Would you choose Owen or Bent in a World Cup final?
Imagine the scenario … there are 10 minutes to go in the World Cup final and England are 1-0 down.
Fabio Capello can choose between Michael Owen and Darren Bent to come off the bench and rescue England’s World Cup dream. Who will he turn to?
A man with 40 England goals to his name and bags of international experience who has played for three of Europe’s biggest clubs? Or a striker with four caps, no international goals and a reputation for blowing hot and cold?
It seems Capello, the man credited with dragging England out of the doldrums and restoring their battered reputation, favours the latter.
The England manager effectively banged another nail in Owen’s World Cup coffin by selecting Sunderland’s Bent ahead of him for his squad to face Brazil on Nov. 14th.
And while the Italian says the England door remains open for Owen, his habit of leaving the country’s fourth highest international goalscorer kicking his heels means the above scenario in which he is forced to choose between Owen and another striker is unlikely to occur.
The Italian, who recently described the former Real Madrid and Liverpool poacher as his ‘tormentor’, has frequently re-iterated that players who are unfit and not firing for their clubs will drop out of contention.
While the principle is no doubt grounded in common sense, the question of whether or not Owen merits being an exception to his iron rule just won’t go away.
Owen would be many fans’ choice to come off the bench and grab a goal should England find themselves in a spot of bother at a crucial point in next June’s tournament.
But Capello is no gambler and remains reluctant to wager one of his 23 squad places on a player who may only be able to make a decisive contribution in short, sharp bursts.
“The players with us in South Africa will be all fit,” Capello said recently. “It’s impossible to wait for one player. Little things are okay, but bigger problems and they will not be there.
“If you have to recover someone it’s no good. When we go it will not be the warm season, when it’s easier to recover. It will be cold in South Africa.”
The England manager worries the wintery conditions could lead to an injury crisis that would deprive him of his first-choice frontline.
And few could blame him for refusing to trust Owen’s hamstrings to hold up should the forward be required to fulfil more than a cameo role.
But let’s imagine another scenario … Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe are all ruled out through injury or suspension during the tournament. Could England realistically win the World Cup with Bent leading the line?
This question is perhaps at the heart of Capello’s decision to give the Sunderland frontman a chance to impress before the squad for South Africa is finalised.
PHOTO: Manchester United’s Michael Owen (L) scores against CSKA Moscow’s during their Champions League soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, November 3, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Should he fail against Brazil, the case for taking a gamble on Owen, Capello’s bête-noir, will only be stronger.