Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Walcott Facing the Cruellest Cut; Winger's World Cup Place under Threat as a Lack of Regular Football Leads to Him Failing to Impress Capello at Wembley. by Michael Hart

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Walcott Facing the Cruellest Cut; Winger's World Cup Place under Threat as a Lack of Regular Football Leads to Him Failing to Impress Capello at Wembley. by Michael Hart

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Hart

ONLY a dramatic upsurge in form will now secure Theo Walcott a place in England's World Cup squad this summer. A surprise inclusion in Germany four years ago, the 20-year-old Arsenal winger's lack of regular match practice could cost him his place in Fabio Capello's 23-man party for the World Cup. His emergence as a fast winger of match-winning potential convinced Sven-Goran Eriksson that the then precocious Arsenal teenager was worth a place in Germany but Capello is far more of a realist.

Last night he gave Walcott the chance to convince him that a lack of first-team football this season should not rule him out of World Cup contention.

In fleeting moments in the first half, Walcott revealed the pace that caught Eriksson's eye but his overall performance lacked quality, a cutting edge and the diligence that Capello demands from all his men.

Walcott was substituted after 56 minutes, making way for the more experienced Shaun Wright-Phillips who immediately took his chance to remind us that, two years after scoring on Capello's debut as England manager, he still has much to offer at this level.

Wright-Phillips scored a goal and made another for Peter Crouch as England recovered from a goal down and a woeful first half to beat African champions Egypt 3-1. It was the last friendly before Capello names his provisional list of players for South Africa and, for those like Walcott on the margins of the squad, the importance of the occasion could not be overstated. It was his big chance because injury has seriously undermined his season. He's made only five Premier League starts for Arsenal and last started a match with England back in June, when Andorra were beaten 6-0 at Wembley.

Since then a clutch of players like David Beckham, Ashley Young, Aaron Lennon, James Milner and, of course, Wright-Phillips have been entrusted with the responsibility for patrolling England's flanks. …

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