D-day for Capello’s World Cup masterplan

LONDON - Fabio Capello will discover on Monday whether he has to rip up his World Cup master plan and go back to square one in his quest to deliver England’s first major trophy in 44 years.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 23 May 2010, 12:40 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:27 AM

Ever since he took charge of an England squad that had its self-belief stripped away by its failure to reach the finals of Euro 2008, the Italian’s rebuilding work has been founded on the solid, unflashy attributes of Gareth Barry.

The Manchester City midfielder has started 19 of the 22 matches England have played under Capello, who sets great store by the 29-year-old’s ability to break up opponent’s attacks and lay the foundations for his side to respond.

But with the World Cup less than three weeks away, the day of England’s penultimate warm-up match, against Mexico at Wembley, will find Barry visiting an orthapaedic surgeon desperately hoping to learn that his damaged ankle ligaments have healed sufficiently for him to be included in Capello’s final 23-man squad for South Africa.

Barry suffered the injury playing for City in a defeat by Tottenham which cost his club their chance of playing in next season’s Champions League.

At the time, the prognosis was that he would have little chance of being fit in time to start England’s opening match, against the United States in Rustenburg on June 12.

That appears to still be the case but Barry, who has been sleeping in an oxygen tent in a bid to accelerate the recovery process, will hope Capello can be reassured he is on track to perhaps feature on the bench in that match and that would probably be enough to persuade the Italian to put him in the squad.

Barry’s public pronouncements on the subject have been optimistic in tone but tinged with realism about the delicate nature of ankle ligaments.

“I’m hopeful I’ll get the all-clear, even though I’ll be crossing my fingers,” he said.

The injury ensured Barry was forced to stay in Manchester while the rest of England’s provisional 30-man squad travelled to the Austrian Alps for a training camp designed to help acclimatise them for a tournament in which many matches will be played at altitude.

Capello can only use 17 players in Monday night’s friendly, so it is expected that individuals who were involved in the May 15 FA Cup final — Chelsea trio Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry and Portsmouth goalkeeper David James — will be left in Austria to continue their fitness work.

The absence of Cole will enable the Italian to have a look at either or both Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock at left-back, one of whom is likely to be left at home when the squad is reduced to 23 on June 1.

More significantly, Capello will have to offer a demonstration of how he is thinking about replacing Barry.

One option could be to do a straight swap by slotting James Milner into the anchor role, the Aston Villa player having operated successfully in central midfield for much of this season, albeit in a slightly more attacking role.

Capello has also given much thought to the possibility of playing with three central defenders, a system he successfully used during his time in charge of Roma and which may have been a factor in his decision to call up both Ledley King, who has never played for England under the Italian, and Jamie Carragher, whom he had to persuade to come out of international retirement.

Carragher looks certain to feature on Monday, either in Barry’s slot or at right-back, where Glen Johnson is currently Capello’s first choice.

Carragher has admitted he was flattered that a coach of Capello’s standing should seek to talk him into reversing his decision to stop playing for his country, although his Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard also played a role in winning him over.

“It was disappointing for me personally when he stepped out of the squad because he’s a good friend and also because he’s a good player,” Gerrard said.

“Thankfully now he’s changed his mind and as a player looking forward to the World Cup and the squad being named you want the best players available.”

Recent criticism of the Wembley surface has exacerbated concerns that some of England’s key players could be risking injury in the match against the Mexicans, but Capello insists he did not consider leaving out his single most important asset, Wayne Rooney.

“I cannot wrap some players in cotton wool,” he said. “It is important now for me to see the real physical condition of as many of the players as possible.”

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