Tuesday, May 29, 2007

England vs. Brazil, Estonia

The biggest headline surrounding these two games involves the recall of David Beckham by England manager Steve McLaren. He has 94 caps in his international career and 6 more would give him 100, considered to be a revered milestone amongst players. Beckham obviously would love to reach 100 but if he does so, it won't be as the England captain. After the World Cup exit at the hands of Portugal, he stepped down and new, embattled manager Steve McLaren has appointed John Terry to wear the armband with Steven Gerrard as vice-captain. Beckham figures to start against Brazil on June 1 (3 PM ET, FSC) in the international friendly at Wembley and again at Estonia on June 6, with his chances even more promising now that Aaron Lennon has withdrawn from those games due to a knee injury. Lennon limped off the field after just 10 minutes in the English "B" game against Albania (England won the game 3-1, led by goals from Stewart Downing and Michael Owen). England also will not have the services of Wayne Rooney, who is suspended for the Estonia match and thus was also left off the squad for the Brazil friendly, and defenders Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd.) and Michael Dawson (Spurs), who recently pulled out of the team. Already missing Jonathan Woodgate, Gary Neville, Micah Richards, and Ashley Cole as well, the door is opened for either Liverpool's Jamie Carragher or Tottenham's Ledley King to get a couple starts. Steve McLaren is missing 6 talented defenders and a brilliant young striker for games which could be crucial to his future as England manager. The friendly against Brazil is more for international respect but the game against Estonia is absolutely essential to win, so we'll see what happens.

England desperately needs a win against Estonia if they hope to qualify for Euro 2008. With just 6 games left on their qualifying schedule, England is sitting in third place in Group E (only the top 2 teams in each group qualify automatically) and have played one more game than Russia, who is in fourth place but is tied on points with 11.
Group Standings:
1. Croatia (13 points, +11 Goal Differential, 5 Games Played)
2. Israel (11 points, +7 GD, 6 GP)
3. England (11 points, +7 GD, 6 GP)
4. Russia (11 points, +6 GD, 5 GP)
5. Macedonia (7 points, 0 GD, 6 GP)
6. Estonia (0 points, -10 GD, 5 GP)
7. Andorra (0 points, -21 GD, 5 GP)

England still has to go to Russia and play, which is a winnable game, but brillant Dutch coach Guus Hiddink now is the Russian manager and he will surely have his team prepared. Russia could very well take all 3 points from that game if England comes out and doesn't play at a high level; I can see that game being a draw. England does benefit, however, from a favorable schedule that sees them play three games in a row at home after the game at Estonia (Sept. 8 vs. Israel, Sept. 12 vs. Russia, and Oct. 13 vs. Estonia) and 3 wins would vastly improve their position.

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