Robert Koren Does Robert Green A Favour

Slovenia have just beaten Algeria 1-0 thanks to a Robert Koren goal, which means we’re now in second place behind the Slovenes; our next opponents (Algeria) are bottom and their performance this afternoon was very reminiscent of their African Cup Of Nations effort; substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal of Siena was sent off for two silly yellow cards (shirt pulling and deliberate handball) and keeper Faouzi Chaouchi did his best Robert Green impression. The bookies are currently quoting England at roughly around 1/4 to beat the Algerians but our outright win odds have drifted since yesterday: average price is 8/1 with best odds being 17/2, which is roughly the same as Holland.

Our potential ’round of sixteen’ opponents start their campaigns today: Serbia are about to kick off against Ghana and later on Germany take on Australia.

Let’s Not Kid Ourselves…

It could have been better: it could have been a lot, lot worse. Robert Green knew he made a mistake but he more than made up for it with the save from Jozy Altidore in the second half, so there’s no reason for the red tops to go mental on Sunday morning, even though they will.

If I’d been able to publish a preview before the game, it would have been along these lines: do not underestimate the United States, this one of the first round games that is likely to be far closer than most people think and that it’s highly likely that the USA will score. If you would have agreed with those sentences, keep reading the blog. If you are one of the flag toting dreamers who think England only had to book into the hotel and hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the bedroom doorknob and tick the continental breakfast option to win the World Cup, then you probably need to read something else.

England can still win the World Cup; if England want to win the World Cup then a victory over Algeria on Friday is vital. You know that and the team know that; we’ve been in far worse positions before.

Ferdinand Out, Dawson In…

I’d originally meant to publish this article on Wednesday: although I began it I was unable to get it finished due to a family emergency. Interesting looking back on what I’d written though, so here it is:

‘Nothing more need be said about the Japan game at the weekend. So here’s some very quick thoughts about the final squad that I scribbled at my desk this afternoon:

David James

Got relegated with Pompey, still a bit mistake prone. Last World Cup as a player, next one will be as a pundit.

Robert Green

Hammers got away with being poor last season, like David James he got a lot of practice last season.

Joe Hart

The future. Also takes penalties.

Glen Johnson

Sort of our version of Roberto Carlos.

Stephen ‘not Neil’ Warnock

Wouldn’t expect him to feature much but provides strength in depth.

Rio Ferdinand

You know that Nike advert everyone loves that’s got a Simpson’s version of Ronaldo in it? Should have been Rio. Needs to remember he’s in a tournament, not just a few friendlies.

John Terry

Shouty man. About time we had a defender sent off in the knock out round.

Jamie Carragher

Unexpected selection but should do well.

Matt Upson

Might make an appearance in the 3rd/4th place game. See Tony Dorigo in 1990.

Ledley King

Doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone was saying wouldn’t it be great if he was fit, he’d be a shoo in etc. Will be useful if Rio Ferdinand switches off at any point.

Ashley Cole

Defines ‘unsettled’; hope he doesn’t carry any baggage into the finals. Most likely to be the first to get picked on if everything starts going wrong.’

The midfielders and strikers will be posted soon, but yesterday’s news that Rio Ferdinand has been ruled out of the tournament after being injured during training may not be as worrying as it first appears. Steven Gerrard will take over as captain and Michael Dawson has replaced Ferdinand in the final 23.

On Wednesday I wrote that  ‘we shouldn’t really doubt the fire in his (Gerrard’s) belly, but recently he seems to have mistaken effort for quality – and he can’t do that in the World Cup’. This refers primarily to a reasonable season for a mediocre Liverpool team and I’m sure that he’ll do a fine job replacing Rio. My thoughts on Michael Dawson are that I’m sure he’s got a really promising international career ahead of him, but that on reflection Capello was right to leave him out of the initial selection because Dawson needs another good season with Spurs (especially in the Champions League) before he can be considered a regular. I would expect Dawson to benefit enormously from the experience but would be surprised to see him play.

Before anyone starts panicking about Rio, it’s worth remembering that he played the second fewest league games of his career last season due to a groin injury: I’ve got to be honest and say that I’d rather he was ruled out sooner rather than later as I wasn’t entirely convinced that his fitness was all that it should be. Not only that, we’re not in the same position as Germany are with Michael Ballack, Nigeria are with Jon Obi Mikel and Michael Essien and Ivory Coast may be with Didier Drogba (and yes, they are all Chelsea players); Rio is an important member of the squad, but his replacements are just as good and - unlike the other nations I’ve just mentioned - our chances will not be diminished due to his injury.

Who Will Get England’s Goals?

A notable and very encouraging statistic that all England fans can take pride in is the goal tally that Capello’s team notched up while qualifying from Group 6. In fact, the path to South Africa’s Group C was a real goalfest. In the 10 games that they played England slotted in 34 goals and that was more than any other European team in the competition. That bodes well for their chances of finding the back of the net in the next phase of the competition and making it through to the final stages.

The leading scorer as things stand now is Wayne Rooney, who blasted in 9 goals in 9 games in the qualifiers. Other prolific net-finders were Frank Lampard who contributed with 4 goals and Peter Crouch who managed to find the net 4 times despite making only 4 appearances in an England shirt. Steven Gerrard scored three times too so the firepower is definitely there. The World Cup betting sites make Rooney the overwhelming favourite to score the most goals for England with odds of 6/4, while Frank Lampard is quoted at 5/1.

Now that England are playing against outfits like the USA, Slovenia and Algeria, it would be foolish to think that the goals are going to come quite as easily as they did against the likes of Andorra and Kazakhstan. Nevertheless the statistics do show that Capello’s team can seize their goal chances when they come along.

Of course all the players have some way to go before they overhaul Bobby Charlton’s 49 goal record while playing in an England shirt. But there is no denying that Rooney’s prolific goalscoring for England and his 26 goal tally in 32 Premier league games this season show what he is capable of. When you look at the fact that he is only 24 there is every chance that he may one day become England’s all-time top goalscorer.

In my mind there is no doubt that Rooney must be considered a candidate for the World Cup’s Golden Boot award if he can repeat his scintillating League form in South Africa. Among the betting fraternity there is some support for Rooney’s chances of him becoming the top goalscorer of the 2010 World Cup with online betting sites offering tasty odds of 12/1 that he will do it. Even though he will be up against brilliant strikers like Spain’s David Villa, Brazil’s Luis Fabiano and Argentina’s Lionel Messi he must be in with more than a chance there.

Capello’s strongest playing card is the strength of the England forward line and what England fans must be hoping for is that he can match that strength in the other areas of the team.

Fab Announces Provisional Squad

OK, pay attention at the back, here’s the provisional 30 man England squad:

Goalkeepers: Robert Green (West Ham), Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth)

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Spurs), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Spurs), John Terry (Chelsea), Matt Upson (West Ham), Steven Warnock (Aston Villa)

Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Spurs), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Spurs), James Millner (Aston Villa), Scott Parker (West Ham), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City)

Strikers: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Peter Crouch (Spurs), Jermain Defoe (Spurs), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Before we go any further, the following players who have been in England squads over the past year or so are missing: Gabriel Agbonglahor, Wayne Bridge, Wes Brown, Gary Cahill, Carlton Cole, Stewart Downing, Ben Foster, Jermaine Jenas, Joeleon Lescott, Gary Neville, Paul Robinson, Ryan Shawcross and Ashley Young.

The main surprise is the inclusion of Jamie Carragher (no, not the bloke from Shameless), who hasn’t played for England for three years after falling out with Steve McClaren. Obviously Rio Ferdinand’s fitness and John Terry’s ‘interesting’ form since his misdemeanours entered the public domain mean that we need cover in defence and Carragher’s inclusion makes sense; he’ll battle it out with Michael Dawson and Ledley King, but to be honest Dawson is the best long term prospect we have in central defence and I’ll be amazed if Dawson doesn’t make the final 23.

Dawson and Manchester City midfielder Adam Johnson are the only uncapped players named in the squad; quite a few of names above have been through this before. Interestingly, Capello also tried to talk Paul Scholes out of his self imposed international exile: he was having none of it.

Our next opponents – Mexico – were in action last night, beating Senegal 1-0 at Soldier Field, Chicago (home of Da Bears!):  the winning goal was scored by Guadalajara’s Alberto Medina.

David Beckham’s injury woes have been documented elsewhere so it’s no surprise that he’s missing: but he’ll be joined by some famous names from our chief rivals: Ronaldinho and Adriano have been left out by Brazil and Francesco Totti (who seems to be single handedly keeping Roma in the race for the Serie A title) won’t be playing for Italy this summer.

Apologies for missing this yesterday – don’t worry Fabio, we’ll be attempting to provide our own player ratings, which will probably appear immediately after each game and may be heavily influenced by one or more of the major breweries.

One Night In Turin

4th July 1990: I’d like to say I remember it like yesterday, but it’s coming up to 20 years ago now which is genuinely scary. After a dreadful group stage, England beat Belgium with David Platt’s goal with the last kick of the game in the second round and generously allowed Cameroon to take the lead in the quarter final with under half an hour left before finishing them off in injury time.

The win set up the mythical semi final with West Germany; despite giving away the lead again to one of the most ridiculous goals I’ve ever seen, hitting the post 57 times (or so it seemed) and having arguably the most skillfull player England has ever produced booked for causing a German to fall over and roll about, England very nearly made it to the final for the first time in 24 years.

The combination of two missed penalties and the ‘Nessun Dorma’ theme tune used by the BBC plus my outrage that the Beeb didn’t scrap the rest of the evening’s television traumatised me to the point where I couldn’t watch the video tape for a decade; I managed to watch most of it once but I’ve never watched it all the way to the end.

So in a way, the release of One Night In Turin this week will hopefully provide some kind of personal catharsis to those of us of a certain age:  the film is launched with a special premiere supported by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation at the Gateshead Metro Centre, which includes a live Q&A session that will be screened simultaneously accross the UK via the Arts Alliance network. The session will hosted by Jim Rosenthal with the film’s director James Erskine, Pete Davies (author of ‘All Played Out‘) and some of the Italia 90 squad (the most recent confirmed player is Stuart Pearce); if you want any questions answered (who was Chris Waddle’s barber for example) or want to find the nearest cinema showing the film in your area, please go to; the Arts Alliance Network can be found here and the Sir Bobby Robson foundation is here.

We’re looking forward to the film at 11 Lions; I’m planning to watch the whole videotape…but only under the right circumstances.

See if you can guess what they might be.

On Tuesday, ‘One Night In Turin’ is released with a special premiere with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation at the Gateshead Metro Centre, which includes a live Q&A session that will be screened simultaneously accross the UK via the Arts Alliance network. The session will hosted by Jim Rosenthal with the film’s director James Erskine, Pete Davies (author of ‘All Played Out’) and some of the Italia 90 squad; anyone watching will be able to either text questions to ( ) or send them via ( )
To find the nearest cinema showing to yo, go to; the Arts Alliance Network can be found at and the Sir Bobby Robson foundation is at

Ref Watch

Don’t say we didn’t warn you: you may already know that Martin Hansson of Sweden (the ref who missed the Thierry Henry handball) is on the official refs list for the World Cup Finals, but after watching Roberto Rossetti of Italy referee the Bayern Munich v Lyon Champions League semi final this evening, he may be one that England may need to keep an eye on. Two red cards: a justifiable straight one for Bayern’s Frank Ribery but worryingly a second yellow for Jeremy Toulalan of Lyon – for the type of challenge that goes unpunished in football matches up and down the UK.

Fernando Torres Out For Six Weeks

Difficult not to feel some sympathy with Spain, given our record for pre-tournament injuries, especially when the player involved could have been one of the stars of the World Cup…but Fernando Torres is set to miss six weeks after undergoing surgery for a torn cartilage in his right knee.

Weirdly, Torres was one of the first Panini stickers I got with my free album today – so Javier Mascherano, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Steven Pienaar and Rio Ferdinand might be also be cursed.

Incidentally, having watched almost the entire Spurs v Chelsea game last night (including Drogba’s bizarre ‘groin injury’ performance after half time) I’m now convinced that Michael Dawson of Spurs needs to be in the England squad. The problem for Dawson is that we only have two friendlies left…against Mexico at Wembley on Monday May 24th and versus Japan at the UPC Arena (in Graz, Austria) on Sunday May 30th.

It’s Not Just Our Players…

The fallout from Arsenal’s midweek UCL game against Barcelona continues: now Arsene Wenger and French head coach Raymond Domenech are getting all livid over the injury that has ended William Gallas’ season. Wenger’s argument for risking Gallas is that it’s Arsenal that pay Gallas’ wages not France, which is fair enough I suppose although I can imagine Wenger sulking publicly if an Arsenal player was injured playing in an international. In any case, Domenech is not universally popular in France (or Ireland for that matter) and Les Blues are currently about eighth favourite for the tournament; if France fail spectacularly and Arsenal don’t win the Premiership this season, maybe Wenger and Domenech could swap jobs.

Oh and it’s Man Utd v Chelsea in a couple of hours in case anyone forgot. Hopefully no-one else from the England squad gets injured.

Injury Update

Fabio Capello has addressed the problems caused by the injuries to England’s key defenders in a radical and unexpected way, by calling up lower league defenders Leigh Bromby of Leeds United and Mike Edwards of Notts County for an end of season England training squad. Edwards was recommended to Capello by new Ivory Coast manager Sven-Goran Eriksson whilst Bromby came to his attention after a conversation in a pub car park with Bryan Robson, the current manager of the Thai national team. Bromby’s defensive qualities plus his long throw (known as the ‘Brombomb’ to Leeds fans) would no doubt provide ammunition for Peter Crouch.

In other news, Wayne Rooney’s injury isn’t as bad as it might have been: minor ligament damage, which will keep him out of the Manchester United team for the top of the table clash with Chelsea tomorrow. However…Sid Fibreglass is out for the rest of the domestic season after picking up an injury during Arsenal’s dramatic draw against Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday and current thinking is that he has a chance of making the Spanish squad for the finals.