Hysteria at Wayne Rooney’s red card against Montenegro subsided after Uefa reduced his punishment for petulance in Podgorica to a two-match ban.
The national team’s talisman whose shoulders have buckled under the burden of unrealistic expectation in past tournaments will be available for the final group game, but England are short in the interim.
Darren Bent, tipped to lead England's line at the European Championship, is now out for up to three months after suffering an ankle injury in Aston Villa's goalless draw at Wigan Athletic on Saturday. No coach, no captain, no talisman, no striker. No chance?
Caretaker coach Stuart Pearce is faced with that recurring English quandary of an injured player in Bent, as it afflicts the Three Lions’ build-up. But the timing, with Holland coming to Wembley on Wednesday night, does at least afford the chance to share around the responsibility amongst the squad in Rooney and Bent's absence.
West Brom midfielder Jerome Thomas trumpeted Welbeck's ability, if not his haircut:
Daniel Sturridge is a probable beneficiary of Rooney’s stupidity and Bent's injury. His international experience is limited (he has one cap), but with Tom Cleverley and Jack Wilshere, two players in the Spaniards’ Tiki-taka mould, also sidelined, a central role beckons for the Chelsea forward.
Shafted on to the right-wing by club manager Andre Villas-Boas, Sturridge has been effective yet craves for a central role, where he excelled for Bolton Wanderers when on loan to them last season. His fitness and form offer continuity in Rooney's absence too. Capello favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation with the insurance policy of Scott Parker and Gareth Barry.
But as Gary Neville noted four months ago, England’s spine is not good enough, although it can easily be improved upon. Gerrard is fit again and the own modifications he has made to his game makes a regista role beside Parker an ideal silk-and-steel combination.
Rumours abound that Joe Hart could be appointed captain by Pearce:
Danny Welbeck’s form spearheading Manchester United this season makes him the outstanding striker candidate even if Bent was fit, although his inexperience counts against him, if not his self-assurance. He and Sturridge were two bright sparks who combined well amidst the Under-21s’ dull displays in Denmark last summer, and deserve their chance because they are gifted footballers boasting that uncharacteristic English trait of technical prowess.
And that youthful exuberance Pearce has helped nurture may be the best hope of a successful tournament in Eastern Europe.
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