Walcott the surprise omission in Capello’s final squad
Fabio Capello announced his final 23-man World Cup squad on a frenetic afternoon yesterday as news of inclusions and exclusions gradually seeped through to the media.
Following the long-awaited official confirmation at 4pm it was the Italian manager’s decision to leave Theo Walcott out that was most surprising.
Walcott, 21, made headlines four years ago when Sven-GÃƒÂ¶ran Eriksson decided selected the rookie 17-year-old to the 2006 World Cup in Germany despite him not having played a single Premier League game.
This time, Capello’s decision to include Aaron Lennon and James Milner rendered Walcott’s role in the squad redundant, despite his sensational hat-trick in Zagreb during the qualifying stages. Walcott could have been a valuable member, especially considering the options he provides on the right wing and up front.
West Ham’s Scott Parker was also deemed surplus to requirements despite the 29-year-old having been inspirational for the Hammers last season.
Instead Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick will compete for the holding midfield role in Capello’s side. It is a slight gamble by the Italian manager with Barry returning from an ankle injury and Carrick having endured a below-par season at Old Trafford.
There were no real surprises amongst the other midfielders. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have been ever-present in central midfield while Aston Villa’s star asset, James Milner, earned the right to be part of the squad after an accomplished League campaign.
Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips will provide width for Capello’s side, but Manchester City’s Adam Johnson will not feature despite a strong end to the season. Johnson, who can play on the right and left wing, will no doubt become an important England member in future tournaments.
England’s attack, however, does look under-strength in comparison to the rival squads of the likes of Argentina, Holland and Spain.
Sunderland’s Darren Bent was not picked despite an impressive goal tally this season. Instead first-choice striker Wayne Rooney will be supported by Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe.
It is a line-up bereft of world class talent with the exception of Rooney who has been lethal for Manchester United. Should England’s prized possession suffer an injury scare, expect the usual waves of panic to sweep across the nation.
Crouch and Defoe are proven as an effective partnership in the Premier League however if England manage to progress from what should be a relatively straightforward group, it will be interesting to see how the Tottenham pair cope against some of the best defenders in the world.
There were no real surprises in defence with Ledley King and Jamie Carragher both making the cut despite prolonged absences from the international scene. Capello opted for Stephen Warnock as cover for Ashley Cole.
Leighton Baines’ performance against Mexico, which left doubts about his suitability for the role of second-choice left back, was clearly fresh in the mind of the Italian.