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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Beckham inclusion inevitable, but is it compulsory?

EFT wouldn't be EFT without comment on the Euro 2008 qualifier of last night. While the media continue to hound around David Beckham's performance like canines, coach Steve McClaren would not confirm whether Beckham would even be in the squad for the next qualifier much less starting on the right again. Of course it is early to say about anyone's selection come the end of August with the friendly against Germany and the qualifiers a fortnight after against Israel and Russia. The friendly is approximately two and a half months from now and Beckham will be an American football league player, some distance more than that of the Bernabeu to London and back.

Beckham's soon-to-be team general manager, Los Angeles Galaxy's former US international Alexi Lalas, pledged that he would drive Beckham to the airport to get to the qualifiers and even release him for the tournament itself if England qualify. With the MLS season underway already since early April, it is not clear whether LA Galaxy will be disgruntled to have Beckham come late July only to disappear late August for a friendly. But let's let them worry about that. The main thing is Beckham put on a better show last night than last week Friday, he was MOTM. The average ratings for the players was 7, with Beckham on 8, the rest more or less simply did their jobs. But it is questionable of their performances against a side without a goal, much less a point, in the qualifiers.

England did what they had to do, three times better than leaders Croatia, and their goal via Eduardo da Silva came fortuitously through a mis-control by another Croatia player. Striker Mladen Petric had an one-on-one with Mart Poom and failed plus left the defence to only hit wide. Perhaps after having to succumb to the Russians 0-2 and playing their hearts out against Croatia, England came along at a good time to Tallinn. Perhaps not. One thing is there is little chance for anyone else on the right wing if Beckham keeps up such a performance. McClaren may not wish to commit himself but if Beckham fails to appear, whilst fit and available, in the starting XI against Germany, it would have to be a tactical reason and nothing else.

While Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard more or less chop and change between going forward and playing defensively (the latter player making an improvement, albeit slight), do we need someone to cover in midfield if under attack? Do we need to worry about both players going forward and leaving the middle unmarked when both players seem to be tracking back to help out anyway? Also a question arose as to why Jamie Carragher was not chosen ahead of both Ledley King AND Wes Brown, much less just Brown. I was hesitant of Brown's inclusion at right-back as I see that as a rare position he plays in for Utd, but he played well nonetheless.

Yet as pats on the back may circulate, the clear tests have yet to come, and with four of our last games at home it is in England's hands whether we prove to be a highly rated international team in the world, much less Europe (how many times will I use 'much less'?). A new stadium, new capacity, first competitive matches within days of each other, we will have no one else to blame but ourselves. Three points separate us from top spot and we can do it, just a matter of who we have to do it with. The Lampard, Robinson, Gerrard, Terry, Owen, Beckham & crew we know well, or the Lampard, Robinson, Gerrard, Terry, Owen, Beckham & crew we grow to watch just fail to make the level when the going gets tough?



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