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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK
World Cup Scouting - Peter Crouch
England coach Sven-Goran ErikssonLiverpool striker Peter CrouchEngland supportersLiverpool boss Rafa BenitezWorld Cup

By John May
BBC Sport at Fratton Park

Sven-Goran Eriksson has named his 23-man squad which will carry England's hopes during the World Cup.

Liverpool striker Peter Crouch is in the squad and BBC Sport went to Fratton Park on the final day of the season to check out the 6ft 7in hitman.

Injuries to Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen mean the lanky striker could end up spearheading England's attack in Germany.

ENGLAND HISTORY

Crouch's journey from fans' figure of fun to international striker has been one of battling prejudice and ridicule.

From his early days at QPR and then Portsmouth, Crouch has suffered from heightism, seen by many as little more than the focal point for teams playing route one football.

Paul Sturrock rescued Crouch from exile at Aston Villa by signing him for Southampton, but the striker only came into his own at St Mary's when James Beattie moved to Everton.

Crouch's 12 Premiership goals in his one season for Saints failed to keep them up.

But they did earn him an England call-up for the tour of the USA and a 7m move to Liverpool, where the nay-sayers surfaced again as Crouch took 19 competitive games to open his Reds' account.

With five England caps to his name, Crouch still has to win over his doubters.

PETER CROUCH - THE FORM GUIDE

Having broken his Liverpool duck in December, Crouch scored consistently, rather than spectacularly, for the rest of the season, ending the campaign with 12 goals, including a first for England against Uruguay.

Confidence plays a large part in Crouch's game, and at times that commodity has been as brittle as his frame looks.

PETER CROUCH FACTFILE
Peter Crouch
Born: 30.1.81, Macclesfield
Clubs: Tottenham, QPR, Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Norwich, Southampton, Liverpool
Career games: 313
Career goals:68
England debut: vs Colombia 31.5.2005
England caps: 5
England goals: 1

A Peter Crouch high on confidence has a deft first touch, holds the ball well under pressure, shows remarkable skill for somebody of his physique, shows awareness of where his team-mates are and is cool in front of goal.

He can also win the ball in the air.

Fortunately, Crouch is currently choc-full of the vital C-factor and with the FA Cup final looming, Crouch was rested to the bench at Portsmouth.

His appearance for the last 25 minutes at Fratton Park was a template for what many see as his role for England - to be thrown on as a target to lump balls up to in a last hurrah act of desperation.

Crouch is more than that, though. He was on the spot to tap home Liverpool's second from three yards after Dean Kiely had parried a shot and his measured pass set Cisse up for the third.

Assumptions of Crouch are based on his appearance. It seems unprobable that somebody of his height should possess such a deft first touch, and that gives defenders problems of whether to stick or twist.

Defenders who back off in the hope of picking up Crouch's flick-ons are undone as his touch is good enough to bring the ball down. Mark tight, and Crouch will flick the ball on.

The confidence oozing from Crouch even saw him shrug off abuse for being a former Southampton player from amnesiac Portsmouth fans who forgot the goals he scored for them.

WHAT THE SUPPORTERS THINK

He's not a Rooney-type player who can create something out of nothing and he needs a consistent supply line. The likes of Beckham, Gerrard and Cole should provide him with that but you get the feeling he will either flop spectacularly or become a cult hero.
James Piercey, fan from Reading.

Crouch has done well for us this season even when he wasn't scoring, he does cause defences problems but given the four forwards that Sven has named in the squad, Crouch is the only one fit and playing at the minute.
Pedro Crouchinho, via 606 messageboards.

Crouch won't win the World Cup for England, I think he will struggle against the good sides. The football world is a smaller place these days and he won't be an unknown quantity, other teams will do their homework. For a man of his height, he's not as good in the air as he should be and good defensive sides will know how to deal with him.
Alex Crook, Southsea Hants.

Crouch has been responsible for about 75% of Liverpool's improvement this season. If you're talking about Gerrard, Cole and Lampard getting the goals this summer, we need someone to hold the ball up in the final third, giving them time to join the attack. There's no-one better at it than Crouchinho.
Viva La Rafalution, via 606 messageboards.

Crouch is a footballer - he's not just a target man, but a link man. He's able to hold the ball long enough for the midfield players to make their runs and Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard can all finish.
Mint-Biscuit, via 606 messageboards.

WHAT THE GAFFER THINKS

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez knows what Crouch brings to his side, and not just in terms of goals.

Benitez said: "I know we are a better side at keeping the ball in the final third of the pitch with Peter Crouch in the team.

"He's a very good striker, and his all-round game is good.

"I think he would bring a lot of things to the England team."

THE VERDICT

If Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen fail to pass muster Peter Crouch will find himself at the forefront of England's World Cup hopes.

Crouch spearheading England would necessitate a completely different blueprint and change the point and method of attack.

CROUCH'S COMPETITION
Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Theo Walcott

Instead of looking to exploit the explosive pace of Rooney and Owen through the channels, England would look to use Crouch as the focal point.

Crouch's touch makes him an excellent back-to-goal player, but the threat of any England attack led by the big man would only be as good as the support that can get to him.

But it could work to England's advantage. Playing Joe Cole in an advanced midfield role to feed off Crouch would mean his skills could be employed more in the last third where he can cause more damage.



SEE ALSO
Scouting for England
03 May 06 |  World Cup 2006
Portsmouth 1-3 Liverpool
07 May 06 |  Premiership
Pick your England team
08 May 06 |  Squad selectors


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