Hodgson Faces Key Decisions On Captain, Strikers.

Roy Hodgson will be naming the England squad for Euro 2012 on Wednesday – and so Thomas Rooney takes a look at some of the candidates for the crucial positions: team captain and goal scoring options another than the Spud Faced Nipper.

With the European Championships just round the corner, there lots of talk as ever about who should be given the captain’s armband for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Scott Parker is amongst favourites amongst punters looking to trade using this back to lay calculator to lead the side out for the Championships. Parker has been one of the best English players in the Premier League this season and his knack of avoiding controversy means he may be the ideal candidate.

The Tottenham midfielder has only made eleven caps for his country but with his form this campaign will surely be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Parker has made 28 appearances for Spurs this season, despite not getting himself on the score-sheet he has been instrumental for his team when he has played and really seems to make them tick.

The ex-West Ham United man is vital to making sure the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon can get forward as much as possible, filling in the gaps they leave when attacking.

This would be the role he would play for the England side who will want to use the pace of the likes of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Lennon and Adam Johnson a lot throughout the tournament.

Parker will be the player to hold the midfield together and make England play in the same way he does for his club.

Other candidates as far as those over at best betting sites are concerned include Joe Hart. The Manchester City man would also be a decent choice as he looks certain to be England’Â’s number one for the foreseeable future: he’s also a very vocal player and being a goalkeeper, can see the whole game.

England require a leader on the pitch, someone to set an example to the rest of the players and drive the team on. Parker is the perfect man for this role in the team, with Hart as vice captain.

Moving onto attacking options, it’ll be interesting to see if Aston Villa striker Darren Bent is fit for the European Championships this summer after an injury that has kept him out of action since February. If Bent is fit, should Roy Hodgson include him in his squad?

In Bent, England have one of the best finishers the Premier League has seen in recent years. His goals seem to go under the radar sometimes and apart from a slight dip at Tottenham, he has scored regularly wherever he has played.

However at Spurs, he did manage 18 goals in sixty appearances, which is not too bad for the worst goal scoring form of his career. So it should be interesting to see what price Bent is for the Golden Boot in the 2012 euro betting odds.

The Englishman had scored nine times in the Premier League this campaign until he was injured in a game against Wigan, it’s quite safe to say Aston Villa would not find themselves as low down the table as they are if they had a fit Darren Bent at the disposal for the whole season.

The former Sunderland striker is an old fashioned goal poacher, he may only touch the ball a few times in the game but ends up scoring two goals and winning his team the game.

The England side does not have a great deal of players similar to Bent, someone whose sole purpose is to find the back of the net. The other option could be Jermaine Defoe, although he has spent the majority of the season coming off the bench so may be suited to that role during the summer.

If the 28-year-old is fully fit he could be the ideal partner for Wayne Rooney in the later stages of the tournament, he also capable of playing up front on his own during Rooney’s suspension in the first two matches.

Bent and Rooney should go to Euros as the Three Lions two main strikers, with Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Daniel Sturridge all waiting in the wings. This front line includes height, pace, strength, skill and finishing – a winning formula.

Update: Hodgson has made one interesting decision today – Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville joins the coaching staff with immediate effect.

Recent Internationals Provide Hope for Capello and England

The last ten days have been encouraging for England – there’s certainly no lack of competition for places throughout the squad, even though the general feeling about Sr. Capello is that the sooner he’s replaced the better. Richard Smith takes an overview of the recent games.

So, after the debacle of the captaincy change and England’s latest two matches against Wales in the Euro 2012 qualifier last weekend and the friendly against Ghana at Wembley in midweek, how far exactly has England come in the past nine months in terms of putting away their world cup nightmare and moving on?

The win against Wales was an extremely comfortable affair which saw England wrap the game up within the first fifteen minutes, scoring twice and never looking in any danger from then on. Some hardened critics might question why did they not go on and win the game by more goals, but the truth was this was a comfortable win and the team never needed to get out of first gear and the points has Capello’s side back on top of Group G at the halfway stage on level points with their nearest rivals Montenegro, who sit in second and who England must play away in what could be a crucial final qualifier on 7th October.

The friendly against Ghana gave England boss, Fabio Capello, an opportunity to ring a few changes and take a look at a few fringe players. It also allowed him to work on his newly found 4-3-3 formation. The result was a good all round performance against a vibrant team with the match ending 1-1, with England being deprived of victory in injury time after Sunderland’s Asamoah Gyan deftly slipped the attention of Joleon Lescott before firing into the net to cancel out Andy Carroll’s first half left foot strike. All in all, it was one of the more entertaining England friendlies in recent memory and more positives can be taken than negatives.

Overall, England should be pleased with their work this past week, which provides a glimmer of hope for the remainder of Capello’s tenure, particularly as the media were baying for the Italian’s blood after his handling of the England captaincy, a situation that has probably not yet gone away.  Certainly it is difficult to envisage Rio Ferdinand playing for England again under Capello, who failed to inform the Manchester United defender about his decision to reinstate John Terry as captain. There may well be question marks too over Steven Gerrard’s commitment to Capello, particularly as he had been appointed captain in Ferdinand’s absence for the World Cup last season, where he was blatantly and publicly undermined by Terry.

That said, perhaps Capello himself will feel the time is right to change a few of the ‘old guard’ in favour of some of the younger players such as Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere, Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka and Ashley Young. Certainly if Capello is to persist with his 4-3-3 system it looks very difficult to play Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the same team. Add to the equation that both Ferdinand and Gerrard have spent plenty of time this season injured, it could prompt them both to consider the option of retiring from international football, however, both are likely to want to play a key role should England reach next Summer’s European Championship in Poland and the Ukraine and it will be very interesting to see which team Capello picks come the next qualifier against Switzerland on 4th June should both Gerrard and Ferdinand be available for selection. 

England remain hot favourites to automatically qualify for Euro 2012 with the odds as short as 1/10 to top Group G, an outcome all concerned will hope is already decided in their favour well before the trip to Montenegro in October.

For Whom The Bell Tolls…

It seems that you can’t watch TV or read a newspaper in the UK without being told about John Terry’s latest indiscretions so here’s a link to the Daily Mirror report.

The only real football interest in the story is what Fabio Capello will do. The new story – combined with other issues – has dented Terry’s credibility as captain (to put it mildly) but some of the names that have been suggested as replacements are hardly paragons of virtue. Unfortunately it seems that the press seem to think of the captain of the England team should be some kind of knight in shining armour; which is a lesson that any professional footballer with either aspiring to or currently occupying that position ought to remember the first thing in the morning when they wake up or last thing at night when they go to bed.

It was interesting watching ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ on BBC2 this morning as Sophie Raworth was the guest presenter, presumably meaning considerably less embarrassment for the BBC as Marr had one of these so-called ‘super injunctions’ overturned a few weeks ago. Arguably that should have set alarm bells ringing in certain quarters, but if you are arrogant enough to think you can get away with everything up to and including trying to gag the press…

In other news…Togo have been banned for the next two African Cup of Nations tournaments after they withdrew from the 2010 tournament (that ends today) because their bus was attacked by gunmen. Fortunately reserve keeper Kodjovi Obilale is making an excellent recovery from the gunshot wounds he received in the attack. Ghana face Egypt later in the final: the semi-final between Algeria and Egypt ended with the latter defeating the former 4-0 and the Algerians finishing the game with eight players. Not letting Algeria have any time on the ball and going for an early goal might be the way forward for our Group C game against them (Friday 18th June, 7:30pm GMT); expect a lot of impassioned gesturing, rolling around and sulking – and the Algerians may also try something like that.

More good news: Paraguay striker Salvador Cabanas – who was shot in a bar in Mexico City last week – is also making good progress although his participation this summer is highly doubtful. It appears he was shot following an argument with a known Mexican gangster who accused Cabanas of not scoring enough goals for Club America.

And finally…Arsenal v Manchester United this afternoon. In 3D if you’re lucky enough to live near one of the bars with the equipment.

England 4 Slovakia 0 England Strikers -3

It was a comfortable win in the end England beat Slovakia 4-0 last night in a friendly that was tainted by an injury fest as 3 strikers limped off with various problems leaving Rooney as the only fit striker.

Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch and Carlton Cole are unlikely for the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Wednesday after a series of mishaps left Wayne Rooney as the only fully-fit striker in the squad.

Emile set things up with a goal after 7 minutes, turning in a goal from Stevie Gerrard’s cross but had to leave the field with an Achilles problem. Rooney headed in a Beckham cross after 20 minutes and Frank Lampard hit home on the 82nd minute. The win was sealed in the 90th when Rooney finished with a neat flighted close ranger from Lampard’s excellent low-swung cross from the left.

Capello is now looking at calling up Darren Bent to face the Ukraine on Wednesday after a major doubt over Heskey. Capello has ruled out calling up either Michael Owen or Kevin Davies, while Gabriel Agbonlahor pulled out of Friday’s Under-21 international against Norway with a hamstring injury.