Crouch on target to conquer Pharaohs
England's second-half substitute strikes twice to make World Cup case in 3-1 win as John Terry quells boos with fine display
Thursday 04 March 2010
Peter Crouch emerged from the all-too-familiar substitutes' bench to maintain England's record of never losing to an African team with a brace of goals at Wembley last night.
Egypt, the reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions, deservedly led England at half-time and the Pharaohs looked like inflicting Fabio Capello's first defeat at Wembley. Crouch came on at the interval and scored within 10 minutes. Fellow substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips added a second before Crouch took his international tally to 20 goals in 37 appearances, 20 of them as substitute. He is now 18th on the England all-time goalscorers' list, one behind Kevin Keegan, who made more than 60 starts, and Mick Channon.
Capello, though, was not prepared to guarantee Crouch a starting role in the World Cup. "He played very well, but not only Peter Crouch played well," Capello said. "Crouch is one of the most important players. I've selected him a lot, he's played a lot of games for me, and he's in very good form. But when I select the squad all the players can play." Having explained he wanted to look at the Wayne Rooney-Jermain Defoe combination last night, Capello added: "Crouch is a big option for me because sometimes you can play long ball. Today we didn't, and he played very well with one touch, two touches. In the second half he made the difference."
"You can only try to do your best, and that's what I did,' Crouch said. The Tottenham striker, who has not scored at club level since January, added: "I did feel under pressure, anyone who plays for England does, certainly in a World Cup year. It's up to the manager whether I start – all I can do is, when I'm given a chance, is try and take it. I hope I gave the manager something to think about tonight." Capello does not like singling out individuals, and said as much, but he did compliment Shaun Wright-Phillips who, he said, "was really important with his assists [he laid on Crouch's second and his running created space for the first]".
It was also a good night for John Terry in his first international since being stripped of the captaincy. Everyone shook his hand and he avoided major errors (he escaped punishment for a couple of early slips) to win over an initially hostile crowd.
"I'm really happy, and want to say thank you to the crowd because they supported the team and John Terry," Capello said. "This was one of the most important games for him after the history of what happened off the pitch. He played a fantastic game, like I know he plays always at this level. When I chose him as captain I knew his value, he's really important on the pitch."
Terry was relaxed about his reception, which included boos for his early touches. "There were a few jeers but I can handle that," he said. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion."
There was praise, too, from Steven Gerrard, who stood in as captain for the injured Rio Ferdinand. "I thought John was superb tonight. He handled everything well and he showed he is a fantastic player and a great leader for us."
On the debit side Terry's new status was underlined as Gerrard passed the captain's armband to Rooney when substituted, and Rooney, when he was withdrawn, gave it to Gareth Barry.
Of the team Gerrard said: "I think we were unfortunate to come in at 1-0 down but we showed great character and togetherness to get back in it and win it. We pressed more as a team in the second half and got our rewards."
Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe had unhappy evenings, both of them wasting the opportunity afforded by their first international starts this season but Leighton Baines, after a quiet opening period, settled to have a mildly encouraging debut. England also avoided injuries, which at this stage of the season is almost as important as a result which looked even better when set against Italy's goalless draw with Cameroon last night. Algeria, the World Cup group opponents for whom this match was a warm-up for, lost 3-0 at home to Serbia.
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