First though let's go back to the World Cup and a quick quiz. What do the following countries all have in common? Uruguay, Hungary, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Greece, Andorra, Macedonia, Estonia, Austria, Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Egypt and Mexico. And the second part of the question is what do these countries also have in common. Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Russia and France.
The first group are all the countries that Peter Crouch has scored a goal against in international football. Not a top quality team in the bunch (the Uruguay game being in 2006). The second group of countries are the world class teams that Crouch has played against without scoring a goal.
In boxing the saying goes styles make fights. So it goes in football where the best team isn't necessarily made up of the best 11 players that you can find. Rather you find players that work together best as a team. In certain circumstances players have specific attributes that make them better against opposing players and/or teams. This is the case with Crouch. He is not, nor will he ever be a world class striker. The Spurs forward is a quality Premier League striker who happens, because of his height, to cause significant match up problems for teams that are not in the World's elite.
Crouch should have been on the field for the kick off against Algeria and Slovenia. There's absolutely no excuse for Heskey to start in those games. England should have waltzed into the World Cup Semi finals. That they did not seems specifically down to the poor team selection of Capello.
We move forward to the squad selection for the Hungary game. Goalkeeper Paul Robinson and full back Wes Brown announced their international retirements after the squad was selected. From this vantage point a not so subtle 'up yours' from two players who were not taken to South Africa. Really though, what did you expect? Joe Hart and Glen Johnson have taken over the respective roles in the England team so the selection of Robinson and Brown was making up the numbers rather than an opportunity to reclaim their starting roles in the team.
However the most striking part of the England squad was the complete omission of Joe Cole from the squad. Cole is the player the England manager should be building around for Brazil in 2014. The 4-4-2 formation is dead internationally against quality opponents. Its time may return, these things go in cycles, but for now 4-2-3-1 should be the England formation.
Joe Cole, from all reports I've seen, prefers the central attacking role behind the striker. After years of being played out of position new Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson sticks the former Chelsea player into that central role against Rabotnicki in the Europa League and Cole turns in a man of the match performance. Certainly the quality of the opposition was not great, however the play of Cole and not coincidentally the much more focused play of Gerrard as part of the engine room "2" in front of the defense, should scare to death any City fan that watched that game.
It has been proven on a consistent basis that Lampard and Gerrard can not reproduce their club form when paired together at the international level. They are, essentially, the same player and you can play one and not the other. Here is the solution that should have been staring Capello in the face. Either Gerrard or Lampard partners Barry in the DMC role and Cole takes the AMC playing behind Rooney. This allows two outside players. Adam Johnson appears to have found a home in one of those positions (giving City three starters in the England team!) and depending on the circumstances Walcott, SWP, Lennon or Beckham has the other.
Which brings us to David Beckham. There's a natural tendency for City fans to be negative to Beckham given his United connections. Personally I think Beckham gets a raw deal. As kids we all wanted to captain England and marry a pop star. Beckham went ahead and did it; he's living everyone else's dream and I think there's a lot of petty jealousy. Name the last time Beckham didn't give 100% for England? Exactly... so as long as he does that, I'm a Beckham fan.
I'm also on record as saying that England lost all chance of winning the World Cup the day he was injured and I stand by that. Beckham is the only quality dead ball kicker that England have. It's a lost art in the English squad and you need such a player.
Apparently Capello thinks not saying after the game;
"David is a fantastic player, he was really important, but we have to see the new players for the future because the age is important for a lot of people, not only for David.
"Did I phone him before I went on television? No. I think I will speak with him. We tried to speak with him. But I think David knows he has no future with the international team because we have to change.
Utterly mind numbingly off the scale stupid. There are three minutes left in the game, England trail by a goal and need to score to take the game to extra time. Rooney is fouled 25 yards out, slightly to the left of the centre of the box. Name any English player that you would want to take that free kick other than Beckham in this scenario? You can't, because there isn't one. Until that changes Beckham has a place in any England squad. No, I wouldn't start him, give youth a chance with Walcott or Lennon, but Beckham has to be in the squad and available on the bench.
Moreover the way this was handled is pathetic. If Capello couldn't reach Beckham to inform him that he was going to make such comments then the England manager should have kept quiet until he did.
Enough. Capello has shown conclusively that he has neither the team formation, squad selection or man management skills to warrant any further involvement in the England set up. This is an England team that will continue to flatter in the qualifying stages and yet fall at the first serious hurdle in any competition as long as Fabio Capello remains in charge.
The worrying aspect for City is I see certain parallels between Capello and Mancini...