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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent