The England team played in Holland last night in a friendly arranged at just about the worst possible time for club managers around Europe. With the Premier League due to kick off on Saturday, an international friendly on the Wednesday is just what the clubs could do without.
However, with the World Cup in South Africa is less than a year away, England are enjoying the unusual position of sitting comfortably on top of their qualifying group and the more usual, if inexplicable, optimism in the country has been steadily growing.
There is a belief in England that the team, if they survive another gruelling Premier League season, have a real chance of success. Of course, that belief has been there for almost every tournament since 1966 and hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t yet been shown to be justified.
So, is the belief this time around really justified?
Well, a pretty good 2-2 draw in Holland last night certainly hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm.
In goal, however, there is a real problem. David James is probably still the best English goalkeeper and as an Englishman, that is a really, really scary statement. Ben Foster is good but canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play more than two games without getting injured and Joe Hart, Robert Green, Paul Robinson and the others are decent keepers but not good enough to be World Cup winners. Green looked hesitant again last night.
At the back, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are world class defenders. If we lose either of them, are we so sure about the likes of Matthew Upson and Joleon Lescott? I maintain that Rio is world class despite his casualness in giving Holland the lead.
Glen Johnson should be OK at right back if he gets a full and successful season at Liverpool and we can only hope that Ashley Cole gets back to his form of a few years ago. Once again, the replacement names that get mentioned if either or both of these players are injured do not inspire confidence. Wayne Bridge, Wes Brown?
The lack of strength in depth in goal and at the back is surely a major concern. James, Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand and Cole all fit and all playing at their best might just about be good enough, but any loss of form or injury and we would surely be in trouble.
In midfield England have Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Both regarded as world class players and both with great experience. Gerrard is twenty-nine and has seventy-four caps. Lampard is thirty-one and has seventy-two caps. They have both played in World Cups and European Championships. If they were going to win something for England wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t they have done so by now?
It could just be that thirty-four year old David Beckham will be regarded as an important player for us. Need I say more?
Up front lies perhaps the biggest problem. The strikers in the squad for the game in Holland were Carlton Cole, Emile Heskey, Jermaine Defoe and Wayne Rooney.
Rooney, yes, the others? Carlton Cole did well when he came on and Defoe got two last night and the first one was truly special. I’m still not sure they are good enough though. We could always rely on the perpetually injured thirty year old Michael Owen I suppose.
I am not trying to ridicule the England team which is full of decent players and I am well aware that I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mentioned the likes of Ashley Young, James Milner, Gareth Barry, Gabby Agbonlahor, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and others who may yet feature, but I am just trying to keep things in perspective.
There is no doubt that Fabio Capello is a great manager and a fully fit and on form England team with their best eleven players should be good enough to make at least the quarter-finals in South Africa.
I’m just not sure they are good enough to go any further. What do you think?
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