Squad Announced For Slovenia/Croatia game

The England squad for the friendly at the weekend against Slovenia and the penultimate home qualifier versus Croatia was announced on Sunday night. The starting eleven will probably look similar to the one that drew with Holland at the start of August with Wes Brown replacing the injured Rio Ferdinand (thigh strain).  Aaron Lennon and Peter Crouch (now both of Spurs after the latter moved from Portsmouth) were the only notable additions while neither Theo Walcott and – perhaps less surprisingly -  Michael Owen were called up. Walcott’s absence means that Arsenal do not have a single player in the current England squad: Joleon Lescott’s rather acrimonious transfer from Everton to Manchester City means that City now have four players involved for the forthcoming games.

Apart from Rio there are no significant injury worries: the same can’t be said for the Croats, who lost Spurs’ Luka Modric for at least six weeks when he broke his leg at the weekend. It’s hard not to have mixed feeling about this: on the one hand Modric’s absense might make our task easier but on the other his undoubted ability might have made the game more exciting and unpredictable.

The current lead in Group 6 might well be cut to four points on Saturday as Croatia have a qualifier on Saturday against Belarus in Zagreb (7:30 GMT, apparently no plans to show it on TV); earlier that afternoon Andorra travel to Ukraine. More to come about those games and the rest weekend’s qualifiers later this week.

In terms of the squad’s performance in Premiership form so far, the situation is very encouraging. Fourteen of the 24 players called up by Fabio Cappello come from the current top four clubs at the time of writing and there have been 18 goals throughout the squad, with Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney having scored four each. Surprisingly, defenders currently lead the midfielders by four goals to three, largely due to Glen Johnson’s pair of goals for Liverpool.

11 of the 14 Premiership assists from the England squad have come from the midfield with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon contributing two each.

Discipline has been reasonably good so far, although both Wayne Rooney
and Ashley Young have both picked up two yellow cards in the Prem this season. However, top of the naughty list is a Mr David Robert Joseph
Beckham of LA Galaxy, who received a straight red card v Seattle on 16th August but scored the winner against Chivas at the weekend: coming so soon after the well reported incidents with the Galaxy fans, this might be a situation that needs to be monitored.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Foster (Manchester United), Green (West Ham), Robinson (Blackburn)

Defenders: Johnson (Liverpool), Brown (Manchester United), Upson (West Ham), Terry (Chelsea, capt), Lescott (Manchester City), A Cole (Chelsea), Bridge (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Lennon (Spurs), Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Barry (Manchester City), Lampard (Chelsea), Carrick (Manchester United), Gerrard (Liverpool), A Young (Aston Villa), Milner (Aston Villa)

Strikers:Rooney (Manchester United), Heskey (Aston Villa), Defoe (Spurs), C Cole (West Ham), Crouch (Spurs).

Netherlands 2, England 2

A come from behind…well…draw tonight, I’d say it was the right result despite going in at half time 2-0 down thanks to some decidedly summer holiday kickabout defending by Messers Barry and Ferdinand.  Jermain Defoe scored both our goals and James Milner and Carlton Cole were also impressive.

England playing tonight even though the Prem hasn’t started yet…

The debate whether we have to play a friendly so early in the season is a bit of a non-starter as FIFA decide on these dates, but at least it’s not a qualifier and the Dutch are almost in the same boat as us (the Eredivisie is two games old) – but the big difference is that they have already qualified for the World Cup and we haven’t. We’ll try to get a report up tomorrow, but as it’s a friendly there’s no live stuff planned for this evening; we’ll post the result as soon as we have it.

As something a bit different in the build up to South Africa, we’re going to follow the two dozen or so players who we think might make the final squad for next summer. An interesting fact is that the only player we’re following who doesn’t currently playing in the Premiership is David Beckham (who has been making some headlines of his own recently) – in fact, according to the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia, there are more members of the current North Korean squad who play in Europe than there are in the England squad.

Basically what we’re going to do is this. Even though the Premiership has yet to start, there are a lot of games this weekend that should feature players from the squad that face the Dutch tonight – barring any injuries of course.

Top of the list are Man U v Birmingham (Sunday 1:30 Sky Sports) and Blackburn v Man City with four England squad members on show, followed by Chelsea v Hull (Saturday 12:45 Sky), Spurs v Liverpool (Sunday 4pm Sky), Aston Villa v Wigan and Wolves v West Ham (all with three England players). Everton v Arsenal (Saturday 5:15 ESPN)features Theo Walcott and Joleon Lescott and last of all (if he plays) David Beckham will be playing for LA Galaxy v Seattle Sounders sometime on Sunday morning when we’re all tucked up in bed.

At the beginning of the following week, we’ll post one liners about the performances from the previous weekends that will outline goals, assists, injuries etc. and hopefully we’ll gradually get a clearer idea of who will make the final squad if/when we qualify.

Sir Bobby Robson 1933-2009

The first Saturday of August in England and it’s raining; football weather. Normally this would be time to look forward to the new season but when the news broke yesterday that Sir Bobby Robson had passed away it was time to stop and reflect on what an outstanding career he had as a player, coach and manager not only in and for England but also abroad with some of the heavyweights of European club football; he always came across as being a good bloke and one of the last ‘old school’ football personalities too, something that came across yesterday in the many tributes that were paid to him. Perhaps fittingly, his last appearance at a football match was a few days before his death when he attended a friendly between the England 1990 and Germany 1990 sides for the Sir Bobby Robson Trophy (England 1990 won 3-2);  the image of Sir Bobby consoling Paul Gascoigne will always remain in the memories of England fans that are old enough to remember the events of the dramatic evening 4th July 1990.