England look to shine in final dress rehearsal against Japan
Japan v England, kick-off Sunday 1.15pm
Oh for a glimpse into the internal workings of Fabio Capello’s cranium. The England boss is due to name his final 23-man World Cup squad on June 1st, so the side that the Italian picks against Japan in Graz two days before that should give some clues as to his thinking.
Will he experiment much? Or will he stick to as close to his likely starting XI against the USA as possible? The likes of Scott Parker, Joe Cole and Darren Bent will be hoping for the former, as they yearn for one last chance to ensure they get a South African stamp on their passports.
Boss Takeshi Okada has no dilemmas over his squad selection – his 23 have already been named – but he does have more pressing concerns over his side’s form.
Successive losses against Serbia and South Korea saw five goals conceded and not a single scored, suggesting that Japan’s stay in South Africa might not last longer than ten days – with Denmark, Cameroon and Holland providing stiff opposition in Group E.
John Terry looks certain to return alongside Rio Ferdinand in defence, and against a usually shot-shy attack it should prove a good game in which to resume their partnership. Capello will warn against giving away free-kicks near the box, though, as master Shunsuke Nakamura and apprentice Keisuke Honda can both strike a mean dead ball, posing the main offensive threat – they’re 4/1 and 5/1 to score at any time respectively.
But England are clear favourites, at 2/7, with their performance against Mexico showing that even a sub-par showing can still finish with a positive result. Another 3-1 victory is priced at 10/1, while that same scoreline including Wayne Rooney to score first in a scorecast is 22/1.