England were beaten 1-0 by Brazil in Qatar on Saturday with many critics and fans laying into the team claiming they are not good enough to compete against the top sides in the world.
Let's get one thing straight and that is England put out a second string side, in fact more like a 3rd/4th string side against a top side in Brazil who played their strongest side bar Robinho.
Fabio Capello was missing men all over the park and you can debate whether the injuries sustained by many of his key men were enough to keep them out of the tie but this played a huge role in the defeat.
International friendlies mid season are always a hot topic, with club managers seeing them as pointless and certain players withdrawing through precarious injuries.
From back to front we were missing quality. Ben Foster took up his place in goal and his form has been criticised by many this year which I find harsh but understandable. Wes Brown who is so reliable for Manchester United looked shaky throughout and it was his fault for the penalty which forced Foster into fouling Nilmar. Brown was lucky that Luis Fabiano blasted his penalty over the bar.
As for the centre of the defence, Matthew Upson who has played a key part in England’s qualifying campaign in the absence of Rio Ferdinand, started poorly and found it hard to keep up with the pace of the lively Nilmar who was a threat all game and capped it with a fine header although unmarked.
Wayne Bridge can just count himself lucky that England are not blessed with natural left backs as he would be much further down the pecking order. Against Burnley last week he was all over the place and it surprised me that Capello decided to play him in what was an experimental side which could have seen young Arsenal left back Kieron Gibbs play instead.
In midfield, Gareth Barry was the most senior player on show and he partnered Jermaine Jenas who was making a rare start in the centre of midfield. Shaun Wright Phillips took his place out wide on the right and the improving James Milner started on the left. In my opinion, Milner played brilliantly and he was my pick for man of the match, not just for his technical ability but for his hard work and endeavour in what some regarded as a silly game.
Darren Bent stepped in for the injured Emile Heskey and he can take great confidence in the fact that he started ahead of Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe. He played alongside stand in Captain Wayne Rooney who played his usual role in the side and that is dropping deep and retrieving the ball, but away from home and against Brazil, it did not quite workout.
He was frustrated throughout which is understandable, but he needs to have more faith in his teammates and expect them to provide him with the ball. By doing this, England reverted back to a 4-5-1 leaving Darren Bent isolated up front and he was eventually replaced by Defoe.
Going back to what I said at the beginning of the article, we should not be disheartened by this defeat as I have shown we were not at full strength. Here’s the list of absentees: David James, Glen Johnson, John Terry (Captain), Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Theo Walcott, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Aaron Lennon and Emile Heskey.
I don’t know if you counted or not but that is TWELVE players missing from England’s team, the majority of which would have started in Qatar. So for Brazil manager Dunga to come out and say England looked flat and uninventive was a tad harsh and I hope we meet Brazil in the World Cup next year and show them how far we have come under Capello.
As with every defeat, you want to take as many positives as you can from the defeat and there were some. I thought Foster played a lot better, more controlling and confident coming for the ball, except the penalty but that was not his fault.
As I said earlier, James Milner was the real highlight of the game and he has given Capello a real selection headache ahead of naming his squad next year. Even though he started on the left, I still feel he would be more effective on the right but at least this shows his versatility.
He will be competing with Aston Villa teammates Ashley Young and Stewart Downing on the left and also Chelsea winger Joe Cole, who is getting back to his best after recovering from his lengthy injury.
In attack, I would still stick with Rooney and Heskey and I do not care about the fact he is not playing much at Villa. He fits into our side perfectly and we rely on him to hold the ball and he allows Rooney the freedom he needs.
I honestly think Defoe and Bent will fade out and their form has only been temporary as is shown with Defoe who hasn’t found the net in ages. Michael Owen will be at the finals without a doubt as Capello knows the importance of having a proven, clinical finisher in games, as huge as they are in the World Cup finals.
I have a good idea of who I would take to the finals next year but it is still far too early to know who’s going to be fully fit for the finals.
I believe in taking the side that got you there and i expect Capello to do this too. As for back up, This is open to whoever impresses over the next year and can be played as a plan B or C.
This would be my squad.
Goalkeepers: James, Green, Foster
Defenders: Johnson, Brown, Terry (Captain), Ferdinand, Upson, Lescott, A. Cole, Gibbs,
Midfielders: Gerrard, Lampard, Walcott, Barry, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole, Milner
Attackers: Rooney, Heskey, Owen, Crouch
Standby: Kirkland, Bridge, King, Carrick, Hargreaves, A. Young, Downing, Defoe, Cole