Capello’s Striker Dilemma Ahead Of Euro 2012

If you’ve come here looking for our take on whether or not John Terry should have been stripped of the England captaincy or not or whether Fabio Capello should leave the England job now, then you might be a bit disappointed. All I’m going to say is that France have a terrific group of young strikers and to be honest,  right now (a freezing cold afternoon in February) it doesn’t matter who the manager is.

Although we’re at the end of the Capello years, he’s still getting paid a decent wage and he’s got some thinking to do before the summer. Guest blogger Richard Smith takes a look at both the Terry issue and an area that always seems to be problematic for the team before major competitions.

As Euro 2012 approaches the England problems seem just on the verge of emerging. Firstly the Wayne Rooney ban which has cost England his services in for the opening two fixtures has been followed by the crass FA decision to remove the captaincy from John Terry.

In some respects, England are lucky that Rooney’s ban was not the original three matches but nonetheless, the absence of the Man Utd striker for two games is bad enough and makes life very difficult to replace him.

As far as the Terry situation is concerned, then the FA have done him nor the national team any favours by going above Fabio Capello’s head and removing him as team captain, due presumably to his impending court case where he has been accused of racism towards Anton Ferdinand. That case is not due to be heard until after Euro 2012 and whilst the full and due process of law is running its course, Terry remains innocent until proven guilty. This is of course unless you are the FA who clearly sees the case as a cut and dry affair and that Terry must be guilty as charged. It is a position that is seen as outrageous by most in football and one that proves if nothing else that the FA are no friends of the individual footballer nor respecters of the England fans nor it seems the due process of law as their action has made Terry look guilty even though he is pleading the opposite.

At least it seems that Terry will be able to wear the Three Lions shirt in Poland and the Ukraine which will be very important for team continuity albeit if you believe what you read in the papers this may not be the case! It is almost a prerequisite that the England preparations prior to a major tournament are disrupted and with five months before the tournament kicks off, it would appear the pantomime has already begun.

Back to team matters, there is already much debate as to who Capello should select as the four for Euro 2012 and with Rooney a definite pick, the other three places are up for grabs.

Darren Bent of Aston Villa is probably the man who holds sway at the moment but his good form of last season has not been so evident this term as his Villa team struggle in mid-division of the Premier League. Bent has scored nine times in the Premier League and managed three England goals during Euro 2012 Qualification.

Jermaine Defoe has been a regular squad member for the last few seasons, but he is struggling to establish himself in the first team at Spurs this season and hasn’t been on the scoresheet for England since his hat trick against Bulgaria in September 2010.

Emerging talent comes in the form of Danny Welbeck of Manchester United and Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea but neither have had a long enough run in the national team to establish themselves and may be considered by Capello as too inexperienced to take. Bent’s team mate at Aston Villa, Gabi Agbonlahor is another player who is just falling short of international recognition and now at the age of 25 one feels his best chances are gone despite him being one of the very quickest players around. Bobby Zamora now of QPR has been given a couple of chances but he is a player who would be more of a last resort than a certainty and at 31 he has seen better days too.

This does not leave Capello very much left to choose from, Andy Carroll of Liverpool showed signs under Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool that he is beginning to mature but is facing mounting criticism for his lack of goals. If the £35m man can continue in that vein as well as find the net a few times before the season ends, then he could make a late run for the squad but as it stands currently, the four strikers would almost certainly comprise of Rooney, Bent, Defoe and Sturridge but with Rooney out for the first two games, it’s safe to say none of the England contingent will be in the reckoning for the Euro 2012 Golden Boot and who starts upfront against France on Monday 11th June is still very much anyone’s guess.

We should have a better idea when England take on the Netherlands at Wembley on 29thFebruary when it will make a refreshing change for football to dominate the back page, let’s just hope it’s positive column inches!

Five Youngsters That Give Hope For England At Euro 2012 and Beyond

Well, despite Wazza losing the plot yet again, England qualified for Euro 2012 last week – guest blogger Richard Smith runs the rule over some of the prospects that could make their international breakthroughs in Poland and the Ukraine next summer…

Having confirmed their place at Euro 2012 next Summer – as any England fan will acknowledge – nothing is straight forward when it comes to the “Three Lions” and tournament football there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future of the English National team.

Current England coach, Fabio Capello, is set to step down when his contract is up next year but with that seems to have come a series of risk averse decisions from the Italian who has been happy to call the changes in the England teams and its formation recently. A far cry from the approach to player selection and tactics that saw the side crash out of the World Cup in 2010.

Capello has handed call-ups to a number of young players when naming recent squads and with, England fans have seen some of the older, more established players not featuring, be it forced through injury (Steven Gerrard) or dropped (Lampard in the recent qualifier against Bulgaria), performances have been much better and there’s hope that this approach will continue in the build up to next summer’s European Championships and beyond, laying the solid foundations for whoever becomes the next England manager who will have the task of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Listed below are a number of emerging English players who have either featured in Capello’s recent squads or will no doubt be in contention before the end of the season, the future is certainly a lot brighter for England than it was heading to South Africa!

Phil Jones – Aged 19 (Manchester United)

With the injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at Manchester United, 19 year old Phil Jones has been thrust into the side early by manager Sir Alex Ferguson and has played like he has been there for years.

A very promising prospect, Jones not only can he defend like his life depends upon it, he can play football too and is an excellent reader of the game who has great pace and a first rate touch. He is so good in fact that he would not look out of place in midfield and his performances so far this season for United is sure to give Fergie a selection headache when both Ferdinand and Vidic are back fit.

With regards to his England career, he looks a ready made replacement for John Terry who will no doubt hang up his international boots after Euro 2012 but in the mean time, if Jones continues to feature and play so well for United, he’s sure to be in Capello’s plans going forward.

Tom Cleverley – Aged 22 (Manchester United)

it is a shame that Jones’s United team mate got injured so early in the season as at that time, he was playing so well that Capello could not have possibly excluded him from his next squad. It is rare for players to get Sir Alex Ferguson too excited but clearly Cleverley has; his all round ability in midfield particularly his perception has improved enormously since he returned to Old Trafford after a season long loan spell with Wigan and he now looks set for a long term future at both club and international level.

Kyle Walker – Aged 21 (Tottenham Hotspur)

Harry Redknapp has finally bowed to the pressure and has started to include this highly gifted full back in the first team at White Hart Lane. Redknapp has always liked the player but with first team opportunities hard to come by last season, Walker went on a loan spell at Aston Villa and quickly became a big hit. It was thought at one point that Villa would persuade Redknapp to part with him permanently but the Tottenham boss, recognises his profound talent and he has signed him on a long term deal. It will not be long before he gets his chance at International level and he is known to be on Capello’s radar.

Jack Rodwell – Aged 20 (Everton)

Although there is plenty of competition for places in the England midfield line up, there are many urging Capello to include Rodwell who is one of the best defensive midfielders around. There were plenty of clubs expressing interest in him in the recent transfer window but Rodwell seemingly has no intention of leaving his club, Everton. He has represented his country at all levels with the exception of the senior side and if he can earn a regular place in the Everton first team then he is a very lively outside chance to make Capello’s Euro 2012 squad.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Aged 18 (Arsenal)

Son of former England international, Mark Chamberlain, this young man is one of the most gifted ball players that has been seen for many years. He is so talented that Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger, signed him from Southampton for an immediate fee of £12m which could rise to £15m with “add-ons”. He made his debut for Southampton last season and played 36 times for them in their promotion campaign, scoring nine goals from midfield. His move to Arsenal follows almost identically in the footsteps of Theo Walcott, who joined the Gunners at 17 and then was included in the England squad that went to Germany for the 2006 World Cup, something his new team will be keen to replicate. Whilst an England call up may not be imminent, Oxlade-Chamberlain is certainly one for the future!

We’ll be back later in the week with an update on the play offs and our first look at England’s prospects next summer…

Ferdinand and Defoe Omitted From Squad To Face Montenegro

Pete South reports on a couple of players who will be fans for the evening…

Rio Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe have been left out of Fabio Capello’s England squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on Friday.

Ferdinand has struggled with injury so far this season and only recently made his comeback for Manchester United against Stoke two weeks ago, and was a substitute in United’s last Premier League encounter against Norwich.

With Gary Cahill and United team-mate Phil Jones in the squad along with Everton’s Phil Jagielka and captain John Terry, there was no room for the former Leeds and West Ham defender who will now target securing regular first team football with his club as he works his way back to full match fitness.

Defoe has begun the season well with Tottenham Hotspur and appears reinvigorated after a poor campaign last time round, but his two goals in five games so far this season were not enough to persuade Capello to select him, with the Italian instead preferring Danny Welbeck and Bobby Zamora to join Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll in the striking department.

England are the football betting favourites to top Group G after back to back wins against Bulgaria and Wales last month moved them six points clear of 2nd placed Montenegro.

Elsewhere Steven Gerrard is not risked after he recently made his comeback with Liverpool after a six month lay-off, but Ashley Young is included despite not playing in Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over Norwich because of an ankle knock.

Spurs fullback Kyle Walker rounded off a good week by being called up by Capello hours after he had helped his side claim a memorable win over North London rivals Arsenal with a 25-yard strike while Frank Lampard is also in the mix having responded to being dropped by both club and country in recent games with an emphatic hat-trick against Bolton on Sunday.

England need just one point from their trip to Montenegro to qualify for Euro 2012, however Capello insists his side will go all out for the win.

“If you play for a draw it is a big mistake, you are defending a result and it is easy then to make silly or stupid mistakes,” he told FATV.

“We need to go to win in Montenegro and not to play for a draw.”

England squad: Scott Carson (Bursaspor), Joe Hart (Man City), David Stockdale (Ipswich); Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Bolton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Micah Richards (Man City), John Terry (captain, Chelsea), Kyle Walker (Tottenham); Gareth Barry (Man City), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Man City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Man City), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Man Utd); Darren Bent (Aston Villa), Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Danny Welbeck (Man Utd), Bobby Zamora (Fulham)

It’s September, it’s raining and we’re playing Wales…

You’ve got to hand it to Wales – bottom of the group without any wins or hope of qualification and they beat our nearest rivals on Friday night. We’re now three points clear at the top of the group with a far superior goal difference to Montenegro going into tonight’s game.

We’ve not played Wales at Wembley since February 1983 (the qualifier for the 2006 World Cup was played at Old Trafford) which surprised me a bit because I grew up with the old Home International tournament and we played each other at least once a year until that competition was abandoned almost 30 years ago.

Before anyone gets too carried away, it’s worth pointing out that in the last ten meetings between England and Wales where we’ve been the home team we’ve only lost once (0-1 in May 1977) but we’ve only won four of those games. Five games were drawn, including the match in Janary 1973 that arguably did more damage to England’s chances of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup qualifying competition than both of the disastrous games against with Poland.

It’s worth highlighting our recent home record against the Welsh because we’ve drawn three of our four home games since beating Bulgaria a year ago – our poorest run of home form for about five years. Wales are currently on a four game losing streak away from Cardiff but won’t need any motivating for this game: however, they’ve had a problem scoring away from home recently – one goal in four games going back to before the last World Cup – and it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if England kept a clean sheet.

Regarding team news, Wales have Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy and David Vaughan (Sunderland) suspended but Jack Collison is expected to return even though if he plays tonight FIFA rules means that he’s committed his international future to Wales - the West Ham midfielder has only previously appeared in friendlies, which means he could theoretically still switch to England.

We’re going to be missing Leighton Baines, Darren Bent and Micah Richards but as none of them played any part in the win at the weekend it looks very much as if the same team that won at the weekend will start tonight’s game.

TV coverage is on ITV1 with the waffle and hype part of the show (featuring Frank’s fiancee’s mate Adrian) starting at 7:00pm before the game kicks off 45 minutes later. As usual with ITV’s bizarre football coverage, if you’ve missed the game for some reason there’ll be a break for the news at 10:00pm and then you can watch highlights. I’m sure there must be people who’ll miss the live game for good reasons, but it’s basically saying to the rest of us ‘turn over or go to bed’…

Don’t Panic, It’s Only Bulgaria and Wales…

Over the next five days England have two very important games that will go a long way to resolving what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be doing it next Summer. The answer we’re all hoping for is ‘watching England playing in Euro 2012’ regardless of whether that’s in the Ukraine and Poland, in an Irish pub somewhere in the Med or (in my case) the biennial ritual hiding behind the sofa with the curtains drawn whilst swearing your head off and trying not to scare the neighbours.

We’re not in a bad position in the Euro 2012 qualifiers – equal top with Montenegro but with a superior goal difference – but Bulgaria will have to beat us tomorrow night to stand any chance of even qualifying for the play offs and that could be where the fun starts.

There are no real outfield surprises in the squad which was announced at the beginning of the week: ten players from the Manchester clubs, seven players from London teams (including Scott Parker, now of Spurs) and two each from Everton and Liverpool. The big issue is the reserve goalkeepers – Frank Fielding of Derby and David Stockdale of Ipswich are both playing in the Championship – but before anyone starts moaning about that, it’s only fair to point out that Birmingham City have reached the group stages of the Europa League. We should be proud of the standard of football in the Championship rather than moaning about the lack of decent goalkeepers in the Premier League, as some ‘journalists’ have been doing.

The good news is that England have never lost in Bulgaria and we’ve won two of the three games we’ve played there – the last victory was a 3-0 win in a qualifier for the 1980 European Championships, goals coming from Kevin Keegan of SV Hamburg and Peter Barnes and Dave Watson of Manchester City. Those of us with long memories will remember that despite Barnes being voted Young Player of The Year in 1979/80, not long after the game he was sold by Malcolm Allison to WBA; it’s hard to imagine Roberto Mancini doing that with either Adam Johnson or James Milner.

Wales can do us a massive favour before our meeting next Tuesday by beating Montenegro but I’ll be surprised if they do – the Red Dragons have only won four of their last ten home games – but it’s important to point out that the Montenegrins have only won once in their last ten away games (the win in Bulgaria last September) and lost in Albania last month. If the bookies are right, there won’t be any changes at the top of the group as England are currently best price 4/7 for the win in Sofia, while Montenegro are 6/4 to win at the Millennium Stadium.

Both our game and Wales v Montenegro are live on Sky Sports, but because of the difference in time zones and kick off times, instead of watching adverts and listening to expert analysis from Bulgaria at half time, you’ll be able to turn over and experience that sinking feeling familiar to football fans on the other side of the Bridge when you see that Wales have conceded an early goal…

Walcott Criticises Capello World Cup Regime

Pete South comments on Theo Walcott’s recent foray into the world of publishing – in which the Arsenal star may inadvertantly give us an insight into his relationship with Ar

Theo Walcott has openly criticised England manager Fabio Capello for his “cold and clinical” regime that undermined England’s World Cup campaign in South Africa last year.

Walcott was left out of the final squad that travelled to South Africa last summer before England crashed out at the second round stage against Germany, and the Arsenal midfielder believes the prevailing mood of discipline that surrounded the camp before the tournament did little to help.

In extracts taken of his book that has been serialised in the Sun newspaper, Walcott wrote:

“It became obvious straight away that Mr Capello was very strict. It was like being in the presence of a headmaster.

“If you are eating and you look over to where he is and he is looking at you, you look down and eat straight away. You’re s*** scared of him, basically.

“He picked players on form and that was it. No sentiment. No friendships. Cold and clinical.

“There was something very stiff and starchy about Mr Capello’s regime before the 2010 World Cup,

“I found it difficult to be myself. Players split up along club lines.” He added.

“There was an Aston Villa group and a Manchester United group and the staff weren’t very relaxed. It all felt a bit tense. Everyone was a bit too serious.” He added.

Most placed a Euro 2012 free bet on Walcott being involved in Poland and Ukraine next summer, although it is unknown how Capello will take the remarks.

Walcott added that there was particular incident at a training camp in Austria that shook his confidence ahead of the tournament and highlighted his authoritarian approach – something that the Italian was widely criticised for in the fall out following their exit against Germany.

“We headed out to a training camp in the Austrian Alps before we left for South Africa. Something happened out there that shook my confidence. It was the second day, and I made a run inside from my position out wide on the right.” He wrote.

“Suddenly Mr Capello started screaming at me at the top of his voice. Training stopped and everyone stared at their feet and looked embarrassed.

“’Theo,’ he was yelling, ‘I will kill you if you come inside like that again!’ Despite Mr Capello’s outburst, I never quite knew what was required of me. I was confused.

“I had been injured so much that season that my confidence was fragile, but no one ever helped me.”

“If you are the boss, surely you want everyone playing well and you want to encourage everyone. It killed me and I felt it wasn’t fair.”

But the former Southampton winger did have some words of encouragement for Capello, who will step down from his role with England after Euro 2012 next year, saying the former Real Madrid manager had changed his approach since last year.

“Things have gone well since then,” he wrote. “I came straight back into the first team after the World Cup and have been selected for Euro 2012 qualifiers when I’ve been fit.

“The atmosphere with England is much more relaxed now. There are more smiles around the camp these days. Mr Capello has changed, lots of things have changed. He is more approachable.” He added.

Capello is likely to take a dim view of Walcott’s comments when it comes to selecting him for the qualifiers next month – matches against Bulgaria and Wales which should see the England Euro 2012 odds shorten as the game’s approach.

Capello Excuses Wearing Thin After Draw Against Switzerland

Regular guest blogger Richard Smith doesn’t pull any punches with his appraisal the current state of the senior squad – we’ll have a preview of the Under 21s posted on Saturday morning.

The situation in the England football camp appears to be worsening by the day with manager, Fabio Capello, coming under increasing pressure, more so than he has ever known before.

The Italian’s comments regarding the tiredness of the English players being responsible for their less than lacklustre performance in their 2-2 Euro 2012 Qualifier draw against Switzerland at Wembley at the weekend has invited the wrath of the media. There have been various negative responses including the suggestion that the ‘tiredness excuse’ would have been better applied to the fact that the players were tired of him and the media and fans are tired of his excuses. The draw against the Swiss was also the fourth game running at Wembley that the England team has failed to win.

Certainly to only draw against a Swiss side who they defeated easily in the reverse fixture last year is a potential setback to automatic qualification. However, their next match is in September, against an improving Bulgarian team in Sofia, which if they should lose will put them in deep trouble, particularly so if Montenegro defeat Wales on the same day.

The big problem Capello has when he blames the performance on tiredness is the simple fact that should England qualify for the European Championships, then tiredness will be a huge factor again as that tournament comes at the end of the domestic season like every other major international football tournament. He is paid £6m pounds per year to find remedies for this problem not to provide excuses which is something he appears not to understand.

Understanding of a different kind is another probable reason why England are failing to produce the level of performance that is expected. Capello has simply not picked up the English language as well as others have from his country. He is almost impossible to understand when conducting media interviews; a fact that makes the mind boggle when thought is given to how he actually conveys his match instructions to the players. Leaving the fans to wonder just how much of his strategy is Lost in Translation?

In the wake of this setback, there have been further rumours of squad unrest with yet another player, Peter Crouch, apparently ready to quit international football. This has prompted FA Director of Football Development Sir Trevor Brooking to lambast the players who want to ‘throw in the international towel’ but he must know that there is a big problem within the set up and perhaps he would be better to clarify the reasons before ‘pointing the finger’. Crouch in fact did not even make the substitutes bench against Switzerland!

The real reason why England could only draw against Switzerland was the fact that they played poorly, lost concentration in defence and failed to take their chances. That all adds up to a player/team/manager problem and not one of exhaustion!

Despite the current plight, bookmakers are still confident that the Three Lions will win Group G, making them astonishingly short favourites at 1/7 to qualify for Poland and Ukraine in twelve months time. They sit joint top alongside Montenegro who also have 11 points after five games but with two of the last three qualifiers on the road for Capello’s men, including a trip to Montenegro in the final game the odds of 5/1 about Montenegro topping the group come October make plenty of appeal for those punters happy to allow sense to prevail and overrule their patriotic heart. The odds on England winning Euro 2012 look even less appealing and it would be the most loyal of fans that are happy to take odds of 9/1 about England ending their 46 year wait for glory.

Accusations, Bribes – And There’s A Game On Too

After all this week’s nonsense, it’s time for a competitive game!

The situation at the top of Group G couldn’t be any tighter – we’re top of the group on goal difference from Montenegro, who face Bulgaria at home after we’ve finished against Switzerland.

Let’s start with a sanity warning here. This is not going to be an easy game: Switzerland have only lost two of their last ten ‘true’ away games (I’m deliberately not going to count the games in the 2010 World Cup as they were played at neutral venues) and although they’ve had problems scoring outside Switzerland, they’ve kept clean sheets in half of those matches.

We’ve never lost to Switzerland at home and tomorrow would be a very bad time to start, especially as two of our last three qualifiers are away games in Montenegro and Bulgaria. The Montenegrins also have to travel (to Wales and Switzerland) but the pressure on them isn’t the same way as it is with us – this was a group we were supposed to easily qualify from but all credit goes to Zlatko Kranjčar and his team for not allowing that to happen; a competitive qualifying group also introduces a healthy sense of reality into the procedings for a change.

The one big advantage we have is that there are goals throughout the side – although the Spud Faced Nipper will be missing tomorrow (too many yellow cards), it’s worth pointing out that he hasn’t scored at Wembley since the 5-1 win over Croatia in September 2009. If Peter Crouch can return to the type of form he showed before the World Cup I’d expect him to get on the scoresheet.

The Swiss squad contains a few familiar faces – Johan Djourou, Phillipe Senderos and Valon Behrami (now at Fiorentina) should be well known to fans of Premier League clubs – but coach Ottmar Hitzfeld doesn’t have any issues when it comes to including younger players in the senior side. Midfielders Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka (both FC Basel) are still in their teens, while the three recognised strikers are all under 23 years old – despite being only 22, Bayer Leverkusen’s Eren Derdiyok already has 31 caps.

Verdict: I honestly can’t see Switzerland winning tomorrow, but it’s important to remember that we’ve not beaten anyone at Wembley since the win over Bulgaria last September and the Swiss have only lost once (in Macedonia) in their four aways since the World Cup. I also can’t see Switzerland being able achieve a third consecutive away goalless draw but I think it’ll be closer than most people think. If I was a gambling man (stop laughing at the back please) I’d go for an England win in a low scoring game.

TV details are as follows: England v Switzerland is on ITV1 (so it might be an idea to dig out a radio just in case) but even though Montenegro’s game kicks off after ours, it’s only being broadcast ‘as live’ on ESPN in the UK at 11:45pm. However, if you can’t wait, there are some excellent online resources for live football scores that are an awful lot easier to use than waiting for Teletext updates used to be.

Result: England 2, Switzerland 2. Coming back from two goals down at home is better than nothing, but getting to that stage in the first place is an indictment of some very sloppy end of season defending. Fortunately Ivelin Popov equalised for Bulgaria in Montenegro, so we’re still top of the group. Next competitive game is in Bulgaria on Friday 2nd September.

England remain cautiously optimistic ahead of Euros

Guest blogger Callum Dent takes a look at the England situation almost a year after the debacle in South Africa.

After the 4-1 defeat to Germany in South Africa which knocked England out of the World Cup, changes had to be made if the national team are to be a success at future major tournaments.

The Germans did Fabio Capello a favour. They showed him what happens when managers adopt players in form, use attacking and versatile formations and give youngsters to opportunity to shine on the big stage.
England were flat in SA and lacked everything that was needed to win a World Cup. Togetherness, flair, confidence and freedom were all absent and it showed as England scraped through to the knockout stages despite draws with Algeria and USA.

Since the World Cup, Capello has taken a leaf out of Joachim Low’s book and changed the approach to the England team. The Italian has selected players that are playing well for their domestic clubs and has used strategies that have made England look a more attractive prospect.

Despite Capello’s lack of commitment and communication, England have been improved following their nightmare World Cup, although they remain someway off free bet favourites Spain in terms of quality, and look like a team heading in the right direction once again.

The qualifier against Wales was a very good performance even if they were playing an out-of-depth and inexperienced Welsh side. The players picked adapted well to the situation and played like a team with confidence and freedom, which were non-existent in South Africa.

Capello chose Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker to form a new look midfield with Frank Lampard and it worked as England outmuscled, outthought and outplayed their Welsh counterparts. Aston Villa striker Darren Bent was given a chance and he took it, scoring a first half goal to set England on their way to a 2-0 victory at the Millennium Stadium.

England adopted a 4-3-3 setup and looked comfortable with Ashley Young proving to be an inspired selection on the wing. Capello has a young side that can be winners in the future and could be worth placing free bets on.

Younger players like Joe Hart, Andy Carroll, Wilshere, Gary Cahill, Young and Adam Johnson are all likely to play a huge part in the future of English football. With big players such as Steven Gerrard, Lampard and John Terry all close to coming to the end of their international careers, England look in capable hands.