Will Capello stick with the striker who can't score?

England coach admires Emile Heskey's attacking style but accepts he'll have to look elsewhere for goals.

Who will score the goals that will win England the World Cup? A simple question, complicated by the fact that Fabio Capello is obsessed with picking Emile Heskey, who hardly ever scores for his country, an approach that failed its latest examination on Wednesday night.

At half-time in Amsterdam, England needed goals. They were two down and Wayne Rooney – around whom Capello has built his team – had scarcely had a shot on target. So what did the manager do in a tight spot? He brought on a goalscorer in Jermain Defoe, took off Heskey and turned the game around.

Sometimes the answer is obvious. Need a goal? Get a goalscorer on the pitch. The praise for Heskey in his recent renaissance in the latter days of Steve McClaren and then under Capello has been unstinting. He makes chances for Rooney, we are told, he unsettles defenders, he causes the damage for others to exploit. Yet the elephant in the corner, the statistic that is almost too embarrassing to mention, is his seven goals in 55 international caps.

The big question is whether, once England are at the World Cup, Capello is prepared to place his faith in Rooney scoring virtually all his team's goals by continuing to pick a striker alongside him who barely scores himself. That is some pressure on Rooney, even with his current run of 10 goals in eight games.

Of course, Heskey has his strengths. He is a robust athlete, he chases back and he has a willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. That selfishness that characterises so many goalscorers is absent in Heskey: he is happy to be the straight man, the support act, the facilitator. Which is fine until England reach the point in a game when what they really need is a goal.

At the moment we are told that the England manager is in thrall to the man from Aston Villa, so much so that he is watching the likes of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Daniel Sturridge this season to see if they could do a job as a proto-Heskey come next summer. The tempting thought is to advise them that the fewer goals they score this season – and the more flick-ons they aim towards fellow strikers, the more heroic tracking back – the better chance they have.

If next summer's strikers were to be picked on goals alone, then it would hold no fears for Peter Crouch. He has 16 goals in 34 caps and, more tellingly, his goals to minutes on the pitch ratio is better than any of the squad's current strikers. Crouch scores every 119 minutes he is on the pitch for England, better than Defoe (one every 130 minutes) and Rooney (one every 156 minutes).

Crouch was left out of the squad to face the Netherlands because he had not played a single pre-season game and is therefore not judged match-fit – a rule that Capello applied less stringently with the likes of Ben Foster. Nevertheless there is a lingering sense that Capello is not convinced by Crouch, whom he regards as not dynamic, not Heskey-like enough. Certainly, Crouch is antithetical to Heskey in one respect: he scores.

Crouch scored 16 goals in a struggling Portsmouth team last season, Rooney managed just one more playing for the champions, Manchester United. Defoe scored 13 goals for Portsmouth and then Tottenham. Heskey, playing for Wigan and then Aston Villa, scored five all season. To make up for his shortfall in goals it would be logical that Heskey should be exceptional in other areas, but is he really that good?

Carlton Cole also fits the Heskey template. He runs about, unsettles defenders and, by and large, does not score many goals. Cole is yet to score for England in three caps – in his defence, he has played just 65 minutes in total – yet the prospect of taking him to South Africa ahead of Crouch is already up for serious discussion. Thus ensuring that England would go to the World Cup with at least two strikers who, history tells us, would be odds-on not to score.

When he discussed Defoe after the match on Wednesday, Capello, with a grasp of English that seems to have deteriorated again over the summer, paid tribute to his striker's goalscoring attributes. "I am happy when he plays with us because he always plays well. He is dangerous. He scores goals. If he plays from the first minute he plays well. When he plays the second half he plays well.

"I like players who are good technically and who are fast. This is important for players who score goals. We have to get to South Africa first, after that I will choose."

Capello mentioned the importance of goals twice which makes you wonder why he has such a fondness for those strikers who do not score. Beyond the front line there are not the goals in this England team that some perceive there to be. Steven Gerrard has 14 international goals but averages one every 403 minutes on the pitch; Frank Lampard has 17 goals and averages one every 314. Given that the group stages of the World Cup encompass 270 minutes, it would be unwise to rely on either scoring more than two in a tournament.

The natural assumption to make is that Defoe's two goals mark the beginning of the end for Michael Owen's aspiration of being the understudy for Rooney in South Africa and certainly Capello did nothing to dissuade anyone of that. The lack of goals from Heskey dictates that the two strikers other than Rooney and Heskey who go to the World Cup will be those who demonstrate decent goalscoring form this season.

Capello has built his success so far on the premise that Heskey is good for Rooney and there is evidence to support that. But what happens, as on Wednesday night, when Rooney is off colour in front of goal and, as usual, no goals are forthcoming from Heskey? The answer is not more of the same with Cole. Rather Capello needs the alternative of Crouch and Defoe, two players who have proved for club and country that they can produce goals.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice