Reds defender Jamie Carragher may get a chance to make his World Cup debut for England tomorrow with Sven Goran Eriksson’s first-choice right back Gary Neville out injured. The Liverpool-hating defender is struggling with a calf injury and although not ruled out entirely he is considered very doubtful. At the same time as Carra looks set to get his chance, Peter Crouch may find he’s pushed back onto the bench because Eriksson claims Wayne Rooney is now fit to play.
England are playing Trinidad & Tobago in Nuremburg, and if Neville is out then Eriksson says he’ll be using either Carra or, in characteristically bizarre fashion, Owen Hargreaves instead.
Speaking to reporters, Eriksson explained: “Gary Neville has a calf problem and is very doubtful for tomorrow. He’s on his way to do a scan now so we will know more later and tomorrow morning.”
As for whether Rooney will play for England, Eriksson wanted to think about it: “For me, Rooney is match fit. Let me sleep on it, I will decide tomorrow morning. Almost for sure not starting the match, because I don’t think he’s got 90 minutes in his legs yet.”
Meanwhile Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler has been commenting in the Liverpool
Echo about how he has doubts about Eriksson’s way of doing things. Fowler says that although England have got off to a good start, something seems wrong with the way they are going about things: “Victory over Paraguay last weekend in the opening Group game and another positive result against Trinidad & Tobago tomorrow evening will see England progress with a game to spare and that would represent mission accomplished, but you can’t escape the feeling that something isn’t right and that must come down to the manager.”
Sven Goran Eriksson is of course leaving the England job as soon as England’s participation in the tournament is over, and from Fowler’s point of view that might be just as well because of his strange decisions: “I’ve nothing personal against Eriksson – despite playing under him for a few years, I barely know him – these are just concerns I know many fans have. I would love nothing more than to see England triumph in Berlin on July 9 yet can we rely on Eriksson to make the right decisions at the right times when the competition enters the knockout stages? I’ll let you decide that one.”
Fowler’s former England and Liverpool team-mate – and at times rival – has missed most of his return to the English league thanks to a broken foot, but Fowler is struggling to understand why Eriksson took him off early in Saturday’s game: “Michael Owen might have had better games than he had in Frankfurt but, even still, the decision to substitute him was a curious one. Michael is a world class player and a world class finisher, who is always likely to get you a goal out of nothing. He has just had 17 weeks off with a broken foot and is fighting his way back to fitness and needs all the minutes on the pitch he can get. Why, then, drag him off when England were in control and retreat into a defensive shell? England have got far too many class players to resort to tactics that see them sit back and hit opponents on the break.”
Fowler continues to lay into Eriksson in a way Liverpool fans will be proud of: “If you look at a midfield of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Joe Cole, then think that Wayne Rooney is going to be back shortly, there is plenty of flair and skill to take opposition teams apart. Will we see it in Germany? It’s doubtful. Too often once Plan A doesn’t work, there isn’t a Plan B and I can’t understand why Eriksson doesn’t allow Stevie to do for his country what he does so magnificently for Liverpool.”
Steven Gerrard is playing in an extremely stifled role for England – he’s not able to use his more creative talents thanks to the position he’s played in or the tactics. Fowler hints at what all Liverpool fans know – Gerrard is much better than Lampard and should be utilised better: “Think of all the midfielders playing in the tournament and then try to name two or three better than Stevie. Almost impossible, isn’t it? I just can’t fathom why Eriksson continues to place so much defensive responsibility on him.”
Fowler feels Eriksson’s got it easy in the group stages though – it’s after that he will truly be tested: “It shouldn’t be too much of an issue until the quarter-finals but that’s when the big guns will all come together. Only then will we see if Eriksson can deliver what was promised when he first took charge.”