Johnson ready to be put on the spot as Capello explores his options

Among the England players practising taking penalties at their training base in Irdning this weekend was the 22-year-old Adam Johnson, who, by all accounts, dispatched his without any nerve at all in front of a crowd of a dozen curious locals in the adjoining children's playground.

The setting does not compare to the intense pressure that Johnson is likely to feel if, should he make Fabio Capello's final 23-man World Cup squad, he is called upon to take a spot-kick in the feverish atmosphere of Soccer City in Johannesburg or the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. But you have to start somewhere and Johnson is one of those players who has impressed Capello so much that he will surely figure tonight in the friendly against Mexico at Wembley .

The player Johnson is most commonly compared to is Chris Waddle, a fellow son of the north-east whose miss from the penalty spot in 1990 signalled the end of England's involvement in that World Cup. Johnson has never before played for England but ever since his move to Manchester City from Middlesbrough in January he has felt like Capello's potential wildcard.

Capello said last week that he expected to see something from Johnson during the build-up that would convince him the player had to go to South Africa. "He is one player who is really good and he has played really well in important games, not easy games, for Manchester City," Capello said. "He has improved a lot, he is a really, really good player. I selected him because I think he can stay with us.

"He is young and the World Cup is different. There is the pressure; the level of the games at the World Cup is really high. I don't know if he will be with us, but he can play and his future is with the national team."

Tonight's team against Mexico will be the first glimpse into what Capello has in mind for his side come 12 June against the United States. There will be no Gareth Barry, who will be examined by a specialist tomorrow, or John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole or David James but that will allow us to see who among the next level have caught Capello's eye.

Joe Hart and Robert Green will each get 45 minutes in the absence of James. James Milner will potentially play in Barry's role and the possibility of Ledley King at centre-back and Jamie Carragher at right-back will make this team look very different to any Capello has picked previously. He has also never had Johnson or Aaron Lennon – the two contenders for the left side – in an England team of before.

Whether Wayne Rooney is partnered by Emile Heskey or Steven Gerrard, Capello said last week that his intention was to see how his players operate in a different kind of formation. "My plan is to play two styles," he said. "You can play the forwards in different positions, but it depends on the game, the injuries to players, the opponents, it depends on a lot of things. We have a lot of options.

"Also during the game we might change the style. I remember in one game I changed the style four or five times and changed the position of the players. You have to read what is happening and choose the best positions. I want flexibility.

"My style was always 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 with Steven Gerrard free behind the two forwards and with Roma I played three centre-backs. We have to practise [that system in Austria] because in any moment it is possible that you might have to use this during one game. If you have to play 10 players against 11, for example. You have to prepare for these things."

After Italy, Capello's squad has the highest average age of any at the World Cup this summer but he was dismissive of any suggestion that this could be a factor in their performance. "I'm not concerned about the age because the World Cup is not long, it's only seven games," he said.

After tonight, England will return to Austria where they play their final warm-up game against Japan in Graz on Sunday. Then they return home and Capello will probably break the bad news to the seven who are not part of the final 23-man squad with a phone call a week tomorrow. "That decision," he said last week, "will be the hardest."

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'