Having just defeated the World Cup holders, Spain, and then Sweden, their bete noire (Sweden were undefeated against England for almost half a century, until Tuesday evening), England have gone nine matches without defeat. Fortunes are good, expectations are up, possibilities are endless. England beat Spain without Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Steven Gerrard and then they beat Sweden with Bobby Zamora, Stewart Downing and Theo Walcott in attack and Jack Rodwell and Phil Jones in midfield. Times they are a’changing.
With these victories in the bag and plenty of options available Fabio Capello, on a wave of renewed optimism vigour and popularity, faces a genuinely difficult task when it comes to choosing his final squad for the 2012 UEFA European Championships in Poland & Ukraine. Only 23 players are permitted in the final squad and it is a necessity that 3 of those are goalkeepers.
Presuming there are to be no injuries it is almost certain that the three chosen goalkeepers will be Joe Hart, as number one, Scott Carson, as number two, and then Robert Green as number three.
Defensively England have a plethora of options. Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill, Michael Dawson, Ledley King and Phil Jagielka are the players available in central defence. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones can also play at centre back but are more likely to be considered for the right back berth considering there is more opportunity of finding a space in the final squad in that position. There being more possibility available to play at right back is not to say that the competition is minimal. Even for the right back spot they will be competing with Micah Richards, Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson. The left back spot is as secure as any position in the team, resting safely with Ashley Cole – at least for the time being. The second choice left back is almost certainly going to be Leighton Baines.
In midfield England also have plenty of options but too many of them are big names that have failed in previous international tournaments. Their will be a plea for the more youthful members of the set up to be included at the expense of the more experienced stars but Fabio Capello appreciates the value of experience, understanding and know-how. In England’s case that know-how is all too often associated with past failures. The players fighting that battle of youth vs experience for a place in the squad will include Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry and Scott Parker on one side and Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell, Jordan Henderson, Ashley Young, Adam Johnson on the other with the likes of Theo Walcott, Stewart Downing and James Milner in the middle.
In attack England have the problem of Wayne Rooney. The nation’s best player but suspended for the first three matches of the tournament, should he be included? Those who are certain that England will progress to the latter stages insist his talent is necessary. Others, with more meagre expectations, think there is no place for a player who won’t be able to feature for the first 270 minutes of the competition. Other options in attack include the young strikers of Chelsea and Manchester United, messrs Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck. Bobby Zamora, according to some, merits inclusion, whilst the raw talent and power of Andy Carroll, to others, makes him a necessity. Those on the margins include Darren Bent, despite his exemplary scoring record, Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch.
England have options all over the pitch but they can only take 23 players and the task facing Fabio Capello is an unenviable one. England might have beaten the World Champions and stretched an unbeaten run to 9 matches but Fabio Capello’s most difficult task has yet to take place.