Consistency in the selection of players is the key for England World Cup success, Sven-Goran Eriksson says…
It was the first time the Swede had dropped one of his major stars, Ferdinand paying the price for a lackadaisical display in last month’s defeat by Northern Ireland, an embarrassment which came hot on the heels of a shambolic display in a 4-1 friendly defeat by Denmark.
The Manchester United defender was out in the cold for only an hour however, an injury to Sol Campbell allowing him to reclaim his place alongside John Terry for the end of Saturday’s match, Wednesday’s final qualifier against Poland and, in all likelihood, next month’s friendly against Argentina in Geneva.
With the two-from-three dilemma over the centre-backs looking likely to be settled by Campbell’s recurring injury problems, Eriksson confirmed this week that his thinking about his best line-up had not been altered by recent setbacks.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen are automatic picks in attack, Paul Robinson has no serious opposition for the number one goalkeeper spot and Gary Neville and Ashley Cole will return to the full-back slots as soon as the injuries which ruled them out of the Poland match have healed.
All of which points to England starting the World Cup with the following 4-4-2 line-up: Paul Robinson, Gary Neville, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen.
It is a team-sheet that makes Owen believe that next summer will present him with his best chance yet of winning a major trophy.
At 26, Owen is on the countdown to his fifth appearance at a European Championship or World Cup finals, and his faith in the players who will travel to Germany alongside him has not been diminished by the recent dip in the team’s performances.
"Obviously we haven’t performed as well as we would like in the last couple of games but there is a great blend of talent in this squad," the Newcastle striker argued.
"We should be optimistic. When you get to a World Cup you need players you can look at and think ‘He can win a game on his own.’
"We’ve got the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. If just one puts in a fantastic performance in a game, that could get us through maybe to the semi-finals.
"Then you look around and see a Wayne Rooney and other players and think, ‘If he can turn it on, that bit of magic might open up another top team.’
"Sometimes it is not a bad thing not to be seeded and to have a really big game early on in the World Cup," he said.
"That can change things around. If you are not playing well and you have to play one of the big boys, you soon pick up your level of performance and gain a lot of confidence if you do well. Sometimes it takes a big game to snap out of a run."