Very rarely does a team win the World Cup without a top quality striker leading the line. Luca Toni filled the role for the Italians in Germany four years ago, while Ronaldo completed a sensational comeback from oblivion by bagging the coveted ‘Golden Shoe’ award for his seven goals in 2002.
In Wayne Rooney, England can feel safe in having a genuinely world class striker at their disposal, injury permitting (touch wood).
But, behind Rooney, things don’t look so rosy. Fabio Capello’s provisional squad for the tournament includes Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, and Darren Bent. Those four will play it out over the next ten days or so for what will probably be three places in the final 23-man squad.
That may sound very X-Factor-like, but the truth is far from it. Capello is likely to opt for the ‘two big, two little’ choice for his World Cup strikers. That means that Peter Crouch’s place is quite secure, as is Heskey’s, much to the irritation of many England fans after his uninspiring performances for Aston Villa this season.
So the race for a place in the striker department comes down to two choices — will it be Darren Bent or Jermain Defoe?
Historically, Defoe has been preferred by England managers and has 39 caps to his name. He has scored 11 goals in those matches, which is a decent return at international level for a player who has made most of his appearances from the substitutes bench. He has also been in good form this season, with 18 goals from 34 league matches, with his movement and ferocious finishing worrying defences up and down the country.
Bent has had to deal with one of the biggest footballing injustices in modern times. Despite his impressive domestic form, he has been previously overlooked by England managers who were apprehensive about his lack of experience on the big stage. But by being named in the provisional squad, Bent has a chance to prove what he hasn’t really had a chance to do — that he can cut it at the top level.
England play Mexico on May 24th and Japan on May 30th before Capello decides his final squad. But he is likely to stick with what he knows and give Jermain Defoe the nod — unless Bent can replicate his Sunderland form in the warm up games.
The Linc would take Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, and Jermain Defoe to the World Cup. Do you agree?Tweet