In just a few days time the great and the good of European football will be battling it out in Switzerland and Austria fighting for the title of the best team in Europe.
Meanwhile, last night at Wembley, England played against the USA in the third game of Fabio CapelloÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s revolution in the hope that they can get back to the level whereby they might be allowed to join in with EuropeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s elite.
The fact that England comfortably won the game 2-0 was encouraging. The fact that the side looked well organized was encouraging. The fact that John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Steve Gerrard all played well as usual was encouraging. After that little list though, there was little to lift the heart of the deflated England fans.
The Capello revolution has not been an explosive one. The team he picked last night, which seemed to be his first choice, contained James, Terry, Ferdinand, A Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eight players that have been the mainstay of previous failures under both Sven Goran Eriksson and the hapless Steve McClaren.
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get me wrong. With the possible exception of Frank Lampard, it is difficult to see better English players than those that Capello selected. The thing that I found depressing as an England supporter was that we know these players are not good enough to succeed at the very highest level. However well Capello gets them organized they are a tried and not trusted team.
The aspect of the night that was even more depressing was the substitutions the manager chose to make. With exciting young talent on the bench like Dean Ashton, Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Gabby Agbonlahor and Phil Jagielka, who did Capello turn to? Peter Crouch, Joe Cole, Gareth Barry and Wayne Bridge. Surely Capello didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to see what these players could do?
At half time, David Bentley was given his chance to stake his claim to replace Beckham on the right side of EnglandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s midfield. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take it. In the first half the rare occasions that England looked dangerous were all created by the LA Galaxy player. In the second half, Bentley totally failed to create anything.
The only other positive substitution was PortsmouthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right back Glen Johnson who came on for Wes Brown. He may well be the future for England in that position although a fit Gary Neville or Micah Richards would probably be selected before him and would definitely be a better choice than the dependable but unspectacular Brown.
I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help but feel terribly disappointed that Capello hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t totally revolutionized the stagnant and unimpressive team that England had become under the previous incumbent. He is severely limited by the players at his disposal but with a World Cup qualification campaign approaching and the dream of challenging for the actual trophy still some two years away, surely it is time for some experimentation.
Although England looked comfortable with how they played last night, that would be as expected. They played in a fairly solid four four two formation with which they are all at ease. With the exception of Gerrard, who played on the left, all the players played in their normal club positions in a system that they know well, so it would have been strange if they hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t looked entirely comfortable.
It is difficult to really assess the performance of the England team for a number of reasons. Firstly, the game was meaningless. Secondly, the players would rather have been on holiday than playing yet another football match. Thirdly, the USA team were particularly poor and lastly this England team has shown its capabilities or lack of them so many times before.
I would have liked the team to have looked more like this – Hart, Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, A Cole, Bentley, Gerrard, Hargreaves, Young, Rooney, Ashton. This side would have contained a mixture of experienced players and young exciting prospects. It would have given some of the younger players a chance to gain real international experience prior to the long qualification schedule ahead.
The fact is that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see David James, Wes Brown, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Peter Crouch or Jermaine Defoe featuring in World Cup 2010, so I would prefer to see those who have a real chance to transform EnglandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s future being given the chance to do so now.
I fully supported the appointment of Fabio Capello and he deserves everybodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s support. If any manager can turn this group of under achieving players into genuine World Cup contenders then he is still the man. I just wish he hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fallen into the old pattern of selecting players who have regularly been there before and regularly not done it.
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