England coach Fabio Capello has bowed to the pressure and agreed to name his side early before the must-win World Cup clash with Slovenia on Wednesday – and he has already confirmed West Ham’s Matthew Upson will replace Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher at centre-back.
Capello has also slammed former captain John Terry for his comments at a press conference on Sunday. The Generalissimo, reasserting his authority in an increasingly tense camp, said: "When you speak, you have to speak privately. This is a big mistake - you have to speak with me and the players."
With Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand ruled out just before the tournament and Tottenham’s Ledley King injured in the opening Group C clash against the USA, Capello has little choice other than Spurs Michael Dawson, who arrived as a late replacement for Ferdinand.
Carragher, who reversed his international retirement to be here, was booked after coming on during the 1-1 draw against the US and picked up a second booking in the awful 0-0 draw against Algeria in Cape Town on Friday.
His suspension left Capello confirming: "Upson will play because he always played with John Terry and I probably will change some others."
Capello has come under pressure from the media and players – notably former captain Terry – over his decision not to name his side until two hours before kick-off in South Africa. Curiously though, the Daily Mail found out 24 hours before the Algeria game that Portsmouth veteran David “Calamity” James was to take over from West Ham’s Robert “Phokeng” Green in goal.
That suggests the players have always known the team some time before kick-off – and it was just a matter of plugging the leaks.
Capello, who has been unusually animated on the sideline throughout, could be seen to have bowed to the pressure after Terry spoke of “arguments” in the camp on Sunday. The Italian has also spoken of the “pressures” of this World Cup, and fears he has “wasted two years” of preparation.
Capello’s mood won’t be helped by former England full-back Paul Parker coming out in support of Dawson rather than Upson, who struggled with the Hammers in the relegation fight last season. Parker said: "God knows why Dawson wasn't in the original squad - but he should replace Carra against Slovenia without a shadow of doubt.
"Michael Dawson was playing well for his club at the end of the season yet he picked (Matthew) Upson, who just hasn't been playing well."
Critics are also calling for the end of Frank Lampard’s ragged World Cup campaign. Though he scores 20 goals a season for Chelsea, he struggles to make an impact next to Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard for the Three Lions. Others argue Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry, rushed back into the side after injury, is still not 100 percent.
Alternatives include James Milner, give just 32 minutes to prove his worth against the US, Michael Carrick, the Manchester United central midfielder who likes to sit deep and spray it around, or Chelsea’s Joe Cole, curiously over-looked on the left throughout this tournament.
Neal Collins is in South Africa to promote his first novel A GAME APART. For more details see www.nealcollins.co.uk .
He is also appearing at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown next month. For tickets, see http://www.computicket.com/web/event/neal_collins_a_game_apart/148367625