Problems persist for England following final warm-up

Sunday’s friendly match against Japan, England’s last before the start of the World Cup, doesn’t make manager Fabio Capello’s task of trimming his squad any easier

Theo Walcott did little to justify his inclusion in the 23-man World Cup squad against Japan. attilafozo via Flickr Creative Commons

Theo Walcott did little to justify his inclusion in the 23-man World Cup squad against Japan. attilafozo via Flickr Creative Commons

Two own goals from Japan’s centre halves saw England win their second warm-up friendly for the World Cup in a week. The far eastern nation, who also qualified for the tournament, took the lead in the first ten minutes, undoing Fabio Capello’s side from a corner. Brazilian-born centre back Tulio found a gap through the crowd to beat David James at his near post. The Italian responded to England’s well below par performance at half-time, making five of his six permitted substitutions. James was replaced by Joe Hart who made a number of saves during his 45 minutes on the pitch. Darren Bent and Theo Walcott also made way at the break, with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole coming on. The Chelsea midfielder got the assist for the England equaliser when, with a quarter of the game remaining, he found himself in space down the right and his cross was headed into the Japanese net by Tulio. In the last ten minutes Ashley Cole’s left-wing cross was met by the sliding foot of Yuji Nakazawa, who placed it beyond Eiji Kawashima for the second own goal. Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher also got to play from the break, on for Glen Johnson and Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone.

England in truth deserved nothing from the game. Shots on target included a Frank Lampard free-kick from distance in the first-half and a poor penalty by his high standards saved by the keeper just before the hour mark, a Gerrard effort after the break and a brace of opportunities for Wayne Rooney, the first from long range and the second a sublime strike from the corner of the box which brought the best out of Kawashima. The spot kick was awarded for a blatant handball by Keisuke Honda from a free-kick. Capello had handed Huddlestone his first start, with Bent, David James and Aaron Lennon also in the XI besides the returning captain Rio Ferdinand and Chelsea trio John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. Japan were without former Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura who had been ruled out with an ankle injury and fielded a largely domestic-based side, but former West Brom midfielder Junichi Inamoto, Wolfsburg’s Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda of CSKA Moscow all started.

The English wide men with the exception of the two Coles played very poorly today. Theo Walcott barely figured and when on the ball he continued to take poor touches, whilst the experiment of Aaron Lennon on the left failed, with him cutting inside to no effect. Wright-Phillips did little to stake his claim for making the 23 man squad to be announced by Tuesday. These performances, combined with Joe Cole’s assist may mean he has played his way into contention and could well be joined by Adam Johnson, who was not involved today but looked bright from the bench against Mexico on Monday. James Milner is a certainty to be on the plane, down to versatility if nothing else. Up front, Darren Bent did more to impress than Heskey, though the Villa frontman had a reasonable chance late on, a downward header well wide from Gerrard’s ball in. Sunderland’s 25-goal striker got very little service again, just as he did in the friendly against Brazil in Qatar at the end of last year, but perhaps should have done better with a header from a corner before the half hour mark.

Although today’s game was only a friendly, there was a real lack of urgency at times and possession was conceded an awful lot in the final third. Neither of this week’s two matches was a convincing England performance, especially when you consider they are the bookies’ third favourites to win the World Cup. Defensively Capello’s side looked shaky at times – Rio Ferdinand in particular – and the lack of protection on the flanks worries me. Japan on the other hand looked organised and though they did not exploit this weakness in wide areas they had some joy through the middle with lone striker Shinji Okazaki splitting our centre halves on more than one occasion. They looked difficult to break down and will pose a considerable problem for Group E opponents Cameroon, Denmark and the Netherlands. Nonetheless a win is still a win and the hallmark of a team that wins medals is a side that can play as England have and still achieve victories. Capello now has to lose seven players for Tuesday. He claimed this week he knew twenty of the squad he was going to take, perhaps today may cause him to have a rethink.


  1. It was an all-round poor performance from England today. Nobody has really stood out in either game and so Cappello will have to go on form over the season as well as previous England performances. My squad would be as follows:

    James, Hart, Green

    G Johnson, Carragher, Terry, Ferdinand, King, Dawson, A Cole, Baines

    Milner, Lennon, Gerrard, Lampard, Huddlestone, Barry (or Carrick depending on fitness), Johnson, J Cole

    Rooney, Crouch, Bent, Defoe

    I’m disappointed Dawson and Johnson haven’t been given a proper chance and am therefore doubtful about their inclusion, despite both having excellent seasons at club level.

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  2. 30 May ’10 at 7:18 pm

    Dave Hughes-Beddows

    Jamie, nice blog!! Looking forward to your insights into the tournament!
    Agreed, today was somewhat disappointing, but I have to agree with Sky Sports, where today could prove better in the long run. I would rather have seen an England side tested today like they were than gone out and won 6-0 against another Jamaica or Iceland!
    Also, I want to make a case for Joe Hart to be number 1. He probably wont due to lack of international experience, (I don’t see why that would be a problem against a side like Algeria or Slovenia), but I believe he has been the best English keep this season, (bar Steve Harper in the Championship – I’m a Newcastle fan!), and has yet to concede while wearing an England shirt, albeit from 3 second half substitute outings.
    For me, the 7 who will miss out are: Dawson, Warnock, Uspon, SWP, Carrick (if Barry is unfit) and Huddlestone.
    Looking forward to hearing the squad on Tuesday!
    Keep up the good work on the blog mate!

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  3. 30 May ’10 at 7:46 pm

    Sheffield Pele

    Trying to think of positives to come out of the two matches – decent goalkeeping performances by Green and Hart are about it. Johnson’s goal was cancelled out by some really shocking defending and distribution by him today.

    The really worrying thing is that no part of the team is playing at the level needed to get to the latter stages in SA. The defence has been shocking – Terry and Ferdinand especially – we have inconsistent wingers and a disjointed central midfield, and we still haven’t worked out the best strike partnership. All in all, it isn’t looking great. It’s dissappointing that Capello hasn’t followed through with his promise to pick players on form as opposed to reputation.

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  4. People mainly point to Joe Hart’s lack of experience as the reason he shouldn’t be England number 1 and to some extent they are right. McClaren made the mistake of throwing an uncapped Carson in the deep end against Croatia, backfiring massively. However I think getting 3 group games under his belt would make him suitably prepared for the knockout stages and out of the three keepers, he seems to be the most in form.

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  5. Can anyone write in anything other than cliches. Even being a rhetorical question the answer is no.

    ‘Nonetheless a win is still a win and the hallmark of a team that wins medals is a side that can play as England have and still achieve victories’ . When was the last time a team played consistently badly and one anything Mr Football blog man? Thats just a cliche that poor writers use in attempt to fill out a blog lacking in…well substance. You’ve started to make your sandwhich but have failed and eaten just bread. Where’s your sausage? Bring back the great british sausage.

    I’ve been wonderful, goodnight and god bless

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  6. 1 Jun ’10 at 11:40 am

    Philanthropic bystander

    one21 – does being named after a failed mobile network make you feel so inferior that you have to criticise everyone else!?

    Italy won the last world cup and i don’t recall them playing particularly well at any stage of the competition. Germany got to the final in 2002 playing some real dross as well.

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  7. I’m actually named after the age range you like your women, ‘bumstander’. Oh yes I did go that…sizzling.

    Italy didn’t play well? Well lets look at the facts…yes they make for an interesting read. In all seriouness though; their semi-final game against Germany was played with such intensity and passion that when Totti, quote-on-quote, ‘came on to the pitch’. Period. Furthermore you gelatinous parasitic tapeworm, if you dont remember the 17th June 2006 like I do, then you would have of (choose the right punctuation) forgotten that game v US was voted best game ever in the history of round ball games – Bar the 1812 final of ‘Put the ball in my hand’ contested between Henry IV and his father’s longstanding somewhat simple mistress, Katherine Swynford.

    Now I have forgotten what I was writing about so I will bid you farewell on the morrow.

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  8. 1 Jun ’10 at 4:29 pm

    Woden's hero

    @ one21
    Henry IV and Katherine Swynford lived in the 14th century (Swynford’s children taking the name Beaufort whose descendant Henry Tudor took the throne from Richard III at the greased pig ridding contest of 1485!), the 1812 final was between Marie Louise of France and Horatio Nelson (even though he had been dead for seven years). You must be a science student (Physics?) for that lack of simple historic knowledge and probably has such poor geographical nouse that you could not find your way around a football pitch!!
    I don’t think the english team that Capello has chosen will win the world cup mainly to

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  9. 1 Jun ’10 at 4:31 pm

    Woden's hero

    mainly due to heskey volenteering to drive the team bus then driving of a cliff in the drakensburg mountains. Spain to win after some dodgy refeering!

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  10. 1 Jun ’10 at 11:58 pm

    Charley Boorman

    Nice blog Jamie! My good friend and confidante Chorley Barman suggested i take a look and i’m impressed!

    I was recently passing through Santos, Brazil and stopped to have a chat with the local football coach Nobo (Edson da lima Gilberto Anderson Silva) and he informed me that there is no chance that England will win the world cup. Robinho has been in scintilating form and has been doing extra training with Brazilian legend Romario. Robinho has now perfected the technique of convincing people he has scored goals when really he hasn’t. Therefore Brazil will be able to comfortably outscore their opposition. Brazil will win at a canter.

    All the best


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