(UPDATED at bottom)
Ten days to kickoff, and Sven-Goran Eriksson is up to his strange ways. Just like in the case of Theo Walcott's inclusion into the squad (and Aaron Lennon, for that matter), never has Sven seemed so daring as now, when he is on the verge of leaving (with a pretty hefty offer on the table).
|Sven plays Who's Got the Bib?|
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher will be used as a defensive midfielder in Eriksson's tinkering for tonight's friendly against Hungary, and if history is an indication, into England's World Cup opener:
When the first-team bibs were handed out in training yesterday a surprised but appreciative Carragher learned that he had overtaken Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves in the running for the holding position that has become known as "the Claude Makelele role".
Carragher's instructions in training were to patrol the area in front of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, providing cover for England's defence while allowing more attack-minded midfielders such as David Beckham, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard the licence to break forward.
Up front, Steven Gerrard feeding Michael Owen, returning from a broken foot, supply the attack, Liverpool's Peter Crouch is on the sideline sitting next to midfielders Hargreaves and Carrick - and Walcott, I suspect, is very available. That ramblin', gamblin' Sven, he's so unpredictable.
But enough news and speculation. Here's today's Group D guess:
2 Mexico. All rise for the FIFA rankings. C'mon now. Stand up. Oh all right, forget it ...
3 Iran. Highlights of their friendly against Croatia - almost a great victory.
4 Angola. Just getting here is an accomplishment: "Yes, a lot of great footballers have been lost to our war. We cannot guess at how many or how good some former Angolan teams may have been."
England: Robinson; G Neville (Hargreaves 46), Ferdinand, Terry (Campbell 76), A Cole; Carragher, C-Beckham, Lampard, J Cole, Gerrard (Walcott 65), Owen (Crouch 65)
Some notes after watching it on the telly: Beckham in set pieces deadly for England, their first two goals coming with Gerrard then Terry running on to his free-kick deliveries and heading home. That's a recipe they'll go to again and again in Germany. Joe Cole was full of activity and enterprise, and Hargreaves looked far more comfortable in that defensive-MFer role than did Carragher, who moved to right back for the second half -- although it was Hargreaves who failed to close out on Hungary captain Dardai when he thumped a beautiful curving 30-yarder in for the visitors' only goal.
Other impressions: The much underrated Crouch exhibited a nimble turn and shot from right at the top of the 18-yard box for his goal. For a big guy he's always been light on his feet and he showed a lot more than Owen, who was almost invisible. As for Walcott, he came on to become England's youngest-ever international (17 years, 75 days) but squandered his only chance to make it really memorable, missing wide from a tight angle after a nice ball from Hargreaves. And oh yeah, forgot to mention this earlier: Lampard missed a penalty, at the end of the first half after the only real spot of pressure England managed for the opening 45 minutes.