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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 9 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 11, 2008

Hart and Huddlestone make England squad

Fabio Capello is expecting all his big names to report for duty as England tackle the United States and Trinidad and Tobago in their summer campaign - but will be looking for a couple of untested youngsters to impress as well.

Capello's past captains, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand, are both included for the friendlies on May 27 and June 1, respectively, along with potential skippers John Terry and Wayne Rooney, plus older heads like David Beckham and David James.

But it is the performances of the youth brigade that are likely to be of most interest.

After the rushed build-up to games against Switzerland and France, Capello now has the luxury of having the majority of his squad together for an extended period.

With the exception of nine players otherwise engaged at the Champions League final, Capello will have his squad together from May 21, meaning he will have nearly a fortnight to assess training and get his ideas across.

As only three days are allocated for the get-together ahead of August's encounter with the Czech Republic before the real action begins with World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia the following month, Capello knows the work he does now is vital.

So, it is perhaps no surprise Manchester City keeper Joe Hart and Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone are among those given an opportunity to impress.

Hart, who was mercifully on the bench as City were crushed 8-1 at Middlesbrough, has been touted for an England call-up virtually since Capello was appointed.

The 21-year-old has only been an Eastlands regular since the autumn after being elevated above Kasper Schmeichel and, significantly, Sweden international Andreas Isaksson by City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Eriksson abandoned plans to sign experienced back-up because of Hart's performances and although the former England boss accepts his protege may make a few mistakes, he has compared the youngster to David Seaman in the past.

Huddlestone has also impressed at Tottenham during the latter half of the campaign and played a starring role in the club's Carling Cup triumph over Chelsea.

Although the burly midfielder took his time settling at White Hart Lane following his move from Derby in 2005, the 21-year-old is now firmly established under new coach Juande Ramos and seems to be prospering under the Spaniard's guidance.

Huddlestone's team-mate Aaron Lennon and Chelsea wide-man Shaun Wright-Phillips are the notable exclusions from a squad lacking Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and Matthew Upson through injury.

Capello will hope the nine players on Champions League duty in Moscow on May 21 come through unscathed, particularly Wayne Rooney, who returned from a hip problem in Manchester United's Barclays Premier League title-clinching win at Wigan.

With the exception of goalkeeping duo Paul Robinson and Robert Green, Capello has stuck with the men involved against France, when Franck Ribery's penalty condemned the coach to his first defeat.

The opposition England are set to face over the next couple of weeks is not of the same taxing standard but Gabriel Agbonlahor, Theo Walcott and Ashley Young will be among those looking to put pressure on Rooney, who looked ill at ease as a lone striker against the French, and Michael Owen, who has finally hit form at Newcastle.

Capello has given no insight into his likely captain against the USA, although it would be a major surprise if Terry was not offered the chance to lead his country again at least once more after taking the armband during the ill-fated Steve McClaren era.

Indeed, while Terry could hardly be blamed for the Euro 2008 qualification disaster, the importance of England's next two games is an end to itself rather than merely building up to bigger things this summer, proving how far Capello must take the Three Lions to fulfil the aim of reaching a major semi-final within the next four years.