With Premier League action taking a break this weekend, it’s back to the international fixtures and more specifically, England against Kazakhstan at Wembley. Fabio Capello’s side are looking to maintain the 100% record that they have achieved so far in their World Cup qualification process. On Saturday, they take on a side ranked 131st in the world and, let’s be honest, all football odds virtually guarantee England victory.
So, with the victory seemingly not in doubt, the bigger questions surround which team Capello will pick to face the footballing minnows of Kazakhstan. Now, after the fantastic team performance in Croatia, many people will suggest that the team remains the same. However, for one reason or another, this may not be the case.
First of all, there are the inevitable injuries. Of the team that started in Croatia, Joe Cole has already been ruled out, while John Terry and Emile Heskey are injury doubts. The latter should be fit though if reports are to be believed.
The second reason the team might change, in my opinion, is the excellent form of Shaun Wright-Phillips. Since moving back to Manchester City, Wright-Phillips has arguably been playing the best football of his career. The 27-year-old has caused no end of problems for the defenders he has come up against this year, and has already netted four times. Most significantly though, he appears to have a renewed hunger for the game – a new enthusiasm. This was something he lost slightly at Chelsea, but now he is back to his best, I am certain he will want to add to his 19 international caps.
Wright-Phillips, of course, has been operating on the right wing for Mark Hughes’ side and the man in possession of this position for England right now is Theo Walcott. Therefore, there must be a distinct possibility that Wright-Phillips is putting the youngster under pressure for his place. Don’t get me wrong, Walcott is the future of English football and was superb last time out for his country. However, since that fixture, I would say that Wright-Phillips has out-performed him for their respective clubs. Should this warrant a starting berth for the former Chelsea man?
I would be surprised is Walcott was left out, but it is certainly be something to think about. I just wanted to point out Wright-Phillips’ excellent form more than anything else. He really is a gem of a player and he hasn’t played nearly enough for his country. Hopefully this latest resurgence will be the start of a more productive international career for him.
Ironically, there is a very significant chance that both Walcott and Wright-Phillips will line up against Kazakhstan. Walcott’s performance in Croatia should be enough to see him retain his place and Wright-Phillips could replace the injured Joe Cole on the left-hand side of midfield. This certainly gives England a significant threat from both sides doesn’t it?
Then, with there being no particular need for a ‘holding midfielder’ against such opposition at home, Capello is set to replace Gareth Barry with the returning Steven Gerrard. Considering the ‘front six’ for England will then comprise of Walcott, Gerrard, Lampard, Wright-Phillips, Heskey and Wayne Rooney, I think I might place a football bet on England breaking the 5-0 barrier, hopefully with Wright-Phillips adding to his four international goals.