So the World Cup is a little more than a week away and we’ve already had drama, disappointment, farce and expectation. Pretty much a standard World Cup preparation for England then! We’ve gone from “definately going to win” to “not a chance” all on the strength of one player being injured, we’ve had the ineptitude of the selection process for the next manager and finally we’ve all had fun trying to work out what on earth Sven is thinking when he makes team selections – let alone squad selection.
Now, after one of the last friendlies before the finals, where are we? Well, despite the lack of Rooney we do still have a good team. A world class defence and one of the best midfields anywhere – if you can play them all. Last night’s game against Hungry offered a glimpse of how that might be done, even if it wasn’t quite there yet. In some ways not being able to automatically select Rooney and Owen has forced Sven to do what a lot of people thought he ought to have much earlier in order to accomodate Gerrard, Lampard, Cole and Beckham in one midfield. However the ony reason he had this problem is, lacking Rooney, it is almost as if he hasn’t been watching any other strikers at all this season. Darren Bent or Jermaine Defoe must be feeling very hard done by, seeing two injured players and a youth team member being picked ahead of them – particularly Bent who obviously doesn’t play for the right club in Sven’s world.
Equally puzzling is his insistence on playing players out of position ahead of those who play there week in week out. We had it with the left wing where we have, in the past, seen left backs, right and centre midfielders and even fowards. Now we have it with the defensive midfield spot. The difference is, unlike the left wing there is a clear option, well, clear to most observers, and it isn’t Owen Hargreaves. Poor Owen, he tries really hard, he can play in several positions, just not quite as well as we need and he really hasn’t won over the fans but Sven picks him every time. Perhaps he just likes a trier.
That really brings us to the point, however far this squad gets will be as much down to the manager as the players at times and one cannot help but think that while we have a squad second to none, well, maybe second to Brazil, we definately don’t have the best manager. Don’t get me wrong I do think he is good, but he just doesn’t seem comfortable with our style – not because he is foreign I hasten to add, but because he is cautious. England don’t do cautious, it makes us nervous and we all know what nervous England teams are like!
So…will we? Win I mean? Or crash out on penalties in a later round? I can see us doing both to be honest. I do think it is actually possible for this team to win it, with or without Rooney, and given a bit of luck and some good management we could get to the final. I think a lot could depend on Beckham, fully fit for a change at a major tournament and it is his last. Maybe he wants it bad enough to take the team with him?
It’s time to cross fingers, touch wood and imagine that we can influence the outcome. Less than fortnight until we’ll be screaming at the televison in delight, exhortation, despair and anger, often all at once. I can’t wait!