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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
If you happen to be in possession of a British passport and you're in Berlin tonight, it might be worth taking your football boots with you. Given the speed at which England's stars are dropping out of contention, you'll probably get a game.

Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole and Steven Gerrard are all out with injuries, so the side that takes the field in Berlin will be very different from Fabio Capello's ideal selection. It rather begs the question, why are England even bothering?

International friendlies used to be something to look forward to until Sven Goran Eriksson came along and ruined them. The nadir of his reign, according to some, wasn't defeat to Portugal or Brazil in those quarter-finals, it was a cold night at Upton Park when he made eleven substitutions and was beaten by Australia. The sight of the captain's armband being handed round from pillar to post was too much for some fans to take.

But the initial signs from the Fabio Capello regime have been encouraging. The Italian manager reportedly demanded that the FA arranged games that would challenge his team, hence this test and the forthcoming clash against Spain. Capello is a man who knows that winning is a habit that comes more naturally if you beat the best, and he may also reflect on the fact that defeat isn't nearly as humiliating when it comes at the hands of a worthy adversary. What's to be gained with a friendly against Austria or Greece?

There are also some promising players to be examined at a higher level. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young, Aston Villa's quicksilver forwards, now have a chance to shine against Europe's top grade defenders. Michael Carrick, no spring chicken, gets to show off how much he has developed since moving to Old Trafford. Most intriguingly of all, Capello has selected the Chelsea reserve defender Michael Mancienne, a star of the U21's, but someone who has never made a Premier League start. It is only a shame that Joe Hart, the impressive Manchester City goalkeeper, is another to miss out through injury. It would have been interesting to see how he fared.

Despite his hugely impressive start at the helm of the national team, Capello's work here has only just begun. He wants to set down a foundation for the future and make sure that the players outside the central core know and understand what he is about. His discipline and his ideas have already transformed the senior players and you never know when a selection of expensively maintained metatarsals are going to snap like twigs in the autumn. It's better to bring in someone who has been blooded than hurling a rookie into the fray.

With the amount of key players out on both sides, this won't be one for the sponsors, but if you want to get an idea of where England are going and who's hitching along for the ride, this match will be a clear indication. Practice, experience and momentum. That's why England, even with out Gerrard and Lampard, are bothering.
 
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