Euro 2012 Preview: England - Montenegro

Forget Distractions, Focus On Football And Extend Winning Start

In the month since England's last match, there has been plenty for fans of the Three Lions to ponder. Firstly, the form of Wayne Rooney, who prior to the summer's World Cup in South Africa, was considered a world-beater and England's most potent weapon, has evaporated as revelations about his private life have boiled over. And notwithstanding the ankle injury that has sidelined him from Manchester United's last few games, Rooney has the chance on Tuesday to silence his critics or confirm their misgivings.

Secondly, a couple of Capello's selections for this squad - Kevin Davies and Jack Wilshere - could be handed the opportunity to show that age is not an issue at either end of the spectrum.

Thirdly, while speculation about Capello's successor is filling column inches even though he won't be leaving for at least another 18 months, the Italian can continue to rehabilitate his reputation by maintaining his 100 per cent start to this Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Amid the premature debate about the credentials of Englishmen Harry Redknapp, Steve McClaren and Sam Allardyce, it is worth remembering that England have lost only one of their last 10 matches; shame it was the most important one, against Germany in South Africa.

However, the current campaign has begun impressively. A 4-0 victory over Bulgaria - when Jermain Defoe claimed the first England hat-trick at the new Wembley and Rooney showed his old sharpness by helping to lay on all four goals - was followed by a 3-1 win in Switzerland when Rooney and substitutes Adam Johnson and Darren Bent all found the net.

Since then Wayne's world has crumbled somewhat; Montenegro coach Kranjcar believes his call-up despite poor club form shows England are nervous of his side. "Capello is aware we have a good team and called for Rooney as he wants to leave nothing to chance," Kranjcar told the Daily Mail.

Debutants Aim To Maintain Perfect Qualifying Record

The Croatian coach - father of Tottenham's Niko - hopes to write a glorious page in the history of Montenegro on Tuesday. It will certainly be a new chapter as England, founders and pioneers of the game, are meeting the newest members of Uefa for the very first time. Not even club sides from England and the young independent Balkan nation have previously met competitvely.

Yet Montenegro's debut Euro campaign could not have started more encouragingly.

Having beaten Wales and Bulgaria in their opening two qualifiers, Montenegro made it an impressive hat-trick of 1-0 victories last Friday against Switzerland in Podgorica. That win, secured by a Mirko Vucinic goal and some resilient defending, saw them overtake England to go top of Group G.  

Kranjcar told journalists afterwards: "We could have taken a point from this match and been satisfied but we took our chance and got a very important win. I managed to convince my players we could beat Switzerland and finish second in the group. They reacted brilliantly. The Swiss were organised, dangerous at times, but our defence was well prepared. Also, our goalkeeper [Mladen Bozovic] was brilliant."

So Montenegro will take to the Wembley pitch brimming with the confidence that comes from a perfect record of nine points out of nine.

“England are still the favourites to win the group but we are not going to London as shopping tourists, we will be looking to prove our worth and get something out of this game," the coach added to Sky Sports.

"This team has the capacity to capitalise on any blunders England might make so we won't just roll over. We have shown against the Swiss that we are capable of playing good football against tough opponents, and that 1-0 wins over Wales and Bulgaria were no fluke.

“The players have accepted my vision and performed with the utmost commitment and professionalism, hence we now believe we are good enough to at least finish runners-up in the group and clinch a play-off berth."



The 33-year-old Bolton Wanderers forward Kevin Davies is in the squad for the first time and joins Darren Bent, Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney among the attacking options. Back in the squad are Robert Green, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, while Arsenal's 18-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere has joined up with the seniors after helping the Under-21 side beat Romania on Friday.

No England fixture would be complete without pre-match withdrawals, and this time Phil Jagielka and Aaron Lennon had to drop out with injuries, their places filled by Gary Cahill and Stewart Downing, respectively, before John Terry suffered a back injury and returned to Chelsea on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry joined up with the squad after being given leave to arrive late for personal reasons. Already ruled out of contention by injury were Frank Lampard, Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott.

There is much speculation that both the combative, in-form Davies and the promising Wilshere - who earned his first and only England cap so far in the friendly win against Hungary in August - will feature at some stage, though in both cases probably from the bench.

But coach Fabio Capello has some intriguing selection decisions to make.

Jagielka had produced two impressive central defensive performances in last month's victories over Bulgaria and Switzerland, and was expected to retain his place against the Montenegrins, which would have forced Capello to choose between Ferdinand and Terry as his partner. That dilemma looked to have been resolved by default with the Everton man's injury, but Terry's late withdrawal suggests that Ferdinand will now partner Cahill or Joleon Lescott.

Barry is likely to start alongside Steven Gerrard, with Adam Johnson pressing his claims for a start after excelling in his last two appearances. In attack it's really a case of perming any two from the four available strikers, though Capello may typically delay announcing his team until shortly before kick-off.

Possible starting XI: Hart; G Johnson, Ferdinand, Cahill, A Cole; A Johnson, Gerrard, Barry, Milner; Rooney, Bent.


Key midfielder Stevan Jovetic is ruled out until February with damaged cruciate ligaments in his right knee, while defensive midfielder Nikola Drincic is another long-term absentee.

But Montenegro have coped well without 20-year-old Fiorentina playmaker Jovetic, who sustained his injury in a challenge with club-mate Mario Bolatti.

Jovetic had scored six goals in 13 appearances for his country before the injury and was named Montenegrin footballer of the year in 2009, but coach Zlatko Kranjcar will rely on the likes of Mirko Vucinic and Elsad Zverotic, scorers in the three qualifiers to date, and striker Radomir Djalovic to provide the attacking threat. Vucinic combined well with midfielder Mitar Novakovic for Montenegro's goal against Switzerland.

With the substitutions made in that game largely tactical, Kranjcar will be tempted to keep faith with the same 11 starters against England.

Possible starting XI: Mladen Bozovic; Basa, Jovanovic, Savic, Djudovic; Vukcevic, Boskovic,  Novakovic, Zverotic; Djalovic, Vucinic.

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