ON a night where teamwork and unity among the England ranks were very much under the spotlight, it was the individual performances of Fabio Capello’s squad which grabbed the headlines.
With the World Cup just over three months away, Capello still has plenty of decisions to make with a number of positions still up for grabs.
Admittedly, a lot can happen from now until 12 June, but last night’s display may just go some well to determining his selection. Here’s my winners and losers.
TWENTY goals in 37 appearances tells its own story. International defenders simply can’t handle Peter Crouch and he could well become England’s secret weapon in South Africa.
Crouch is no superstar but he does the good things well in an old-fashioned, workmanlike way. For me, Wayne Rooney is the only must-start in England’s ranks right now, but Crouch is definitely a must-travel and a nice option for Capello to have.
He, along with Shaun Wright-Phillips were the two plusses of the night for me. I believe Shaun’s performance will now put him ahead of Theo Walcott for that right-midfield berth, but he still may be behind Aaron Lennon, when fit.
This wasn’t the first time Wright-Phillips has performed well off the bench for England, and he didn’t do his chances of a start any harm at all last night.
Another who continues to impress is Aston Villa’s James Milner, who showed again in just 17 minutes that he can handle the international stage and can do a job in a variety of different positions.
It also looks like Robert Green has stolen a march on his rivals to take the No1 jersey with his 90 minutes last night. Rob has played consistently well all season and is at the right age and stage of his development for a decent run in the side.
SOMEWHERE along the line, Theo Walcott’s development has been seriously derailed.
He’s got plenty of pace but needs to learn craft, and that comes with playing games.
Aaron Lennon has the edge on the Arsenal man because he has invention to go with his pace. Walcott is still a little clueless on the ball, and that is a confidence thing.
Capello as good as admitted that earlier in the week but still gave Walcott the perfect chance to shine last night, but, despite a bright start, the game passed him by.
He is not the only one struggling for form right now, however.
Frank Lampard looks a shadow of the player we know he can be, both for Chelsea and England right now. He never recovered from that miss from Walcott’s cut-back in the fourth minute, and after scuffing another decent chance over, it was no surprise he was taken off at the break.
Right-back Wes Brown was another to have wasted a chance to impress. He looked unconvincing in his defensive duties and showed precious little going forward. Glen Johnson has been out for a long time now, but is still the clear No1 choice.
While it’s harsh to put Leighton Baines in this category after just one game, I would liked to have seen a lot more invention from the Everton man last night. He played it too simple, which you could probably understand, but he’s a better player than that.