Where it went wrong for Walcott

Two games into the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup and Theo Walcott was the toast of England.

His stunning hat-trick inspired Fabio Capello's team to a 4-1 win over Croatia in Zagreb to banish the painful memories of the Wembley defeat to the same opposition the previous year, which had put an end to their hopes of making Euro 2008 and to Steve McClaren's ill-fated reign.

The result gave Italian Capello his finest moment in charge of the team at that stage.

But the Italian today dealt Walcott the biggest disappointment of his fledging career.

The shock decision to leave the Arsenal winger out of his 23-man squad for South Africa would have seemed unthinkable on the back of that performance against Croatia.

But the 21-year-old has arguably been living off that match ever since, Capello selecting him in the hope he could recreate that level of performance. The harsh reality is he has never even come close.

Walcott was given the chance to prove himself worthy of a place on the plane by starting the friendlies against Mexico and Japan, but on both occasions he looked a shadow of the player who had appeared unplayable in Zagreb.

His crossing was poor, his decision-making even worse.

Rarely if ever did he leave the full-back trailing in his wake as he raced for the by-line. Instead he headed down blind alleys, gave the ball away, perhaps inhibited England's attacking play.

After a friendly against Egypt in March, Chris Waddle claimed Walcott does not have "a football brain" and "doesn't understand the game".

A succession of injuries have not helped Walcott's cause, while he has also had the misfortune to be playing in a position in which England are as well-staffed as any. Aaron Lennon, James Milner, even Shaun Wright-Phillips have all looked better bets.

He has shown in flashes for Arsenal this season what an impact he can have, especially from the bench. His introduction in the Champions League at home to Barcelona, for example, changed the game in an instant.

For England of late, though, he could scarcely have looked more lacking in belief.

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: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions