There’s no doubt that Englands recent 5-1 thrashing of Croatia was a team effort, overseen by a manager who prides himself on creating a strong team ethic at all of his clubs. However there were a few players who stood out, and a few players who will be sweating on their position before England’s next game.
Robert Green: 7. Had a relatively quiet game but was called into action for Croatia’s (somewhat fortunate) goal. He made two fantastic reflex saves before Eduardo finally beat him with a coolly taken rebound. England have a few good goalkeepers but I find it hard to see Capello playing anyone other than Green in the next few games. I don’t think Ben Foster has yet proven himself to be better and, in my opinion, a David James recall would be a step back for the England team.
John Terry: 7. A solid, if unspectacular performance. There’s no doubt John Terry is an extremally capable defender, but he’ll need to keep his concentration and help the defenders around him to keep theirs; England still look likely to commit some stupid defensive errors, as proved when a Terry played a simple pass to Johnson and the latter missed the ball, giving the visitors a throw-in in a dangerous position.
Matthew Upson: 6. A solid replacement for Rio, but if the Manchester United captain is fit for South Africa Upson will probably have to settle for a place on the bench. Upson played well and benefited from playing alongside John Terry, but could struggle against a stronger team with a better attack.
Ashley Cole: 7. Got forward well and defended capably. In the past there have been a few question marks about his defensive play and positioning but Cole is looking more assured in the number 3 shirt and, barring injury, will certainly be playing in South Africa.
Glen Johnson: 6. The Liverpool right back is a fantastic attacker and has scored a couple of good goals for Liverpool this season, but he is still a weak link in the English defence. Hopefully he’ll improve playing week in, week out for a Champions League side but the player could face competition from Micah Richards if the Man City player regains the form he first displayed in a blue shirt.
Gareth Barry: 7. I’m hoping Barry will become a permanent figure in the English midfield. His presence allows Lampard a more attacking role which the Chelsea man revelled in against Croatia. Barry’s passing was also very good, and I think he is better in the centre than Steven Gerrard, when played alongside Lampard.
Frank Lampard: 8. A fantastic penalty, a great header and a brilliant midfield performance. Lampard was allowed to get forward more with Barry doing the defensive stuff and he was superb when attacking. Could have had a hat-trick with an audacious freekick if it had not been for a very good save from the Croatia goalkeeper.
Steven Gerrard: 8. Started out on the left, a position which is usually filled by Joe Cole when fit. However, if Gerrard keeps playing like this out on the wing, I find it hard to see Cole regaining the number 11 shirt. Gerrards crossing was exemplary and he scored two good goals.
Aaron Lennon: 9.5. Almost perfect. I know a number of people want to see Theo Walcott get the right wing spot when he returns from injury, but I’ll be very surprised if Lennon doesn’t start the next England match. He terrorised the Croatain defence with his running and his pace helped him beat his marker every time. He won a penalty and created the second with a wonderful cross, as good as any David Beckham ball. My man of the match.
Emile Heskey: 6. I’ve never really rated Heskey. I think England look more dangerous when Capello plays a more predatory goalscorer alongside Rooney, and Heskey missed a couple of simple chances in this match. That said he gave the Croatia defence a few problems and he does win a lot of long balls. It will be interesting to see whether he regains his place against Ukraine.
Wayne Rooney: 7. Not one of the strikers best games. We didn’t see any of his blistering runs or stinging long range efforts, but I suppose everyone is entitled to an off day. He is so very important to Englands world cup chances- England look much more dangerous when he is in full on snarling mode. He still managed to get himself on the scoresheet though, gifted a goal by a charitable pass from the Croatia ‘keeper Vedran Runje.
David Beckham: 7. Reminded the England fans just why he is considered as one of the greatest ever passers of the ball. He has definitely lost a great deal of pace but I think Capello should name him in the squad for the kind of role he played in this game; coming off the bench, slowing things down and picking out players with some superb cross-field play.
James Milner: 6. Didn’t have a great deal of time to stake a claim for a regular starting place but I doubt he will make it into the England starting X1 anytime soon.
Jermain Defoe: 6. Once again he came off the bench to replace Heskey, only this time he didn’t find the net. Had very few chances and didn’t get the breaks he got against Slovenia.
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