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Battle of the squads - England 1990 v England 2010

It has been 20 years since that night in Turin, when England came as close as they ever have done to World Cup glory on foreign shores. So, has Fabio Capello's side got what it takes in a head-to head with Bobby Robson's team? pitched each of the current England side against their 1990 counterpart.

For the purposes of this head to head, we will compare Fabio Capello's expected starting eleven with the 1990 side that lined up in the semi-final against West Germany.


Peter Shilton v David James

Shilton was a vastly experienced keeper in 1990 and utterly reliable. He already had over 100 caps to his name by Italia 90 and was one of the world's top keepers at the time, along with the likes of Italy's Walter Zenga.

Appearing in his third World Cup, Shilton inspired confidence in his back four. His only weakness was perhaps saving penalties, which ultimately proved to be costly.

David James goes into the World Cup with a great deal of club experience and having won 50 caps. Yet, the fact that he is still far from certain of being Capello's number one says much about the doubts surrounding him.

James' lengthy career has been plagued by the tendency to commit terrible blunders. Usually reliable, James is prone to the odd howler, and having never played in the intensity of a World Cup before, who is to say that he won't crumble under the pressure?

IMScouting's choice: PETER SHILTON without a doubt.


Paul Parker v Glen Johnson Paul Parker was one of the great successes of Italia 90. He came into the tournament with little international experience and had played almost exclusively as a centre-back for QPR.

Yet, he replaced Gary Stevens after the first game against Republic of Ireland in an unfamiliar right-back role and never looked back.

Tenacious in the tackle and comfortable on the ball, he memorably set up Lineker's equalizer in the semi-final…after the ball had spun off him at a free kick for West Germany's opener.

Liverpool right-back Johnson threatens to have a very good international career ahead of him, although much will depend on this summer.

He has made the right-back spot his own in the last year or so. Excellent going forward, Johnson also provides a threat on goal, as he showed against Mexico recently.

However, there are doubts about Johnson's concentration when defending. The success of his international career will be somewhat influenced by whether his weaknesses are exposed at the highest level this summer.

IMScouting's choice: It's a DRAW - Parker was excellent when called upon, the more naturally talented Johnson is yet to rise to the challenge.

Stuart Pearce v Ashley Cole

Pearce epitomized the England spirit for the first half of the 1990s. 'Psycho' was a man you did not want to mess with - hard but fair, the kind of player you wanted in the trenches.

There have been few harder tacklers and few more dangerous from free-kicks. It's just a shame he missed that penalty…

Ashley Cole and Stuart Pearce are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of popularity. But, in footballing terms, Cole has everything that the modern full-back needs.

Rarely is he beaten by an opponent, Cole has the fitness to provide excellent support to the midfielder ahead of him. He is well capable of contributing to the attack with assists and goals.

Possibly the best left-back in the world.

IMScouting's choice: ASHLEY COLE - The heart says Pearce, but the head says Cole.

Terry Butcher v John Terry

Butcher was Bobby Robson's 'captain courageous' following a particularly brave and blood-soaked performance in Sweden.

That just about summed him up, always prepared to put himself on the line for his country.

But, Butcher was also an excellent, imposing centre-back and rarely did a striker dominate or get the better of him.

Terry is somewhat in the 'Butcher mould', also prepared to lead from the front. A year ago, there would have been little question that Chelsea skipper Terry would be chosen ahead of Butcher.

But, last season exposed some chinks in Terry's armoury, he was sometimes caught flat-footed and lacking in pace. Nonetheless, he is a huge asset to the side.

IMScouting's choice: A DEAD HEAT. Possibly a bit generous to Terry, who must play to his potential on the biggest stage of all.

Des Walker v Ledley King

'You'll never beat Des Walker' sang the Forest fans, and at this stage of his career they were right.

Walker read the game beautifully, his timing was spot on, he had excellent pace and was simply unbeatable in 1990. Whoever he played alongside knew that he would do the job quietly, but brilliantly.

King is set to start in place of injured captain Rio Ferdinand. He seems to have everything - pace, strength and aerial domination.

He would surely have won more than 20 England caps were it not for his debilitating knee injuries. The only question mark is whether his knees can last a whole tournament.

IMScouting's choice: DES WALKER. It would be somewhat closer if it weren't for King's knees.

Mark Wright v Gareth Barry

Wright was another player, like Parker, who came into his own as the tournament progressed.

Thought of as a squad player, he came into the side during the group stage, scored a crucial winner against Egypt and was consistent for the remainder of the tournament as both a traditional centre-back and sweeper.

A bit of an unfair match-up this one, with the 1990 England playing five at the back and Capello likely to employ a four-four-two system.

Barry has experience as a holding midfielder and even playing as a left-back for England, so his match-up with Wright is awkward, but more natural than the other midfield choices.

Barry's versatility might be crucial in a lengthy tournament and his consistency for England has been striking over the years. Could be the tournament in which he arrives on the world stage.

IMScouting's choice: BARRY, who could be an England star for many years to come.


Paul Gascoigne v Steven Gerrard

Gazza will always be remembered for his tears against West Germany.

However, his performances during Italia 90 were so impressive that he threatened to dominate world football for years to come.

That he failed to do so is perhaps one of the tragedies of modern English football. Gazza's vision, skill and strength on the ball are almost impossible to match.

Gerrard is one of the world's finest midfielders. In a different mould to Gascoigne, Gerrard is an archetypal modern day player - full of energy, a good passer, a tough tackler and incredibly dangerous from long range.

Gerrard has proved that he can take a game by the scruff of its neck on numerous occasions at club level, but has yet to do so on the international stage.

IMScouting's choice: The incomparable GASCOIGNE. Gerrard would have got the nod against almost anyone else.

David Platt v Frank Lampard

Platt had only five caps before Italia 90. He was expected to be merely a squad player, but an injury to Bryan Robson and a dramatic injury-time winner against Belgium changed all that.

The tournament launched an excellent career for Platt, who is one of few Englishman to have a successful and lengthy spell in Italy.

He was made England captain and virtually carried the side during the early 1990s.

Lampard brings vast experience and quality to the England side - in theory.

He is undoubtedly one of Europe's top players at club level.

However, there are still questions over whether he can re-produce his best form for England. A veteran of Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, Lampard has yet to stamp his authority on a major tournament.

IMScouting's choice: PLATT was England's best player in the early 1990s. Lampard has failed to reach that level, despite his experience.

Chris Waddle v Aaron Lennon

Waddle won affection wherever he played and is still a hero at Marseille. An old-school winger, Waddle relied on trickery and close control to beat his man, which he inevitably did.

Winning over 60 caps, Waddle also added character to the England side. He was inches away from scoring a winner in the semi-final against West Germany, hitting the post. Then came the penalty shoot-out…

Lennon burst onto the scene during the 2006 World Cup, his pace causing havoc for full-backs.

It should have launched his international career, but the injury-prone Lennon has won only 17 England caps, and the fact that he is not assured of a starting place is evidence that he hasn't quite progressed as planned.

But, he could be key for England in South Africa - if so, he should make the right-midfield spot his own for years to come.

IMScouting's choice: WADDLE had more to his game than Lennon and 60 England caps says it all.


Peter Beardsley v Jermain Defoe

Like Waddle, Beardsley was another tricky player from the North East.

Never a prolific scorer, Beardsley's reading of the game and excellent touch though meant that he was the perfect foil for a poacher like Lineker.

Beardsley was a very clever player, providing a crucial link between midfield and attack. That his international career eventually spanned over ten years is evidence of his enduring ability.

Defoe is another player who could launch an excellent international career in South Africa.

Like Beardsley, he has a diminutive physique, but that's where the similarities end. Defoe relies on pace and an eye for goal and is possibly the most natural scorer in the England side.

However, he has yet to entirely gel with Rooney. Should he do so, Defoe will likely find himself a first choice for years to come.

IMScouting's choice: BEARDSLEY, if only for the partnership that he created with Lineker, without which the 1990 side could have struggled.

Gary Lineker v Wayne Rooney

Lineker is England's second top scorer of all time, only missing out on top spot by one goal.

Not a scorer of spectacular goals, but he scored goals and lots of them everywhere he played. Top scorer in the 1986 World Cup, Lineker can lay claim to being England's top goal poacher of any era with an average of more than a goal every two games.

Unlike Lineker, Rooney is capable of carrying a team by himself… and he may have to in South Africa.

A much more complete player than Lineker. If all goes to plan, Rooney will become England's record goalscorer, he is half-way there already with 25 goals. Lineker relied on others to feed him, Rooney can do that for himself.

IMScouting's choice: ROONEY - Picking him ahead of England's second top scorer of all time says a lot, but that's how good he is.

So there it is. The England team of 1990 definitely has the edge over the current crop. But, many of Bobby Robson's eventual stars were unlikely squad players before the tournament began.

There is still the opportunity for Capello's men to make the step up and shine in the greatest tournament of all - just like Gascoigne, Platt et al.

For more interesting and unique content with IMS observations and analysis on teams from the World Cup go to...

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