The last ten days have been encouraging for England – there’s certainly no lack of competition for places throughout the squad, even though the general feeling about Sr. Capello is that the sooner he’s replaced the better. Richard Smith takes an overview of the recent games.
So, after the debacle of the captaincy change and Englandâ€™s latest two matches against Wales in the Euro 2012 qualifier last weekend and the friendly against Ghana at Wembley in midweek, how far exactly has England come in the past nine months in terms of putting away their world cup nightmare and moving on?
The win against Wales was an extremely comfortable affair which saw England wrap the game up within the first fifteen minutes, scoring twice and never looking in any danger from then on. Some hardened critics might question why did they not go on and win the game by more goals, but the truth was this was a comfortable win and the team never needed to get out of first gear and the points has Capelloâ€™s side back on top of Group G at the halfway stage on level points with their nearest rivals Montenegro, who sit in second and who England must play away in what could be a crucial final qualifier on 7th October.
The friendly against Ghana gave England boss, Fabio Capello, an opportunity to ring a few changes and take a look at a few fringe players. It also allowed him to work on his newly found 4-3-3 formation. The result was a good all round performance against a vibrant team with the match ending 1-1, with England being deprived of victory in injury time after Sunderlandâ€™s Asamoah Gyan deftly slipped the attention of Joleon Lescott before firing into the net to cancel out Andy Carrollâ€™s first half left foot strike. All in all, it was one of the more entertaining England friendlies in recent memory and more positives can be taken than negatives.
Overall, England should be pleased with their work this past week, which provides a glimmer of hope for the remainder of Capelloâ€™s tenure, particularly as the media were baying for the Italianâ€™s blood after his handling of the England captaincy, a situation that has probably not yet gone away.Â Certainly it is difficult to envisage Rio Ferdinand playing for England again under Capello, who failed to inform the Manchester United defender about his decision to reinstate John Terry as captain. There may well be question marks too over Steven Gerrardâ€™s commitment to Capello, particularly as he had been appointed captain in Ferdinandâ€™s absence for the World Cup last season, where he was blatantly and publicly undermined by Terry.
That said, perhaps Capello himself will feel the time is right to change a few of the â€˜old guardâ€™ in favour of some of the younger players such as Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere, Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka and Ashley Young. Certainly if Capello is to persist with his 4-3-3 system it looks very difficult to play Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the same team. Add to the equation that both Ferdinand and Gerrard have spent plenty of time this season injured, it could prompt them both to consider the option of retiring from international football, however, both are likely to want to play a key role should England reach next Summerâ€™s European ChampionshipÂ in Poland and the Ukraine and it will be very interesting to see which team Capello picks come the next qualifier against Switzerland on 4th June should both Gerrard and Ferdinand be available for selection.Â
England remain hot favourites to automatically qualify for Euro 2012 with the odds as short as 1/10 to top Group G, an outcome all concerned will hope is already decided in their favour well before the trip to Montenegro in October.