Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 21 June 2006

Chin up - it could be worse...

Oh well, another jinx carries on undiminished for another year. England just cannot seem to beat Sweden and that's all there is to it.

Not that it should linger on in our minds for too long. After last night's 2-2 draw in Cologne, England have finished top of their group and avoided hosts Germany in the second round. Unbeaten after the first three matches, England can quietly feel confident of reaching the quarter finals - that is if the core of the squad can hold together long enough.

With Michael Owen badly injuring his knee after one minute and Rio Ferdinand hobbling off in the second half with a groin strain, things don't look too good at the minute. In attack we're left with Wayne Rooney who is yet to find the spark to signal the end of his recovery period, Peter Crouch and Theo Walcott, who hasn't even played a full game for England yet.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Steven Gerrard moves further and further forward upfield as the competition progresses. We may be in need of a proven goalscorer by the end of this World Cup and if that means promoting him from midfield to attack, so be it, in my book.

That would mean his support in the centre of the field would be Frank Lampard (still a capable player but looking somewhat tired, understandably), Owen Hargreaves (don't ask), Joe Cole (trying hard at the moment but a little inconsistent) and the ubiquitous but reliable David Beckham.

In defence, things are looking transitional at the moment. Ferdinand's injury may not be as bad as first thought, but Sol Campbell should be good enough to take his place on experience and technical ability alone should the need arise again. Ashley Cole still lacks a little focus but is getting slightly better with every game, John Terry is as dependable as ever and Jamie Carragher is holding his own without ever expecting to play an entire 90 minutes.

But should we be that pessimistic about England's chances of winning the tournament? I have a few suggestions that might lift the mood a little...

Let's get some fresh legs out there. First of all, let Aaron Lennon take the right-wing position where he does most damage and give Stewart Downing a chance to do the same on the left - both of whom can link up well with Beckham and Lampard in the middle.

Up front, let Gerrard have a run around with Rooney or Crouch. At the back, leave things pretty much as they are with Robinson, Terry, Ferdinand (health permitting) Ashley Cole and Carragher doing their usual shtick.

OK granted - it's not the most radical overhaul of team affairs, but I certainly think Lennon needs to be used more and Downing's no bad option down the left either. And if Sven insists on using Owen Hargreaves again, surely Michael Carrick would be a more useful alternative? Did I mention Joe Cole? Well he could be used from time to time, but in those games where he isn't firing on all cylinders, give him a rest on the bench.

You see, it's not all doom and gloom. Perhaps we just need to see some fitter, faster players being brought in, one or two being played in different positions and other players being given the day off once in a while. There's still bags of talent in the squad - we just need to be using it better.

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