Changing of the guard for England
England’s football team is likely to contain Theo Walcott when the national team take on Kazakhstan at Wembley on Saturday – but Michael Owen won’t play and former captain David Beckham is likely to stay on the bench. Is manager Fabio Capello signalling a changing of the guard?
Walcott is certain to start after scoring a hat-trick against Croatia in England’s last football match, and will probably start in the same right midfield position that used to be Beckham’s back yard.
Beckham came on as a substitute for Walcott in the Croatia game and could well repeat the role on Saturday. That the LA Galaxy winger is playing at all is probably because his most obvious replacement if Walcott were to move to a more central roll, David Bentley, plays for a Tottenham Hotspur club that is bottom of the English Premier League.
Owen – one of only four England players to score forty or more goals for the Three Lions – missed the last two England internationals through injury, but has been overlooked this time out because of problems at Newcastle United, his club, Capello says.
Capello told the press, “He's fit enough, but it is not a good moment for Newcastle.
"Sometimes a lot of the results of the club for which a player plays are not good for the confidence.”
The Italian also hinted that the same logic would rule Bentley out of a place in the starting line-up, saying, “You can play better if all the team play well. There are three players at Tottenham who are interesting for us but it is not a good moment for them.”
Under Sven Goran Eriksson – and even under Steve McClaren, who dropped Beckham and subsequently recalled him during England’s doomed European Championship campaign – to drop Owen and Beckham would have been unthinkable. But Capello is a big enough manager to pick sides without any consideration of a player’s reputation.
Betting odds reflect new England guard
The change in England’s guard is reflected in the first goalscorer odds for England versus Kazakhstan.
Where Owen and Beckham used to dominate the first goalscorer markets, Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe lead the way at odds of 10/3 and 7/2 respectively. Theo Walcott is a 5/1 chance.
Beckham finds himself quoted at odds of 9/1 – just ahead of Stewart Downing.
Kazakhstan first goalscorer betting shows relative strength
The strength of the Kazakhstan national team can be judged by their first goalscorer odds. Seven players vie for favouritism and are 33/1 to score the first goal.
England defenders Ashley Cole, Wes Brown and Glen Johnson are shorter priced at 25/1.