Friendly Fire - England v Mexico

England v Mexico

Adam Johnson.
Adam Johnson

A quarter of the FIFA World Cup participants are in action over the next couple of days, with the qualifiers eager to test themselves against extra-continental opposition in advance of the finals England tackle Mexico in London in temperatures more akin to Central America (30C) than North-West Europe. The slippery Wembley pitch is still causing worries in many minds, particularly if it crocks another of Fabio Capello's squad.


Experimentation will be the order of the day with no Chelsea or Portsmouth players involved and only one more game (v Japan in Graz on May 30th) left before the final 23 players are selected.

With No.1 David James rested, Manchester City goalie Joe Hart, the most talented but least experienced England custodian, is sure to play at least 45 minutes, as is West Ham's Robert Green.

The other possible auditions tonight include the talented Adam Johnson and speedster Theo Walcott on the right flank, Everton's dependable Leighton Baines at left back and jack of all trades James Milner in central midfield. It will be an experimental evening for England, but the first choice three lions eleven, assuming Gareth Barry passes his fitness test tomorrow, still resembles something like this:

James, Johnson, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard, Lennon, Rooney, Heskey.

Los Tricolores are looking to impress after finishing a point behind the US in CONCACAF's qualifiers following a disastrous start under Sven-Goran Eriksson. Eriksson was in charge of England the last time tonight's opponents played, the three lions running out 4-0 winners at Pride Park, Derby, in 2001.

Javier Aguirre brings a talented squad including Barcelona duo Jonathan Dos Santos and Rafael Marquez, along with local heroes Carlos Vela of Arsenal, Guillermo Franco of West Ham and Giovanni dos Santos of Spurs (on-loan at Galatasaray).

The team's arrival in London last night was delayed three hours due to a bird strike on their British Airways airliner in Nuremburg. The Mexicans have a hectic practise schedule with games against Holland on Wednesday, Gambia on the 30th of May and Italy on the 3rd of June. England beat Mexico 2-0 at Wembley on their way to the 1966 World Cup with a memorable goal from Bobby Charlton.

Mexico have the poisoned chalice of facing the hosts in Soccer City in the opening game on June 11th, and have also got to contend with France and Uruguay in a tricky Group A.

England face the slightly easier prospect in South Africa of the USA, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C.

Mon 24th May
v Mexico

Tue 25th May

Georgia v
v North Korea
v Saudi Arabia
Eire v Paraguay
v Czech Republic

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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