England’s upcoming home friendly with 2010 Africa Cup of Nations winners Egypt on Wednesday looks on paper to be a great opportunity to try new ideas and test fringe players – yet, the squad just announced includes only one player being called up for the first time.
Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, a player who has been linked with Liverpool, received the call from Fabio Capello, despite his involvement in the horrific injury sustained by young Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey this afternoon. He is reported to have left the Britannia Stadium in tears after his 50-50 challenge resulted in the Welsh central midfielder’s foot hanging off his leg. Highly rated as Shawcross is, this incident should not detract from his displays this season, which saw Stoke go unbeaten this year until the 1-3 defeat at the hands of the Gunners. It is to be hoped that he is not too shaken to make the most of the opportunity handed to him by the England manager, though the best he can hope for is a substitute appearance.
Elsewhere in defence, Captain Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole miss out through injury, whilst Manchester City left-back Wayne Bridge has declared himself unavailable for off-the-pitch reasons. Squad player Gary Cahill is recovering from a blood clot problem and Everton’s Phil Jagielka is just returning from a serious knee injury. This leaves Joleon Lescott, West Ham’s Matthew Upson and former captain John Terry competing with Shawcross for the two centre-back berths. Wes Brown of Manchester United is the only right back in the squad, with either Everton’s Leighton Baines or Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock having to step into Cole’s boots.
In goal, Ben Foster is dropped completely from the squad and troubled Portsmouth’s David James is recalled. He is joined by Robert Green and Birmingham City’s Joe Hart (on loan from Man City), who after solid displays for the Blues should really be involved at some stage.
As ever England are spoilt for choice with options on the right side of midfield. David Beckham and Theo Walcott return and find themselves competing with the versatile James Milner and Shaun Wright-Phillips. I am not entirely convinced SWP would be in the squad were Aaron Lennon of Tottenham Hotspur fit. Milner might also be deployed on the left. On the other side Stewart Downing is named for the first time since recovering from the foot injury which saw him miss six months last year, with Villa team mate Ashley Young dropped and there still being no place for Chelsea’s Joe Cole.
In the middle of the park, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard return, but the Liverpool skipper may start from the left-hand side as it has been a favourite tactic of Capello’s. They are joined by the less-attacking duo of Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick. Spurs pair Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone miss out, which is particularly hard on the latter as I felt his debut substitute performance against Brazil last time out was solid.
Up front, Sunderland’s Darren Bent and Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor are not one of the five strikers selected. Neither is the in-form Fulham frontman Bobby Zamora, whom I feel should really have been selected even if he wasn’t going to feature. Wayne Rooney should be partnered in attack by Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch or Carlton Cole. Jermain Defoe completes the England strike force.
As for the opposition, the champions of Africa welcome back Mohamed Aboutrika after injury. Former Sheffield United player Ahmed Fathy will play in the back five. Ex-Spurs and Derby midfielder Hossam Ghaly should join national team captain Ahmed Hassan and Aboutrika in the midfield three. Up front you would expect two from Hull City striker Amr Zaki, Emad Motaeb and Borussia Dortmund’s Mohamed Zidan to play, though Geddo, the African Cup of Nations top scorer earlier this year, may have done enough to be promoted from an impact sub.
England XI I would select to start vs. Egypt:
Hart, Brown, Terry, Upson, Baines, Milner, Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Rooney, Carlton Cole
England XI I think will start:
Hart, Brown, Terry, Upson, Baines, Walcott, Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Rooney, Heskey
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