Crouch earns Capello praise

ENGLAND head coach Fabio Capello has dropped his biggest hint yet that Peter Crouch could start the World Cup in attack alongside Wayne Rooney.

Capello sent on Crouch for Tottenham team-mate Jermain Defoe when England came in at half-time 1-0 down in Wednesday’s friendly against Egypt. And the lofty frontman responded with two clinical finishes as the Three Lions hit back to beat the African champions 3-1. It was enough to impress Capello, who admitted the Rooney-Defoe partnership had misfired.

“I learned a lot of things,” said the Italian. “They can play together but there were some things that didn’t go the way I wanted. With Crouch we played differently. The movement of the players was much more harmonic.”

Capello favoured a big man/little man combination during qualifying for this summer’s tournament, with Rooney successfully accompanied by Emile Heskey. But the Villa forward’s lack of form has opened the door for Defoe and Crouch, with the latter’s height making him a more natural replacement. And the former AC Milan boss also believes Crouch has developed since he took charge little more than two years ago.

“Peter Crouch has improved a lot,” he added. “When I started it was always the long ball onto Crouch’s head. Now he plays football.

“Last night it was one touch, maximum two. It is not easy to win the ball off Crouch.”