Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wayne Rooney: The Key Player for Fabio Capello as England Qualify for World Cup

It was going to take something special from the not-so-special Croats to deny England at Wembley tonight, but judging by this performance nothing was going to deny Fabio Capello's team a deserved place in South Africa next year.

England well and truly humbled the team ranked ninth in the world by FIFA, a 5-1 mauling sending a clear message to all who will travel to the World Cup in South Africa next summer that England are a team who could go far in the tournament.

Since Fabio Capello took over in December 2007, England have become a very different proposition from the teams that always failed to deliver under the previous two managers. Both Steve McLaren and Sven Goran-Erikson promised much but when push came to shove, for one reason or another, neither had the tools needed for one of the toughest jobs in football.

The wily old manager, Capello, has won every domestic trophy imaginable in a career that has lasted almost 20 years at the highest level in Italy, Spain, and now England.

He has always been recognised as a tactical manager, Italian's rarely do any other type, but he has been the first England manager that managed to find a place in his team for both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and for the duo to perform to their highest levels.

It has been tried many times before. The two most influential English midfielders of their generation were said to be too similar, they couldn't fit into the same team, and that one of them would have to make do with a place on the bench.

Capello's answer?

Play them both.

He has done it with some thought though.

Instead of playing them both in the centre where the team would suffer because of their attacking tendencies, Capello has opted to play Gerrard slightly to the left of his four in midfield.

Capello has a bag full of riches on the right side of midfield, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, David Beckham, Sean Wright-Philips, and James Milner, so playing Gerrard on the right would be folly/ On the left, there is really only Stewart Downing of anything even near international standard, so Capello has wisely moved Gerrard and kept the structure of his team intact elsewhere.

With Gerrard on the left, England now boast a midfield of incredible attacking power. Lampard is one of the best central midfielders in Europe, Lennon is a handful for any full back on his day, as are any of the other players mentioned. Gareth Barry is an excellent team player and Gerrard needs no introduction, anyone familiar with English football knows that the Liverpool player is synonymous with all that is good about the English game.

But the key to getting this midfield working perfectly is Wayne Rooney.

Gerrard is a natural central player and so he drifts in automatically when attacking and supporting. When he does this, Rooney automatically moves out to the left giving England a new shape.

When this happens, England change from a solid 4-4-2 to a fluid 4-5-1 that can be difficult to catch on the break. England win because Rooney is selfless and covers the gaps that Gerrard leaves. England wins again because they maximise the attacking threat that Gerrard undoubtedly possesses.

Rooney is on the verge of greatness. He is one of the most selfless players in world football and has an incredible footballing brain. So much so that for the last couple of seasons, his manager at Manchester United has consistently played him out of position to maximise the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo.

And now that the Portuguese has moved onto Real Madrid and pastures new, Rooney has reverted to his natural central roll that Fabio Capello has played him in for the last two years.

Rooney also possesses strength way beyond his size and a first touch and vision that Diego Maradona would be proud of. All he needs is to curb his anger and he could go on to become one of the greats.

With him as the pivotal figure in the team, England and Capello have recorded an impressive eight wins out of eight in this World Cup qualification program, scoring an astonishing 31 goals and conceding only four.

Capello's no nonsense approach has reaped dividends from players who previously thought themselves irreplaceable.

It is common knowledge that both Sven and McLaren regularly consulted with the players on how to approach games, whereas Capello consults players but tells them how to approach the matches.

This fear that he has installed in the senior players is another reason for England qualifying so impressively.

England have qualified with two games to go but Capello will not let his players rest on their laurels, and neither will their fans.

Two wins from the last two games are now demanded and the players performances will not be allowed to dip and enter party mode.

With qualification elsewhere not yet finalised, there is the distinct probability that some of the world's leading stars will not make it to South Africa.

Lionel Messi and Argentina are in all kinds of trouble in South America while Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have much to do if they are to even make the playoffs. If they do it, it will be at the expense of Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

With such stars possibly absent from the world's biggest stage, it would seem somewhat of an ironic twist that just as many of the world's leading players are turning down moves to the Premier League because of tax reasons that the spotlight could fall upon the EPL's biggest stars as they lead England into battle for a tournament that they will undoubtedly be one of the favourites for.

In Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, John Terry, and Steven Gerrard, they have four of the best players in the world. A solid spine that only needs a really good 'keeper to make it a formidable team.

South Africa beckons.

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