||ESPNsoccernet: World Cup
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
ESPNsoccernet: March 30, 4:56 PM UK
The hopefuls: Darren Bent
Sven Goran-Eriksson latest port of call in his quest for World Cup talent was The Valley as Charlton Athletic, a club managed by a potential successor in Alan Curbishley, routed Newcastle United 3-1.
With only seven weeks remaining to muscle into the Swede's squad before FIFA's deadline of May 15 the hopefuls have to do something special to catch the boss' eye. And that's exactly what Magpies midfielder Scott Parker did with a 30-yard equalizer to silence the boo-boys at his former club, but unfortunately that was the one and only bright spot for the Toon, and Parker, as they faded in the second-half.
There is a large swell of support for Parker to be included in Eriksson's England party, and some bewilderment as to why the talented midfielder was excluded from the squad's last get together in early March, but the 25-year-old appears to lack in one valuable commodity; Eriksson's favour.
Charlton striker Darren Bent meanwhile seems very much in vogue and furthered his cause by opening the scoring with his 20th goal of the season. Admittedly it was from the penalty spot, and he did have a good chance saved by Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given early on, but overall the former Ipswich trainee offered a decent performance.
The 22-year-old's current largess has seen him included in the England squad since August 2005 as part of the doomed group that travelled to Denmark (to be humiliated 4-1) but he did not make it onto the pitch until March this year when he played 82 minutes against Uruguay.
Eriksson appears to be easing Bent into international football and the Addicks striker is probably on the cusp of making it onto the plane for Germany 2006. Here we take a look at the abilities he has to offer, or is deficient in...
Bent is statistically the best English striker in the Premiership with 16 league goals this season - behind only Manchester United's Ruud Van Nistelrooy (19) and Arsenal's Thierry Henry (19) - and has reached that tally by thriving on a more limited service than his esteemed peers.
At 22-years-old the lightening quick striker is a fantastic young prospect who scored 56 times in 116 starts for Ipswich before seamlessly taking his goalscoring exploits to the Premiership - and it is argued he could make the step up to senior international football with equal ease.
He has proven ability at Under-21 level, netting nine times in 14 appearances, and has already been through his induction to the senior England team. Bent was in and around the England squad over seven months before his March debut in the 2-1 win over Uruguay at Anfield, when he earned a reprieve of sorts by avoiding the half-time substitutions to stay on the pitch until the last ten minutes.
He is a physical and hard working player whose constant pestering can make things happen around him. Despite standing at only 5'11" he is surprisingly good in the air. However, his obvious asset is his pace.
Statistics are all well and good but if Eriksson went by the Premiership top scorers chart alone his five strikers for the World Cup would be Bent, West Ham's Marlon Harewood (14), Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (13), Everton's James Beattie (10) and Manchester City's Andy Cole (nine) and we all know that isn't going to happen.
At Under-21 level Bent was renowned for scoring late goals as a 'super-sub' but his consignment to the bench could be attributed to an inability to consistently assert his influence over a full 90 minutes. The youngster only stared five of his 14 games at that level
On his senior international debut Bent remained a peripheral figure and despite plenty of effort he lacked guile. Uruguay's deep lying defence easily neutralized the threat of his pace and he fluffed a great headed chance.
It's a well held maxim that you must take your chances at international level and every player has to be at the top of his game for 90 minutes.
Will he make the cut?
In short, yes. If you are a betting man put your money on him. Not only is he the top scoring English striker in the country but more importantly he is in Eriksson's good books and it would take a remarkable slump for Bent to fall out of favour.
He has been groomed at Under 21 level and although he didn't instantly book his place at the World Cup against Uruguay - as Darius Vassell did with a goal against Holland prior to Korea/Japan - he does offer the squad blistering pace and a physical presence.
He usurped former favourite Jermain Defoe to start England's last friendly at Anfield and while Bent might just edge the Tottenham striker in a straight fight for one place he will more than likely find himself a seat alongside the pint-sized hitman on the plane to Germany 2006.
If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.