Goalkeeping howlers! Injuries! Indiscipline! It must be England at a World Cup.
Not for the first time, a goalkeeping horror-show has cost England in a major tournament. However, the bumbling performance of custodian Robert Green is one of many issues that Fabio Capello will have to deal with before Friday’s game with Algeria.
The decision to pick perennial outpatient Ledley King in the 23-man squad took only forty-five minutes to backfire, despite the fact a thigh tear was the cause of King’s early exit as opposed to his much-maligned knee troubles. However, his absence on Friday will hurt England, with no solid back-up in the rest of the squad. The decision to bring on Jamie Carragher, a player intended to play at right-back in the tournament, instead of Michael Dawson or Matthew Upson shows Capello’s lack of confidence in the depth of his squad. Carragher proceeded to be consistently outpaced by Jozy Altidore, and his appearance against a pacy Algerian side will worry many.
Emile Heskey is another player whose place in the squad has been questioned from the outset, however his performance last night far excelled that of England’s great white hope, Wayne Rooney. The United star was quiet to say the least, played out of a game by a solid US defence. Heskey, meanwhile, did what he does best exceptionally, winning balls in the air, proving more mobile than he’s appeared in seasons, and creating chances. You feel Rooney needs a goal against Algeria to ignite his tournament, and will need to work harder than he did against the Americans to grab one.
Another questionable decision from Capello came in the arrival of Shaun Wright-Phillips. With Aaron Lennon already on the field, Wright-Phillips only proceeded to make England one-dimensional, with pace the only option and distribution non-existent. Joe Cole, or dare I say it, Adam Johnson, would have gone further to cut inside and take chances on themselves, as opposed to the unselfish and essentially useless crosses of Lennon and Wright-Phillips. With Jamie Milner seemingly writing himself out of the starting line-up with some gross indiscipline, the position of an attacking wide player is up for grabs, and Capello seems to have little idea which of his options works the best.
England’s problems stem from this very fact all over the field. They have arrived at a tournament with only two major injuries, yet Fabio Capello is completely undecided on his best team. Gareth Barry will enable Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to progress up the field and attack, curing one of Capello’s headaches, but his lack of a set centre-back pairing or any idea who is more productive in wide areas will damage England’s chances if it remains unresolved going into the knock-out stages.