England’s World Cup squad as Capello sees it – the goalkeepers

23 02 2010

Who should be in Capello’s squad based on his insistence of form?

England’s U-21 squad, announced on Monday by Stuart Pearce, had the revealing omission of goalkeeper Joe Hart. Conspicuous by his absence, the Birmingham City stopper is widely considered the form English goalie of this Premier League, and is likely to be tried out in the upcoming friendly against Egypt next Wednesday, but will the England boss be willing to hand the young man the number 1 jersey in South Africa?

Joe hart must gain invaluable experience in England's friendlies Along with the left midfield the goalkeeping selection has been like the fragile metatarsal in Rooney’s magical feet: always likely to crumble at that crucial moment. Remember David Seaman against Brazil in 2002. Remember Paul Robinson in Croatia and Robert Green in Wembley? Remember not qualifying for Euro 2008???

Forget the dire condition of England’s training camp in Rustenburg, the most pressing decision weighing on Fab’s studious mind right now is who to put between the sticks. Now, in an attempt to premeditate his chosen number 1, here are those statistics for our nation’s top-flight goalkeepers that the Italian vows by so religiously. We will see if the stats really do add up for our man Fabio, based on Premier League figures and Champions League and international appearances.

GOALKEEPERS

 

Games

Mins

CS

Saves

GC

Mins/GC

GC/game

CL 09/10

WQ 09/10

England CG

Hart

25

2250

8

101

28

80

1.12

0

0

0

Robinson

27

2430

9

86

43

57

1.59

0

0

16

Green

26

2322

7

90

40

58

1.54

0

4

4

Kirkland

23

1958

5

61

42

47

1.83

0

0

0

James

17

1514

3

43

29

52

1.71

0

6

16

Foster

8

720

3

18

8

90

1

2

1

1

CS clean sheets | GC goals conceded | CL Champions League appearances | WQ World Cup Qualifying caps | CG competitive games | First place | Second place

No. 1 – Joe Hart has made the most saves with 101 and with the second best goals conceded to games ratio (1.12) should statistically be first choice but is inexperienced with no competitive England games to date. It would need the conservative Capello to break with his traditions to select the nation’s top-flight in-form stopper.

No. 2 – Robert Green would make a dependable deputy. He has made the second most saves with 90 and played the second most games in World Cup qualification with four.

No. 3 – Paul Robinson, attempting to return from the international wilderness, is an experienced backup with the most clean sheets and games this season (nine in 27). He has jointly played the most competitive matches for the Three Lions, level with David James on 16.

David James has been reliable when called upon but his club form is not good enough James is statistically vulnerable, conceding a goal every 52 minutes and only appearing 17 times. Ben Foster has played too few games, with eight, to be considered but is clearly able, only conceding a goal a game and with recent Champions League experience. Chris Kirkland is not up to scratch with 1.83 goals conceded per game and a limited international pedigree.

So there you have it. Hart needs to start. He is brimming with confidence, performed commendably for the U-21 squad in their last European competition, saved a penalty, and even scored from the spot. David James, previously a shoe-in for Capello has dropped down the pecking order. Come May and June the situation may have changed but for Capello, the decision is likely to be one of deciding between experience and ability. He made the right choice with JT. Will he make the right choice with JH?

Next post: I’ll assess the outfield options.

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England’s forward options never looked so good

2 10 2009

Even Darren Bent’s recent fine form would not secure him a place in the national side with Rooney, Defoe, Crouch and Cole on fire.

Father-to-be Wayne Rooney has six goals in seven for Manchester United so far. For England in qualification matches his record is nine in eight. The national side has booked their place for the World Cup next summer allowing him to whet his appetite for South Africa by focusing on Premier League and European competition.

Come June, without the WAGs to distract him, Wazza can tuck into the native cuisine of biltong, ostrich and vetkoek (literally ‘fat cake’) and eye-up the opposition with menace. For finally it looks like England have all the ingredients of talent up-front to envy any side on the international landscape.

England's abundance of riches up-front leave no space for Bent

This sudden discovery or revelation, call it what you will, came to me when indulging myself on the forums in recognising Darren Bent’s reinvigorated form for Sunderland. ‘Is he good enough to be taken seriously again?’ I asked. The conclusion was emphatically definitive: no.

He has turned a few heads and can be lauded for his league form but nobody’s making space on the plane for him to join the World Cup party just yet. He may be given a glimmer of hope in Capello’s next squad to be announced on Sunday but that may be misleading as others are simply too good right now.

In analysing the probable forward options that will be in attendance in South Africa it looks like England have an abundance of riches.

Capello has everything rolled into one in the form of Rooney. Defoe has pace and explosive finishing. Cole has strength and power as well as an effective shot on him and ability in the air. Crouch has realised he can score with his head and Heskey is the glue that holds it all together. Give Agbonlahor and even my newly crowned hero Michael Owen time to impress until June and all the boxes are ticked.

‘Fox-in-the-box’, Defoe. Pace, Agbonlahor. Power, Cole. Aerial threat, Crouch. Link-up play, Heskey. Finishing, Owen. All of the above, Rooney.

And for the rest:

Spain – Torres, Villa. They need to be supported by a ‘big man’. Back-ups Cazorla and Llorente sound more like something you’d throw in a paella than up-front. Yet they may not even need one if Spain play like they did at the Euros and Bojan could be back on the radar by then.

France's all rounded front line
France – Henry, Anelka, Benzema then possibly Saha if he keeps scoring for the Toffees. That seems a daunting attack complimented by Nasri, Ribery and Gourcuff! Think they are struggling for qualification at the mo but they have the most all rounded front line for me.

Brazil – Robinho, Fabiano, Adriano (surprisingly included – he must have run out of beer money). We know all about them and will be re-acquainted in November when England face them in a testing friendly. Yet, they have unknown quantities such as Nilmar and Tardelli waiting in the wings and, being Brazil, they will probably be quality. Could say they have the complete package but injuries would expose the more inexperienced players in a World Cup.

Brazilian complete package?Germany – Podolski and Klose have had plenty of opportunities to play together. Klose is effective in the air and together they can be prolific but I don’t think there is much back up after Gomez.

Italy – Gilardinho and Iaquinta don’t really scare me. They are not consistent enough and Rossi and Di Natale are too slight and inexperienced.

Holland – van Persie, Kuyt, Huntelaar and Robben as a wing-forward should be quite a handful. Yet when Robben goes missing they do lack someone with blistering pace. Against England they didn’t create much that wasn’t put on a plate for them by our errors.

Argentina – Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Higuain and Milito. They are all tricky players but no one stands out as offering much of an aerial threat and anyway, they may not even qualify so we’ll worry about them later.

African nations each have one big name striker like Drogba, Adebayor, Eto’o etc but don’t have enough quality back up.

Father-to-be Wayne Rooney can look forward to South Africa
So all in all, England surely have plenty of the right ingredients to produce a dynamic, diverse, devastating forward partnership that is only rivalled by France and Brazil. But eight months ago it didn’t look like we had any capable centre-forwards so who knows how we will shape up in nine months time…

If everyone’s fit, Wayne will still be licking his lips at the prospect of getting stuck into the opposition defences with ample support for good measure, and England should be the team to beat.





Yorkshire Post article: Guide to the ICC Champions Trophy

21 09 2009

Tournament offers a welcome change for Strauss despite the challenge of Smith’s rampant Proteas.

Published date: 21 September 2009

By Sam Rider

StraussFIFTY-OVER international cricket takes centre stage at the ICC Champions Trophy, which begins on Tuesday. Looking to follow up on the success of the World Twenty20 held in England this summer, South Africa, who take the mantle of favourites, play host to the top eight one-day teams across the globe.

Andrew Strauss’s England will look to draw on the glimmer of hope taken from their solitary victory over Australia in staving off a whitewash during the recent NatWest series.

"It’s the Champions Trophy, it’s one of the big events, to be honest," said the England captain, whose side open against Sri Lanka on Friday.

Contrastingly Australia, the holders who won in Mumbai in 2006, are looking in rude health after bouncing back from Ashes defeat and along with South Africa will be the ones to beat. Ricky Ponting, reinvigorated in the one-day 6-1 series win, remains the major threat.

Despite the momentous victory over Australia in Test cricket, Strauss knows a lot of hard work is required to make any impression in South Africa.

"We can be proud of ourselves the way we played in the Ashes," he said. "As a Test side, we have got a lot of the component parts in place; as a one-day side, it’s clear we have got some work to do still."

Still without the injured Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, Joe Denly’s ability to hit over the top during the powerplays will be crucial in offering the impetus for any success.

Speaking about the fresh challenge, Strauss said: "We are going away thinking at least we don’t have to play Australia again in the next game, and you never know.

"I wouldn’t be at all surprised if particularly the likes of Ravi [Bopara] go out there and see it as a fresh challenge and smash them all over the place."

South Africa, despite a lack of competitive games recently, boast the prodigious talent of Albie Morkel and present the greatest threat of demolition to an inconsistent England.

Proteas captain Graeme Smith said: "We have really focused hard in the last three weeks to train as well as we can by making it as competitive as possible.

"The guys are motivated and excited and I think we can use the freshness to our advantage by getting in and playing good cricket up front."

India captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and superstar Yuvraj Singh are the top two ranked batsmen in one-day cricket respectively and will be identified as the key wickets in haulting their charge to victory.

And  Pakistan, surprise victors in the latest World Twenty20 will draw on a lethal bowling attack led by the cunning Shahid Afridi to progress from Group A.

 Champions Trophy

Since its inauguration in 1998 no team has retained the trophy whilst England’s best performance came in 2004, when they lost in the final to the West Indies.

The tournament, transferred from Pakistan last year due to security concerns will be played in Johannesburg between September 22 and October 5.

It consists of two groups of four, with teams playing each other once. The top two go through to the semi-finals and the final takes place at the SuperSport Park in Centurion.

Group A:

Australia
India
Pakistan
West Indies

Group B:

England
New Zealand
South Africa
Sri Lanka