England’s performances in recent years have been hugely disappointing and well below what is expected of a national team comprised of some of the Premier League’s brightest stars.
The resounding failure in World Cup 2010 nearly cost manager Fabio Capello his job and reports claim he was only spared the cut due to the hefty compensation which the English Football Association would have been required to pay him.
The level of expectation of England is like nothing else in the football world, and anything less than a win over minnows Bulgaria at home just might send the Italian boss packing.
The hosts will miss Lampard and Crouch through injury but should be boosted by the terrific form of young Arsenal striker Theo Walcott . The fleet-footed winger-turned-striker has bagged four goals in three matches so far this season and looks set to continue his fine form after missing out on Capello’s World Cup squad.
The visitors starting line-up is somewhat obscure, with the most notable name being Aston Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov . Parma’s Valeri Bojinov , who scored for his club during their Serie A opener, is set to pair up with Litex Lovech striker Popov in attack.
Of course, the Bulgaria ns will sorely miss in-form Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov following his retirement from the national team.
On paper, Bulgaria will have to pull out something special from their sleeve if they are to secure any points at Wembley.
Probable starting line-ups
England – Hart, Johnson, Dawson, Upson, Cole, Walcott, Gerrard, Barry, Milner, Defoe, Rooney.
Bulgaria – Mihaylov, Manolev, Ivanov, Stoyanov, Minev, Angelov, Yankov, Peev, S. Petrov, Bojinov, Popov.
Players to watch
Theo Walcott (England, Arsenal) – The youngster has shown on numerous occasions, memorably during the World Cup qualifying match against Croatia in September 2008 when he scored a hat-trick, that he has the ability to become a top-class player for England , providing unparalleled speed and clinical finishing to an underwhelming offence that has lacked a sure-fire goal-scorer since the days of Alan Shearer.
Valeri Bojinov (Bulgaria, Parma) – The ex-Manchester City striker looked in good form to help Parma to their 2-0 win over Brescia last weekend and could prove to be a thorn in the side of the England defence if given time and space to show his skills.