The Libero - Gary Neville deserved a place in the 30
Published: 12 May 2010 - 07:09:51
So there were no major surprises in Fabio Capello's announcement of his preliminary squad of 30 players for the World Cup.
Owen Hargreaves had been touted for a call-up but did anyone really think a player with a solitary minute of playing time this season stood a chance of going to South Africa? That Capello would rather take a risk on an injured Gareth Barry tells its own story.
Equally Bobby Zamora had been tipped to be given the nod, yet clearly the Fulham man lacks the quality to make an impression on the international stage. It's one thing banging in the goals against Hull and Burnley, quite another against Brazil or Spain.
Instead Darren Bent will get another chance to impress Capello up front, while defenders Matthew Dawson and Ledley King, and midfielders Adam Johnson, Tom Huddlestone and Joe Cole all retain a chance of boarding the plane. None of their inclusions came as a surprise.
Indeed, perhaps the only omission that raised eyebrows was that of Gary Neville, not least because of the identity of the man who is South Africa-bound instead.
Jamie Carragher has not enjoyed the best of seasons yet Capello has still bent over backwards to reel him in in an effort to solve his right-back 'problem' - even though that is not the Liverpool stalwart's natural position.
Capello may have said there are no guarantees of Carragher making the final cut, but to leave him behind now would be folly, given that he is the only player other than Glen Johnson with even a vague familiarity with the role.
Which begs the question, why did Gary Neville not even make the final 30? The Manchester United veteran may not be getting any younger, his bones creaking a little more every time he plays and his legs lacking the same energy as years gone past, but he is fit, in form and perhaps most importantly a natural right-back with bags of experience.
Capello certainly cannot use forward thinking as an excuse for overlooking Neville - Carragher retired from international football three years ago and until a few days ago seemed destined never to play for England again.
While Carragher's inclusion in the 30 pretty much makes him a shoo-in for South Africa, there will be seven disappointed players come June 1 when the squad is culled to the requisite 23.
Capello must already have a good idea of who will make up the majority of his final squad - if not all of it - and while those on the fringes will be told they have the friendly matches against Mexico and Japan to state their claims, in reality it will take quite some performance to muscle their way into that golden 23.
Michael Dawson, Adam Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Scott Parker and Darren Bent probably fall into that category, with either Leighton Baines or Stephen Warnock and Huddlestone or Michael Carrick most likely joining them.
Whatever Capello has already decided, the debate will rage on for another couple of weeks, but would we not be better off following the Brazilian model?
Selecao coach Dunga has sensibly bypassed making a list of 30 players - and then having to listen to the inevitable opinions on who should stay and who should go from all and sundry, none of which will make the slightest jot of difference - by going direct to his final squad of 23.
While that may not be good news for the likes of Ronaldinho, who was overlooked, what it does mean is that the Milan playmaker knows immediately where he stands. He will not have to go through the rigmarole of being selected and then discarded. He's not in. Time to book that holiday.
And for those that are picked, they can allow themselves to relax and mentally prepare for the tournament ahead, safe in the knowledge that their place is guaranteed. An extra three weeks of stress-free preparation can go a long way, especially after a long hard season of domestic football.
But while the Brazilian players relax, in the England squad no-one can afford to sit still. Although as Capello has already proved, he can be a man of few surprises.
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- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
- Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.
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