Quite frankly, the Three Lions should be about 20/1 but you can’t legislate for the ludicrous bias of the English punter. If England does fluke its way to World Cup victory it will be a very bad hair day for the bookies so they are hedging their bets with slashed odds.
In the UK there has been a massive backlash to the Walcott decision but I’m not sure why? The last good thing the winger did in an England shirt was in September 2008 and, although he scored a hat-trick on that day, he hasn’t come close to reproducing that sort of a display in the 21 months since. In fact, he only scored that many league goals for Arsenal all season. Yes, he has searing pace, but so does Dwain Chambers – doesn’t mean that he can cross a ball or tell his arse from his elbow on a football pitch.
Far more attention should have been paid to the axe falling on Scott Parker, Michael Dawson and Adam Johnson. Unlike Michael Carrick, Parker has been outstanding in the holding role for his club this season so if you’re looking for cover for the unfit Gareth Barry stop.
Neither Parker nor Dawson, who was more consistent and far less injured than his Spurs team-mate Ledley King this season, even got any playing time in the two friendlies. Dawson can feel particularly aggrieved considering how overrated England’s defence is. If you can’t keep a clean sheet against Egypt, Mexico and Japan, what hope have you got at the Big Show?
As for Adam Johnson, I’m not sure how much more he could have done to convince Don Fabio of a place in the squad. In the five minutes he was given against Mexico he showed more ability to pull off the unexpected than Walcott did in 75. He can play on the right, on the left, score goals, cross and go past players. So why the fuck has he got the chop? Who else can do those things? Anyone..? Bueller..?
You can’t be too critical of Capello though because, with the exception of recent experimental friendlies, England have been much-improved under the Italian. Let’s face it, he has a very shallow talent pool to draw upon, which is why Emile Heskey, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Carrick are in the team. In fact, the more you look at the squad the more you wonder where the magic is going to come from.
When you look at teams like Holland, who have Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart to admire, or Argentina (Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez are a who’s who of exciting world class talent) or Spain (Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Fernando Torres, David Villa – say no more) the gulf in class is palpable. The World Cup will be a great spectacle, only the sparks won’t come from England, with or without one-trick Walcott.
Major championships do occasionally throw up the odd upset, I suppose, like when Greece won the European Championships in 2004. They were an obdurate, unexciting outfit – like England – only they didn’t leak goals. And they were priced at 150-1.