England will play 4-4-2, with John Terry as their captain, against the United States at Wembley tonight. So much for Fabio Capello's brave new world. But there will be variations, not least in attack where Jermain Defoe is expected to make his first start for England in almost two years, with Wayne Rooney, again identified yesterday by Capello as his country's most important player, deployed as a "second striker" to release his "very, very big potential".
The selection of Terry to lead England for the 14th time, but the first under Capello, comes as no surprise, with the Italian confirming that he made the decision to give the former captain a chance several weeks before the European Cup final. Even so, Capello admitted that he has spoken to the Chelsea player to ascertain his "state of mind" after the penalty shoot-out miss against Manchester United in Moscow. "It's a good decision for John Terry after what was not a nice thing on Wednesday," Capello said referring to last week's events. "I decided that the first captain was [Steven] Gerrard, the second was Rio Ferdinand and now John Terry. But I always saw John Terry as a leader on the pitch."
There will also be a fourth captain, with Gareth Barry due to be given the opportunity to stake his claim when England play Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday. It will complete the four candidates identified as potential leaders, with Capello making a decision on a permanent captain before England's friendly against the Czech Republic in August. Ferdinand remains the favourite to be selected eventually, but Terry, because of his strong personality and similar "vocal" manner to the Manchester United defender in the dressing room, is a contender.
Even more up for grabs is the main striking berth in the team. Defoe's last start for England was in the European Championship qualifier away to Macedonia in September 2006. Since then he has made seven substitute appearances – and of his 26 caps just seven have been as a starter, with only three goals scored – although he has seen his career revitalised by his move from Tottenham Hotspur to Portsmouth in January. Playing Defoe also seems to hark back to Euro 2004 in Portugal when Rooney was selected behind a younger, more mobile Michael Owen.
It is a problem position for Capello and the emergence of a striker would help him sort out the formation he wants his England team eventually to adopt. He is also acutely aware of a lack of pace in wide positions which may mean that Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing – who impressed Capello as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat to France in March – or Aston Villa's Ashley Young are tried out in future. It was against the French that Capello used his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation but abandoned it after a poor first 45 minutes, having apparently decided that Rooney was ill suited to the role of the lone front man.
The other problem area for Capello is right-back, where Wes Brown has produced two unconvincing displays and Glen Johnson's defending is suspect. It means Owen Hargreaves may be tried out there.
A key factor in Capello's decision to revert to the familiarity of a 4-4-2 is his desire to instil what he has called a "winning mentality" into the England team, especially after the defeat in Paris. "I always prefer a victory," he said yesterday when asked whether the win or the performance mattered most tonight. "Afterwards, it's easy to find a good performance. Psychologically, it's very important. It's very important to play without fear, with big confidence and in a very English spirit. I ask them to play like that."
Capello spent part of Monday reviewing a DVD of the France game with the squad and said yesterday that he saw signs of encouragement in the second period. "I was happy after half-time in Paris, because I saw something I asked of the players and the team," he said. It was after half-time they played 4-4-2.
Capello has identified flaws in the two performances produced by his England team so far and said: "We need more intensity. More pace in the game. More speed, more pressing and more going forward. Possibly more of an English way of playing. The players have to press. It's very important the distance between the lines [between defence and midfield, and midfield and attack]."
David Beckham may not start against the country where he plies his trade, but has convinced Capello he has a future. It is a contest that should prove a test. "They are well organised, very fast and strong at the back," Capello said of the US, ranked 21st in the world, 10 below England.
Stars and gripes: Previous games between England and the US
29 June 1950, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Brazil US 1 (Gaetjens) England 0
The US recorded a famous victory in the only competitive meeting between the two sides. Billy Wright could not prevent an embarrassing World Cup group stage defeat.
8 June 1953, New York
US 3 (Decker 2, Atheneos) England 6 (Broadis, Finney 2, Lofthouse 2, R Froggatt)
England gained revenge for the 1950 defeat in their first game under floodlights. The match had to be rescheduled after groundsmen refused to allow play because of heavy rain.
28 May 1959, Los Angeles
US 1 (Murphy) England 8 (Charlton 3, Flowers 2, Bradley, Kevan, Haynes)
Winterbottom's side handed the US a thumping defeat, even though the match was played at a baseball stadium and Bobby Charlton commented that the pitchers' mound had not been removed, meaning the players had to run up and down it during the game.
27 May 1964, New York
US 0 England 10 (Hunt 4, Pickering 3, Paine 2, Charlton)
England demolished an unfamiliar US side, Liverpool forward Roger Hunt impressing with four goals.
16 June 1985, Los Angeles
US 0 England 5 (Lineker 2, K Dixon 2, Steven)
Arnie Masseur celebrated a record 35th appearance in goal for the US by saving a Glenn Hoddle penalty. England still won with ease.
9 June 1993, Boston
US 2 (Dooley, Lalas) England 0
Graham Taylor led England on an ill-fated US Cup campaign. Midfielder Paul Ince became England's first black captain, leading a side including Nigel Clough and Carlton Palmer.
7 Sept 1994, Wembley
England 2 (Shearer 2) US 0
Two goals from Blackburn's Alan Shearer led England to an unconvincing win as Terry Venables continued preparations for Euro 96.
28 May 2005, Chicago
US 1 (Dempsey) England 2 (Richardson 2)
Sven Goran Eriksson's side emerged 2-1 winners in an end-of-season friendly at Soldier Field, home of the Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire, three years ago to the day. Kieran Richardson scored a debut brace.Reuse content