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Jamie Carragher at the World Cup?

May 11, 2010

Carragher has not played for England in three years - timesonlineAs Fabio Capello’s initial World Cup squad announcement approaches, an unlikely contender has emerged. 32-year-old Jamie Carragher, almost three years after retiring from international football, looks likely to be included in the 30-strong collection of players charged with bringing the World Cup back to England after 44 years.

Assuming Capello picks Carragher later today, the Liverpool defender faces a wait to see if he will be included in the 23-man squad to travel to South Africa. The perceived wisdom among pundits is that Capello will take five centre backs, two of whom will – injuries permitting – be Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. That leaves a few players vying for the vacant slots: the Spurs pair of Ledley King and Michael Dawson, West Ham’s Matthew Upson, and, less likely, Birmingham’s Roger Johnson. Add Carragher to the list and there are likely two or three centre-backs who will miss out.

All those available are good players, and it is good for Capello to have such a wealth of talent available, just as he has in midfield. The number of players returning from injury is concerning, particularly in the case of King and Ferdinand, and Carragher has a clean bill of health going for him. But should he be on the plane?

Though he has had an extremely creditable club career, he has not had a particularly good season. He often gets caught on the wrong side of forwards, and is too easily turned. On several occasions in recent years his only option, given his lack of pace, is to haul down players who go past him. He often gets away with a yellow card, which is fine once a game, but against the world’s best in the later stages is there much value in taking such a risk when there are others available?

Fabio Capello has some big decision to make - flickr

He would most likely go as a backup, which is understandable. He can play in more than one position along the back, a quality unique among those considered save for Wes Brown, who has even less in his favour given another injury-ravaged season for Manchester United, and Joleon Lescott, whose deficiencies at centre back are too numerous to discuss. Having a reliable, experienced head available to play on the right is an advantage, and he may even stake a claim to start there given no clear frontrunner for the position. Gary Neville, perhaps even Phil Neville, and most obviously Glen Johnson would probably be picked ahead of him but it is a marginal decision. Another factor in his favour is a personal one: a trip to South Africa will boost Carragher's air miles in advance of Liverpool's inevitable early exit from Europe next season.

But Carragher's form is not good enough to warrant a significant role in the England squad. There are better options in the middle, even given King's inability to play several successive games (save for Spurs' run in where his undoubted ability meant he was risked. It was a good gamble). Dawson has had a better season, Upson less so, and of course Ferdinand and Terry will start despite the former's injury problems and the latter's slump in form. The question is who should be first in line to replace one of that pairing.

Capello has the unenviable task (counterbalanced with enviable wages) of picking reserve players with a catalogue of injury problems, ones who have had little or no international experience, or, in Carragher, someone whose best days are behind them.

Capello's list will make for interesting reading.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter permalink
    May 11, 2010 11:05 am

    Good article as ever. Good points about Carragher’s flexibility, perhaps taking him saves another right back slot so you only take on of Johnson and Neville (+ Hargreaves??). If Capello is picking on form, Dawson and King go, they have been imperious of late. But the latter is obviously a huge risk and can break down at any time, while Dawson has never played for England; surely if the manager liked him he would have been given a run out in a friendly at some point?

    • Ben Winstanley permalink
      May 11, 2010 2:26 pm

      I’d have thought so too re: Dawson, though I suppose there’s never been as big a doubt over Ferdinand’s fitness as there is now and Dawson has massively improved this year. The squad’s out now anyway and Carragher and Dawson made it – the Nevilles don’t and neither does Hargreaves. Dawson may well be one of the 7 who doesn’t make the final cut though. I doubt he’ll take both him and King anyway.

  2. May 11, 2010 1:39 pm

    Wonder if Carragher will be ringing Talksport tonight with such prophetic quotes as “If I’m not being picked at 29, there is no chance of me being picked when I’m 32…”

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