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The England blog - Capello tempted by Zamora gamble

Published: 15 Apr 2010 - 13:39:01

Barring injury (let's call it catastrophe), Wayne Rooney will lead England's attack in South Africa, but it's still not clear who will line up alongside him.

During World Cup qualifying, Fabio Capello shuffled Rooney, Heskey, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe. All bar one of England's games saw them start with a combination of those four.

Heskey has been favoured by Capello for his unselfish attitude in an England jersey. The 32-year-old allows Rooney to flourish when they are partnered together. His movement allows the Manchester United forward to excel , and his strength and aerial presence ensures the opposing defenders are in for tough time.

Although England's qualification success makes him a strong candidate to partner Rooney, Heskey's major flaw remains goal scoring, or lack of it. For Aston Villa he is on an eight-game drought and his club manager, Martin O’Neill, has shown a preference for fellow powerhouse John Carew.

One striker who has not shown the same shyness in front of goal for the national side is Peter Crouch. Crouch averages a goal every other game for England and a handful of those have come after entering the match as a substitute. Crouch also delivers a sizeable aerial threat.

That said, Crouch has frustrated Tottenham fans with his inconsistency this season. His composure in the box for Spurs has been questioned, and his finishing is still far from accomplished. But his record for England remains hard to ignore and, in South Africa, a player who can come off the bench and score goals is coveted.

Defoe has been on the fringe of the England setup for a long while, but as long as Rooney is fit, his appearances in the summer could be limited.

Capello has only partnered the Spurs striker with Rooney when pressed, with the former usually substituted before the end of the game. Seemingly this is evidence that the England boss prefers Rooney to be played alongside a forward with strength.

Another potential candidate for a place in South Africa is Bobby Zamora. After finishing last season being jeered by his own fans and almost signing for strugglers Hull City, it's been quite a remarkable turnaround.

Roy Hodgson has maintained his reputation of getting the best out of players and Zamora has been a prime example of this. He has scored 19 goals in all competitions for Fulham this season, which is a significant improvement to the four he netted in the last campaign. He possesses the strength and confidence to hold the ball up, in a similar mould to Heskey, whilst displaying a keen eye for goal.

However, selecting the 29-year-old would be considered a gamble by Capello as he has never been capped at senior level for England. A glimmer of hope for Zamora is that the Italian has ordered him to be watched at each of Fulham's remaining games - therefore he has every chance to impress.

Darren Bent missed out on the World Cup in 2006. England's manager at the time, Sven-Goran Eriksson, overlooked Bent despite his 22 goals for his Charlton that season. Instead, the Swede opted for Theo Walcott, who did not feature in any of England's games in Germany.

It may well be the same again for Bent, whose tally for the season now stands at 23. There is no much more he can do.

Carlton Cole was considered another possibility for England's attack. Like Heskey and Zamora, he would fit the conventional striker that is selected for his strength. Cole's work rate for West Ham has been superb, but after starting the season with so much promise, he has only scored nine this campaign and his dreams of playing in South Africa are fading fast.

Gabriel Agbonlahor is likely to miss the boat this summer after showing glimpses of his potential last season. While he offers a serious threat with his pace, he is still lacking the complete package. The qualification games for Euro 2012 are a more realistic target for the Villa striker to steak his claim to be a part of England's next major tournament after the World Cup.

The most likely scenario is that Capello will select the four strikers that predominately featured in England's triumphant qualifying campaign. However, the form of Darren Bent and Bobby Zamora will surely loom large in his mind.

It would be a risky option to ditch one of the four and bring in another striker who has less experience at international level, but it could well be a gamble that pays off.

READ CHRIS DAVIE EVERY THURSDAY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK

.DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Chris Davie
Chris hails from Maidstone, Kent, and has written on football for plenty of websites we won’t care to mention. He’s even banged out some boot reviews. A qualified level two FA coach, Chris follows Chelsea so don’t expect calls for Frank Lampard to be dropped in his England-focused blog. “I’m an England sceptic,” he says. “You won’t catch me with a St George’s cross painted on my face.” Read him every Thursday as England build-up to the World Cup finals in South Africa.

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