Fabio Capello has confirmed Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge will make his England debut against Sweden on Tuesday as he prepares to unleash the next wave of promising youngsters who could carry his team through UEFA EURO 2012.
After handing first appearances to Jack Rodwell and Kyle Walker in last night's 1-0 win over Spain at Wembley, now it is Sturridge's turn to press his claims for a place in next summer's Finals in Poland and Ukraine."I need to know the value of the players when they play at Wembley. There is big pressure for all the players here," said the England coach.
Having admitted he had taken a risk in leaving John Terry and Wayne Rooney out of his plans to face the world champions, despite the fact Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere were already missing through injury, Capello could take a huge amount of satisfaction from the outcome. In man of the match Scott Parker and central defensive duo Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott, England erected a formidable barrier Spain found impossible to break down.
The hosts remained diligent in their work. And whilst the visitors enjoyed the majority of possession, it was not until the latter stages, when David Villa smacked a shot against the post and Cesc Fabregas wasted a couple of good chances, that Spain really threatened. "Spain are the best team in the world," said Capello. "They are difficult to play against because they have so much quality. It is impossible to win the ball back off them but the players did what we asked."
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque made a very similar point. "The England side are very physical and powerful who carried out their manager's orders perfectly," he expressed after the game. Capello's masterplan, getting Parker to sit deep and asking Manchester United rookie Phil Jones to press from midfield, gave them the platform to succeed. That England worked so tirelessly to implement it even more so. "You have to be really compact," said the England coach. "When you play against Spain or Barcelona it is impossible to go forward. You have to wait. You need to concentrate."
In singling out Rodwell, Jones and Danny Welbeck for praise, and confirming Sturridge will take the step up against Sweden, Capello appeared to be giving an indication about where his Euro 2012 squad is heading. It is certainly set to be vastly different to the squad he named for the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa.
Only six of the 16 players who got on the pitch last night were involved in that debacle, and Joe Hart did not feature for a single minute, so he can hardly be described as being part of the old guard. Neither Jagielka nor Lescott were there. However, their collective performance last night makes it even less likely Rio Ferdinand will get the long-awaited chance to play in a European Championships.
John Terry's return on Tuesday will steer attention back towards off-field matters and given Jagielka has been nursing a toe problem, Everton will doubtless be relieved Gary Cahill has been pencilled in to play alongside the England skipper, selected on the grounds of being "innocent until proven guilty" of the racism claims made against him, which 30-year-old strenuously denies.
However, Jagielka and Lescott have laid down a marker which Capello will not ignore. "The two centre-backs played a fantastic game," he said. "Every time Spain tried to pass through they were in a good position. They played with big confidence. If you play without confidence against Spain it is impossible to get a good result."