Fabio Capello's striker shortage for England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland a week on Saturday became more acute yesterday when Jermain Defoe became the latest player to pull out of the squad.
Capello has no plans to replace Defoe, leaving him with just three strikers – Peter Crouch, Darren Bent and Bobby Zamora. Wayne Rooney is suspended for the game and Andy Carroll has already been declared in sufficiently fit to merit a call-up.
Defoe is the second player to pull out of the squad since it was announced on Monday, following Fulham reserve team goalkeeper David Stockdale who is getting married the day before the game. With more withdrawals expected after Saturday's European Cup final there are fears that Capello will be left with a much weakened squad for a crucial game.
The injury to Defoe is thought to be a small fracture to his wrist which the player sustained in Tottenham's game against Birmingham on Sunday. Danny Welbeck who won his first cap in the last England international against Ghana in March could be an alternative, but is on duty with the England Under-21s preparing for their European Championship next month.
With Capello showing no sign of picking Crouch in recent games – despite the fact that he is by far and away the most experienced striker in the squad – the likelihood is that he will select a 4-3-3 formation with Bent in the centre forward position. Ashley Young and Theo Walcott are the favourites to start on the wings.
It will not go unnoticed that Capello has again overlooked the claims of Michael Owen. The former England striker, fourth on the all-time goalscorers' list, said this week that he still believed he could win more caps after the Italian quits next summer. Or earlier if England fail to qualify for Euro 2012. The England squad meets up on Monday.