Darren Bent was given a surprise recall to the England squad last night ahead of Michael Owen, whose fate was sealed at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Sir Alex Ferguson did not start with Owen despite a shortage of fit strikers, making up Fabio Capello's mind that Owen was not deserving of a call-up.
Owen was overlooked once again by Capello despite a large number of players withdrawing from the squad through injury. Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Aaron Lennon, David James, Emile Heskey, Carlton Cole and Gabriel Agbonlahor were all in Capello's original plans. All of them are carrying injuries and therefore were not considered for the trip to Qatar for Saturday's friendly against Brazil.
Owen failed to make the United side to face Chelsea yesterday despite the absence of Dimitar Berbatov through injury. It is understood that any lingering doubts Capello had that he would be wrong to omit Owen were extinguished by the striker's failure to make the United side.
Bent has not been named in a Capello England squad since November last year when he was picked for the squad to play against Germany. He was subsequently called up as a replacement in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Ukraine in March and April this year. At 25, with four caps, his most memorable moment in an England shirt came when he missed a late chance to equalise against Croatia two years ago as England tumbled out of Euro 2008 qualifying.
Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone are the other new call-ups for the squad. Jenas, 26, has 20 caps but has never been a favourite of Capello despite scoring in the Italian's first game in charge against Switzerland in February last year. He has won just three caps under Capello, the last of them more than a year ago as a substitute against Croatia in Zagreb.
Huddlestone, 22, has never been capped although he was selected for the squad that played friendlies against the United States and Trinidad and Tobago at the end of the 2007-2008 season. His performances for Spurs recently have put him at the head of the queue of those midfielders around the fringes of the squad.
Also in the squad is Stephen Warnock, 27, who has only one cap from the friendly in Trinidad in June 2008. He is back-up for Wayne Bridge, who will take Ashley Cole's place at left-back. Joe Cole, who came on as a second-half substitute against United yesterday, has not yet convinced Capello that he is fit enough for a recall after eight months out with a ruptured cruciate ligament.
With Ben Foster having played the last game against Belarus, and James injured, it will be interesting to see if Capello's restores Robert Green as his first-choice goalkeeper following his red card against Ukraine. Joe Hart has been selected ahead of Paul Robinson as one of the back-ups. Robinson was selected for the last squad but subsequently pulled out with injury.
A late call-up for both the previous squads, Bolton's Gary Cahill has been selected this time in the absence of Rio Ferdinand. If Los Angeles Galaxy won their MLS Conference semi-final against Chivas USA last night David Beckham will not be able to play.
*Cristiano Ronaldo has been included in the Portugal squad for their World Cup play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Real Madrid forward faces a race to be fit for the two games on 14 and 18 November as he has an ankle injury. Medical reports yesterday confirmed he would be out of action for at least two more weeks. Earlier, Real Madrid director general Jorge Valdano had told Spanish television that playing Ronaldo now would be a serious mistake. "You have to remember that he injured himself again playing for Portugal. Perhaps it's an excess of commitment [that] has put us in this situation. Making the same mistake again would be a great deal more serious," he said.
England squad vs Brazil, 14 Nov, Doha
*Goalkeepers: Foster (Manchester United), Green (West Ham), Hart (Manchester City).
Defenders: Bridge (Manchester City), Brown (Manchester United), Cahill (Bolton), Johnson (Liverpool), Lescott (Manchester City), Terry (Chelsea), Upson (West Ham), Warnock (Aston Villa).
Midfielders: Barry (Manchester City), Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Carrick (Manchester United), Jenas, Huddlestone (both Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Milner (Aston Villa), Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Young (Aston Villa).
Strikers: Bent (Sunderland), Crouch, Defoe (both Tottenham), Rooney (Manchester United).