HAVE YOUR SAY: Who should Fabio Capello take to South Africa?

Reporter:

Nick Harrison

YOU only had to take one look at the goal he scored in last week’s win over Mexico to know that Peter Crouch has the Midas touch for England.

It was his 21st goal in 38 games for his country. He was offside; he even used his arm to push it over the line but still the goal stood. If Peter Crouch is not the lucky omen England need to spearhead their World Cup campaign, then who is.

Call him lucky, lanky Crouch - the tallest man ever to play for England - has the best goalscoring record of all the current crop in Fabio Capello’s striker department.

The stats add up for Crouch in terms of goals - he was England’s leading scorer in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign and in 2007 only Kaka was in front of him in the Champions’ League goalscoring stakes.

The only downer for big man Crouch is that England don’t play very well when he’s in the starting line-up.

Wayne Rooney’s body language showed on Monday that he’s not exactly at home playing with Crouch and much prefers the option of being up front on his own, knowing the marauding Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are there to back him up.

That will probably be the route Fabio Capello will take, just to accommodate the threat that both Gerrard and Lampard pose from midfield.

Gerrard looked fresh against Mexico. Many Liverpool fans would tell you that is because he’s hardly bust a gut with his club side this season.

But Gerrard is class and has to be one of the first names on the team-sheet after Rooney with Lampard also a certainty to make Capello’s starting XI for the opener against the USA on June 12.

If Capello does opt for Rooney on his own, then Aaron Lennon could be let loose down the left with the ever-dependable Joe Cole operating down the left.

That leaves a hole in holding role in front of the back four and Michael Carrick did himself no favours with a poor display against Mexico. James Milner wasn’t much better and he looks burnt out after a superb season with Aston Villa.

The extra burden of moneybags Manchester City upping his value with every kick will also add pressure to his game. That is why Spurs’ pair Tom Huddlestone and Ledley King may be looked upon as potential replacements in that key role.

That’s exactly why Capello tried to persuade Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes to come out of international retirement.

"We tried to convince him to return but he said no, he'd prefer to stay with his family," was not the answer Capello wanted.

Behind them, Chelsea’s John Terry and Ashley Cole have no worries whatsoever. Rio Ferdinand - the man who replaced Terry as the Three Lions’ leader - should be looking over his shoulder.

Dogged by injury this season, Ferdinand strayed out of position more than his predecessor did against Mexico. Yet so did King, who looked ever so slow against what was a third-rate international strike force.

Maybe that’s why Jamie Carragher received the call from international rescue. He can operate at centre back or at right back where is club colleague Glen Johnson has failed to convince anyone that he’s a genuine right back.

His goal against Mexico was world class. But could you really have the luxury of Johnson and Lennon on one side of the pitch?

The only consolation is that David Beckham is not there to slow the pace down. Beckham has been one of the world’s best ever footballers but England will be a better team without him in South Africa. His absence will give Lampard and Gerrard the chance to click.

The final position - the number one position - has always been a dilemma for England. Robert Green made two crucial saves against Mexico but Joe Hart was so assured; just like he’s been all season for Birmingham City.

Both Green and Hart will definitely be on the plane to South Africa but who will miss out in Fabio’s final 23?

As for the bit part players, Theo Walcott is a 20-minute-must. On the other flank Adam Johnson did enough in eight minutes against Mexico to prove that he could slip into the left-sided role if Joe Cole, does as he normally does - gets injured.

So here’s the squad I would take to the finals.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham).

Defenders: Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa).

Midfielders: Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Theo Walcott (Arsenal).

Forwards: Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

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