Football: Barnes takes central role in another tactical experiment: England strive to avoid finishing last in the US Cup as the American media focuses on the marketing potential of next year's World Cup

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GRAHAM TAYLOR insists that the outcome is of no consequence and that the match should be regarded as a tactical experiment, but the result will always be important when England play Germany, and neither side will lack motivation in the Silverdome today, when they bring down the curtain on the US Cup.

A historic international, the first to be played indoors, finds one team striving to win the trophy and the other anxious to avoid the wooden spoon. No prizes for identifying the go-getters and the doormats.

Victory would give the Germans yet another pot, at Brazil's expense. Anything other than an improbable English triumph would see Taylor's dishevelled team trail in last of four behind the Americans, with their worst record for 35 years.

Not since 1958 have England gone seven games without a win, which is likely to be their situation tonight.

Small wonder Berti Vogts, who delays selection, is talking of the need to keep the winning habit while Taylor sounds like a man preparing his excuses in advance.

England's manager says neither public nor players will give a cent for what happens here come September, when Poland are at Wembley for the World Cup tie crucial to the qualifying campaign.

Possibly so, but in terms of the fans who have paid good money to support his team, the pooh-poohing of the result ranks with the insensitivity of Bert Millichip, who said after the United States defeat that he felt more sorry for himself than anyone else.

England's followers were still coming to terms with the tactlessness of the Football Association's chairman when yesterday brought further cause for complaint. The announcement of a team featuring John Barnes was greeted with a collective groan which could be heard all over the motor city.

Deservedly dropped after the shambles in Boston, the managerial favourite returns as a central striker - his makeshift partnership with Paul Merson becoming the 15th attacking combination Taylor has fielded this season. This from a man who preaches consistency and continuity.

Four changes after the revitalising 1-1 draw with Brazil bring England's total over the three-match tournament to 14. For the litmus test against the World champions, the latest experiment has Barnes, Merson, Nigel Martyn and David Platt taking over from Ian Wright, David Batty, Tim Flowers and Tony Dorigo.

The real change, though, is in the shape of the team. At first, it seemed Taylor was going to grasp the nettle and take on the Germans at their own sophisticated game, with two wing- backs flanking a Continental-style defence. Instead, he has shied away from the real thing, opting for three central defenders to pick up the nearest runner, rather than marking man for man, with a sweeper spare.

Andy Sinton, neat and intelligent, is a natural for the wing-back role on the right, but Lee Sharpe looked like a little boy lost when he was tried there in Norway, and the system is fraught with danger.

Denied man for man security, the tendency will be for Sinton and Sharpe, to hang back and mark space, in which event England will again find themselves entrenched on their own 18-yard line, encumbered by five defenders.

Earl Barrett, one of the three centre-halves, seemed confused yesterday when he was asked about his previous experience in the role. He could not recall playing in a back three at club level, but thought the three were destined to become four, anyway.

Who was to pick up Karlheinz Riedle, scorer of a hat-trick against the Americans? The nearest man to him, apparently. Ditto Jurgen Klinsmann. A dangerous practice, this - passing on strikers of the highest calibre between inexperienced defenders.

In the heat of battle the likelihood is that Gary Pallister, England's success of the tournament will deal with the threat Klinsmann poses in the air, with Barrett and Des Walker attending to Riedle.

The Germans are licking their lips in anticipation, and Martyn, in goal, will have to play as well as Flowers did against the Brazilians if England are to end a poor season on anything other than a demoralising note.

If the defensive arrangements are suspect, what price an attack lacking a conventional striker? Merson started his career as a through-the-middle goalscorer, but is no longer considered good enough to play there for Arsenal and Barnes's international record - 11 goals in 72 internationals - is not one to inspire confidence.

More than ever, England are going to be reliant on Platt, their latterday Martin Peters, and his uncanny knack of ghosting into scoring positions undetected.

Taylor was disappointed with the inability of Wright and Nigel Clough to retain possession for any length of time against Brazil. 'Both Barnes and Merson are capable of holding the ball up,' he said. 'They can also run at the opposition with the ball and take defenders out of the game, and both are capable of delivering crosses from that dangerous inside channel, on the edge of the penalty area.'

Not a mention of the word goals.

No striker worthy of the name and a Heath Robinson defence - an ersatz team, this, to go with the Silverdome's artificial pitch. Germany for the Cup.

Poland have been banned from staging international matches at Chorzow, after crowd violence there during last month's World Cup qualifying match against England. The length of the ban will be fixed by the world governing body, Fifa, next month.

----------------------------------------------------------------- ENGLAND LINE-UP ----------------------------------------------------------------- MARTYN (Crystal Palace) BARRETT PALLISTER WALKER (Aston Villa) (Man Utd) (Sampdoria) SINTON SHARPE (QPR) (Man Utd) INCE PLATT (Man Utd) (Juventus) CLOUGH (Liverpool) BARNES MERSON (Liverpool) (Arsenal) -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)