-free.