England manager Fabio Capello told Owen Hargreaves yesterday that the door is open for him to play in his third successive World Cup finals if he can finally prove his fitness after 15 months out the game with tendinitis.
The 28-year-old last played for Manchester United on 21 September last year and has since had surgery on both his knees but he has never given up hope that he will play again. Should Hargreaves be able to make a return in the new year he will have one March friendly game in which to make an impression before Capello names his squad.
The likelihood is that if Hargreaves is selected it would be at the expense of his United team-mate Michael Carrick, who has never quite won over Capello. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said he had hoped to bring Hargreaves back for the Champions League game against Besiktas last month but fresh problems put his recovery back.
Asked about Hargreaves, Capello said: "Why not? He can because he has time to recover. He has to play. Players who do not play will not be with me. I spoke to him two months ago, I met him in Manchester and he was just ready to start training. But now he is not fit. He has six months to recover his good form but he needs to play.
"I will choose players that will be fit in May, the players that play all the games. More or less, I know all the players. I follow the players and check on them but we have to wait. When I decide the 23 players that will stay with me, I hope the best players will be fit. This is the reason why I have to follow more players."
In order to prepare for two of England's group-stage opponents, Algeria and the United States, Capello said that his team will play friendlies against Egypt and Mexico. They played a friendly against their third group-stage opposition, Slovenia, at Wembley in September and Capello said the team needed experience of a different kind of opposition.
He said: "We have to decide [on the friendly opponents]. We are speaking with these countries but have not decided yet. I think we will play 3 March at Wembley, against Egypt, then we have to find the date to play against Mexico.
"All the friendly games we played were against European teams and we know the style of these teams. We have to play against South Americans and African teams with a different style."
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