England’s new captain under pressure in Basel
The decision to appoint Wayne Rooney as England captain was a controversial one at the time and it’s left Roy Hodgson straddling the horns of a dilemma ahead of their first Euro 2016 qualifier in Basel.
There are those who would argue that Rooney is England’s one player of true quality but his performances this season, and with the national team overall recently, hardly back up that claim.
Despite being given the armband at Manchester United by Louis van Gaal, the 28-year-old has looked generally disinterested in the Premier League so far and was almost anonymous for the 70 minutes he was on the pitch against Norway the other night, apart from scoring the winning penalty.
Raheem Sterling was the player who won that spot-kick and he was easily England’s man-of-the-match, looking even more dangerous when switched into Rooney’s central role in the final quarter. Add to that an impressive cameo from Danny Welbeck and Hodgson’s dilemma becomes apparent. One solution would be to play Rooney on the left-hand side of midfield – but that worked a treat in the World Cup, didn’t it?
The England boss has been busy defending his players since Wednesday’s performance but perhaps he should be concentrating on how to get a result against Switzerland, who are currently ranked 10 places above England in the FIFA rankings and at least reached the knockout stages in Brazil.
They pushed Argentina all the way in the last 16 and, though coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has since departed, Vladimir Petkovic has inherited a settled squad with a proven system which allows star man Xherdan Shaqiri to do as he pleases supported by willing runners Valon Behrami and Valentin Stocker.
One thing in England’s favour is that they haven’t lost to the Swiss since 1981, having won five of the eight matches between the sides since. Defeat in this one probably wouldn’t be a fatal blow to England’s prospects of qualifying from a weak-looking group but would hardly bring back the missing thousands to Wembley and there remains a lingering doubt over the fitness of key defender Gary Cahill.
We’re taking a gamble on pricing up Switzerland at 6/4 as they have plenty in their favour, not least the greeting away teams usually get at St Jakob-Park. The Swiss to win 2-1 are 17/2.
The match kicks off at 7.45pm on Monday, September 8th at the St Jakob-Park, Basel.