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Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 11:43 UK

World Cup scouting: goalkeepers

Hart, Green and James
Hart, Green and James are in contention for the England goalkeeper's jersey

Lee Dixon
By Lee Dixon
BBC Sport pundit

With only two friendly matches left before the start of the World Cup, it is too late for England coach Fabio Capello to change his number one goalkeeper.

So, unless he is struck down by injury or a dramatic loss of form, I suspect West Ham's Robert Green will be given the nod for the finals in South Africa.

Before the Egypt friendly a few weeks ago, I did not know who Capello was going to choose. But having picked Green for that game, you would assume the Hammers man will start at the World Cup.

Whether you think Green is the right choice or not, the goalkeeper is such a specialist position - and the anchor of the defence - that to alter things now could spell disaster.

If you need an example of what can happen, just think back to England's final Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia at Wembley, when Scott Carson started and conceded three goals in a shock reverse.

The defeat meant England failed to make it to the finals, while West Brom keeper Carson has played for his country only once since then.

Despite believing Green is now Capello's first choice, I still have my doubts about him and I'm not totally convinced the England goalkeeping issue has been resolved.

THE CONTENDERS

Goalkeepers pride themselves on clean sheets, but the problem is the two main candidates for the England jersey are not exactly getting many of those at the minute.

Green has seven for his club this season, but has conceded 57 goals in 32 Premier League games.

David James, who has missed a chunk of the season for Portsmouth because of a persistent calf injury, has only played 22 games, with just three clean sheets to his name and 40 goals against him.

Of course, conceding goals is not all down to the keeper - the responsibility lies with the whole defence - so I do not think these statistics will affect their confidence, certainly not James anyway.

GREEN AND JAMES THIS SEASON
Robert Green and David James
30 ----------- Age ---------- 39
30 - League appearances - 22
7 ------ Clean sheets ------ 3
57 ---- Goals conceded ----40
9 --- Total England caps --- 49

At 39, he has been around the block enough times to know if he lets a few goals in it does not make him a bad goalkeeper.

That might be an advantage he has over Green, who, at 30, is a relatively young age for a keeper.

If someone like Joe Hart, aged just 22, was letting in goals left, right and centre, then it might knock his confidence. That said, out of the three I've named, Hart is actually the form player.

The Birmingham keeper has made 31 league appearances this season and kept nine clean sheets, conceding 36 goals.

Still, I think he is one for the future. If the World Cup was next year, you might be looking at drafting him in, but, depending on what happens this summer, he may be in with a shout for the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Of the other possible candidates, Manchester United's Ben Foster seems to have been cut out of the picture after a promising beginning for England. But he has time on his side.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

When I asked my old room-mate and former England keeper David Seaman what his ideal game was, I thought he'd say it would be having loads to do without letting any goals in.

But his philosophy - and it is the same for most of the goalkeepers I have spoken to - was that he always preferred a quiet game.

If he could go through a match without touching the ball much, Dave said he was happy because it meant the team was doing well and winning games.

Ukraine v England

Highlights - Ukraine 1-0 England

His job, after all, was to keep the ball out of the net - and that is something he was good at, particularly staying concentrated enough to pull a big save out of the bag, having done little during the course of a match.

At international level, remaining focused is hugely important for keepers. In contrast to the Premier League, there will be long periods where you are not involved and there are nowhere near as many shots or crosses coming into the box.

That is where I think Green falls down a bit. He can be indecisive when judging whether to come off his line or out of his box. Perhaps such hesitation played a part in the red card he received in the 1-0 defeat by Ukraine in World Cup qualifying last October.

Green is a good shot-stopper but his decision-making is an area of weakness. It might be a concentration thing, in which case he has got to sort that out.

As for James. he has admitted to concentration problems in the past but he is older and wiser now. I do not think you will find many more focused professionals than him now.

HART AND FOSTER THIS SEASON
Joe Hart and Ben Foster
22 ----------- Age ----------- 26
31 -- League appearances -- 9
9 ------- Clean sheets ------- 4
36 ----- Goals conceded ----- 8
1 ---- Total England caps ---- 4

When Ronaldinho's free-kick for Brazil helped knock England out of the 2002 World Cup, I saw how it affected David Seaman.

He took it badly and was down for a long time, but he is a strong character and eventually bounced back. Rightly or wrongly, people remember his international career for that goal.

There were other factors that led to the defeat, but Dave is a perfectionist and took to heart whatever people said.

James has had experience of being in that situation, too. He was blamed when Andreas Ivanschitz's shot squirmed beneath him in the 2-2 with Austria during qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.

That sort of experience gives James added strength. Green, on the other hand, is yet to go through that sort of pressure, so you wonder how he might handle it.

VERDICT

It is pretty clear in Capello's mind that the three goalkeepers going to South Africa are Green, James and Hart.

There is a nice mix there and I do not see Capello doing anything other than sticking with Green as his number one option. But I would go with James. His big-game experience is key for me.

Lee Dixon was talking to Alistair Magowan



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see also
World Cup scouting: centre-backs
23 Mar 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup scouting: right midfield
16 Mar 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup scouting: left-backs
02 Mar 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup scouting: right-backs
12 Mar 10 |  World Cup 2010
England 3-1 Egypt
03 Mar 10 |  Football
Ukraine 1-0 England
10 Oct 09 |  Internationals
James takes blame
05 Sep 04 |  Internationals


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