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England v Algeria: Redemption day

June 16, 2010

Fabio Capello faces some tough selection issues

The usual questions will be, and have been placed in front of Fabio Capello ahead of England’s crucial Group C encounter with Algeria on Friday night. On the back of the disappointment of England’s performance and result against USA on Saturday, the 3 Lions will have to put in a shift worthy of progression to the last 16 of the World Cup.

Robert Green’s embarrassing howler in Rustenburg has somewhat masked what we all know was a below-par performance from Capello’s men, but his place as England’s no.1 goalkeeper is still very much undecided. Capello himself has admitted that he is unsure whether to keep faith in the West Ham man or to replace him with David James or Joe Hart, who have both been impressing in training. The only doubt over either of those two is David James’ fitness, as the Portsmouth custodian has been struggling with a knee injury since arriving at England’s training base.

One can’t criticise Capello for being unsure about who his goalkeeper will be in Cape Town on Friday. The emission of Green could ultimately spell the end of his entire England career, and who knows what it will do for his confidence. England captain Steven Gerrard has stuck by Green, saying that “everybody makes mistakes” and it is “just one of those things”. But you cannot deny that error, that came to prove so costly for England, is still playing on the mind of Green.

The obvious selection, for me, would be Joe Hart. The Manchester City ‘keeper spent the entirety of last season on loan at Birmingham City, and proved himself to be England’s brightest young goalkeeping hope. Therefore, if you’re confident and bold enough to make him a part of your squad, why not make the most of his talents? His form is superb, his confidence is sky-high, and his temperament is second to none.

David James’ experience is the one thing that may thrust him into the Cape Town limelight in 2 days time, and whilst the nickname ‘calamity James’ tells you everything about his tendency to let the odd clanger slip out of his grasp, his attitude and mindset going into such a big game may prove vital.

As the goalkeeping quandary keeps one half of Fabio Capello’s brain busy, you have to feel that England’s formation is weighing on the other. 4-4-2 clearly didn’t work against the USA, as England were often outnumbered in the midfield and the wide players had little effect. Capello has confirmed that Manchester City anchor man Gareth Barry will definitely start against Algeria on Friday, and that leads me to believe that he could go one of two ways. 4-1-4-1 is certainly an option that the Italian will consider. Barry’s presence in front of the back 4 will add extra protection and meat to the midfield, whilst it would mean that Steven Gerrard could continue in his favoured, and best position, through the centre. James Milner looks unlikely to make his 2nd start of the competition, with the obvious replacement being Joe Cole, who’s exclusion from the side for the USA game left everybody flummoxed.

The 2nd potential formation for Capello to use is the 4-4-1-1. Unfortunately, this would mean that Gerrard would be pushed out to the left side of midfield, a position that doesn’t bring out the best in the Liverpool skipper, and certainly doesn’t benefit England to any extent. Frank Lampard’s form warrants a place on the substitutes bench, but we all know that is as likely as North Korea going on to win the World Cup. It’s seems his reputation goes before him when it comes to his England selection.

Finally, Wayne Rooney’s role in the team, no matter what formation Capello adopts on Friday, is crucial to the way England play. We saw against USA that he likes to drop deep to receive the ball and dictate the play. In a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-1-1 it is important that Rooney doesn’t leave his strike partner (likely to be Emile Heskey again) isolated. Heskey’s job as a target man was effective to an extent against the Americans but his task was made all the much harder by the fact that Rooney constantly left him all on his own up front. For England to get the right result, and perhaps more importantly play well, Rooney needs to stay close to Heskey, feed off his strong back-to-goal play, and look to push the team forward from there.

Capello’s job as England manager got a little bit tougher after the USA match, and it’s now up to him to revitalise England and get them playing the way every England fan wants to see.

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