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Friday, March 03, 2006

"We have run a marathon and fallen just short so we need to boost the squad to get us over that final hurdle."

Okay, 'Tache says there probably won't be any surprises in the England squad come Cup time. Yet there are still a couple of question marks. Here goes, one last time.

Sven will have Robinson and two other keepers that TDH honestly doesn't care about so much. England doesn't lack for competent backups. In defense there will be Terry, Ferdinand, King, Carragher, Cole, Bridge and Neville. The question mark is over the last spot. Will Sven play Carragher as a utility man, backing up either the center-backs or 'Tache? If he does, he could pick Brown. But if he wants a real right-back, then he'll pick Young.

In midfield, obviously Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham, Cole, Wright-Phillips, Carrick. Sven likes Jenas and, barring a miracle, will pick him. Any manager would be tempted to take Richardson, who gives you an unpredictable something extra. TDH certainly wouldn't object. Jenas is the one who just doesn't seem special enough. Anyone want to stick up for him?

Up front, Rooney, Owen, Crouch and hmm. No one knows exactly what Sven thought of Bent. TDH still likes him. Defoe hasn't been consistent, either. If Bent is out of the running, TDH would be very tempted to pick Dyer - and TDH is not alone. If Dyer's healthy, his speed disrupts defenses with ease. The thing is, if he does get the ticket, the other guys will wonder what the hell's been going on for the past six months.

Perhaps the right way to think about this is to look at the teams England is likely to face. Unless something crazy happens, England should win its group. That will set up a match with anyone's guess among Poland, Ecuador and Costa Rica. (Yes, Germany also has an easy group.) Assuming England can win that one, which doesn't sound unreasonable, the favorites to meet them in the quarterfinals will be Argentina, the Netherlands, Portugal and Mexico, in that order. Argentina is soft - pick a battering ram; the Netherlands are young and strong - pick someone quick to evade them; the Portuguese are old at the back - probably doesn't matter; the Mexicans aren't used to playing against anything like the English style - pick someone to pummel them.

Overall, seems like you'd want a big lad. The thing is, even Bent is only 5'11" and 161 lbs. If Sven had seen this coming a bit earlier, he might have gone for TDH's surprise package: Marlon the Man. He's 6'1" and 187 lbs, plus he's a genuinely creative player who uses the whole field and crosses the ball exceptionally well. Come on Sven, give Harewood a chance! Say something, Pardew!


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