Who can claim the final places in England's World Cup starting XI?

Qualification for South Africa is nearly assured, but key selection issues are still to be resolved. Sam Wallace assesses the problem areas
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Who should partner Rooney?

Emile Heskey will probably get the nod again but there are huge drawbacks to this plan. Fabio Capello likes a big man to rough up the opposition defence before Wayne Rooney comes in for the kill. The problem is that if Rooney does not score then you can virtually guarantee that Heskey – 55 caps and seven goals – will not either.

The option is Jermain Defoe, who Capello prefers as a second-half substitute despite his record of five goals in the last three games. The two other options are Peter Crouch and Carlton Cole. Crouch has an excellent goalscoring record and has no problem leading the line. He is a targetman but he will also get goals. Yet, Capello seems unconvinced.

Every England manager Crouch has played under has to be won over by a striker who does not look like most people's idea of an international goalscorer. Hence Capello is selecting Cole, a player similar to Heskey who, despite being powerful and mobile, does not score goals either.

Which right winger is best?

For tomorrow's game, Aaron Lennon has surely done enough to play – in the long-term the field is more open. With Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Theo Walcott, Capello has pace but dubious delivery in the danger areas. With David Beckham, he has delivery and zero pace.

The more pressing concern for Capello will be the choices he has to make about his right wingers come next May. Who does he take to South Africa? Walcott's hat-trick against Croatia last September has not been followed by performances to cement his place in the first XI. Ironically, he could miss out on this World Cup despite having a much stronger case for inclusion than he did in 2006.

Beckham will feel like a luxury in South Africa. He is only really a substitute, which will give Capello a major problem if the other right winger in the squad is injured or badly off-form.

And what about right-back?

Glen Johnson can be a liability as a defender but when Capello said he was "one of the best right-backs in the world" on Saturday he did not do so lightly. Johnson has had a great start to his Liverpool career and has that gift so rare in a full-back of looking like his team's key attacking threat.

Capello also said on Saturday that Johnson was better in the second half because he was on the same flank as the team benches and was therefore in the right position to hear his manager's instructions. You have to believe Capello can bring out the defender in Jonhson – he is not that far off.

There are no other serious options. Gary Neville is too old and too injury-prone and Micah Richards evidently does not impress Capello in the slightest. Wes Brown is the best back-up for Johnson.

What's going on in goal?

Capello said before England's game against the Netherlands that he already knew who his first-choice goalkeeper would be for next summer's World Cup finals. Presumably he was talking about David James and, barring a disastrous season for him, it is hard to see that changing.

Robert Green seems to have overtaken Ben Foster as the second choice and has played the last four games. He has conceded just three goals in that time, none of them his fault, and looked solid.

When it is a close call, most managers go on an instinct with keepers and Capello seems to like what he sees with James. It took a disastrous game against Austria in September 2004 for Sven Goran Eriksson to drop James in favour of Paul Robinson. It would probably take even more than that for Capello to change his mind.

Who's on the plane already?

James, Green, Johnson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Rooney and Defoe.