Mexico Impressive in Loss to England

An entertaining little friendly today at Wembley between England and Mexico that should be of considerable interest to U.S fans less than three weeks ahead of the World Cup.

First-round opponent England won 3-1 over our neighbors bitter, much-loathed rivals, but it was the Mexican team that carried the play in the first 45 minutes with a quality display of possession and flair that proved a handful for the Three Lions. It was something of a makeshift back-line deployed by Fabio Capello, as he held out the five Chelsea players on the roster (only 9 days removed from the FA Cup Final), including near-certain starters John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. It was their slow-witted replacements, notably Ledley King, whose statuesque (not in the complimentary meaning of the word, but in the fact he appeared to have the range and effectiveness of a statue) performance was hardly saved by his goal off a set-piece.

engmex

Both King and fellow centreback Rio Ferdinand were caught by the lively Mexican duo of Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela, the latter going 0-2 on shots where he had only goalkeeper Robert Green to beat. That was the story of the night for El Tri as, despite a possession advantage and sending 23 shots goalward, they managed just to convert the one time.

England were more assertive in the second 45 minutes and a Glen Johnson stunner early in the second half killed off the tie. But there were precious few highlights for the England men, who will hope the return of the Chelsea Five produces a better all-around effort next time out. England head to Austria for pre-Cup training and a friendly on Sunday against Japan, while Mexico get right back at it with a Wednesday tilt against Netherlands.

In other notable friendlies, host South Africa was held 1-1 by Bulgaria and Portugal stumbled to a scoreless draw with Cape Verde. That doesn’t bode well for the Portuguese.

Thirty for England

England Coach Fabio Capello has named his provisional 30-man roster for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. England will line up against the United States in their opening game on June 12 in Rustenberg.

The most surprising inclusion is Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, who “retired” from international duty in 2007. His recall may confirm that the only reason he ditched the national side is because previous gaffer Steve McClaren is a twit. Or Capello’s desperation–with the brittle nature of Rio Ferdinand and Ledley King–was enough to sway the Reds stalwart.

Tottenham, who finished 4th in the Premier League and grabbed the last Champions League spot, place six players on the list, including Abbey Clancy’s boyfriend. Let’s hope Crouchie goes to SA for the crowd shots alone.

abbey

England 30-Man Preliminary Squad

GOALKEEPERS (3): Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham Utd.)

DEFENDERS (10): Leighton Baines (Everton), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd.), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham Utd.), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa)

MIDFIELDERS (12): Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester Utd.), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Scott Parker (West Ham Utd.), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City)

FORWARDS (5): Darren Bent (Sunderland), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd.)

Countdown Begins

Five weeks until World Cup 2010 kicks off with Mexico against host South Africa in Johannesburg and the 32 nations are in the process of naming provisional rosters for their respective pre-tournament training camps.

The U.S. is set to announce its initial 30-man roster on Tuesday, with camp opening in Princeton, N.J. on Monday May 17th. There remains some intrigue regarding which players will be named. The primary question is the health of striker Charlie Davies, who is participating in full training for his French club Sochaux, but will not have seen game action since his horrific car accident in October. Davies’ availability, or lack thereof, stands to alter Coach Bob Bradley’s selections considerably.

Most expect either Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey to fill a striker slot if Davies is unable to go, which would open up another place for a midfielder, an area where the U.S. is considered deep. Stuart Holden, recovered from a broken tibia sustained in a friendly with Netherlands, is a favorite to replace those two in starting midfield, while others, such as Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres and DaMarcus Beasley provide cover.

The back line seems set, though centreback Oguchi Onyewu is also just recently recovered from injury, so the other main question will be who joins shoe-in Jozy Altidore on the front line. Brian Ching, also in a fitness race (wow, this is getting redundant), is a Bradley favorite and the team’s best hold-up striker, so he’s likely in. After that, the pool is in such disarray that calls might go out for the likes of Edson Buddle (currently scoring at will for the LA Galaxy) and Herculez Gomez, who lit up the Mexican League with 10 goals for Puebla in the recently-completed Clausura. Neither figured in qualifying nor have they been involved in a National Team set-up in eons (three years for Gomez; seven! for Buddle).

The Nats’ first opponent, England, doesn’t have nearly as many injury worries, though Coach Fabio Capello’s preferred defensive midfielder, Gareth Barry, injured ankle ligaments this week and is now doubtful. And there’s still time for a Three Lions player to break a metatarsal bone, as is their custom every four years (Beckham in ’02; Rooney in ’06).

The world’s greatest sporting spectacle is just around the corner. Better start stretching.

Sir Bobby Robson Dies

The former English football manager, Bobby Robson, died last night of cancer at age 76. Not to disrespect the recently deceased … but is a World Cup semi-final (in 1990) all it takes to become a sir? Serious question, and I hope this doesn’t make the people of Ipswich hate me, as Robson lead them in their glory days.