After two-and-a-half years Capello is still no nearer to solving England's goalkeeper conundrum

Fabio Capello's biggest headache when he took over as England coach was identifying his best goalkeeper.

Two and a half years later, and on the eve of a World Cup which will probe every weakness in Capello's squad, and it seems the Italian is no nearer solving the problem.

In any situation before a big game that might be seen as more than a spot of local difficulty.

But when you are about to go head to head with the best on the planet, at the start of a month that can define the careers of every player in the England squad, the quandary is one that must raise serious concerns.

The fact that senior members of Capello's squad are worried that Rob Green is simply not a good enough communicator will only add to the dilemma that the England boss has to resolve over the next few days.

Green has done nothing wrong since stepping into the breach when David James was injured last summer.

The West Ham man kept clean sheets against Kazakhstan and Andorra, was not guilty in the matches he conceded against Holland, Slovenia and Croatia - when the game was long-since dead - and was the victim of Rio Ferdinand's hesitation when he became the first England keeper to be sent off in Ukraine in October.

Yet Green does not have the natural authority and bearing of a top class keeper, a fact of which Capello is aware.

That a number of the more prominent voices in the England squad have the same opinion too is hardly a statement of faith in Green but Capello's thoughts are clouded by his lack of real belief in any of the three glovemen he has brought with him to South Africa.

Watching Capello dash from his dug-out to bellow in anguished frustration as Joe Hart again ignored the lessons that have been forced down his throat on the training ground at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex and kicked away in something akin to blind panic on three occasions in Monday's warm-up win over the Platinum Stars showed the Italian is looking for reasons to select the Manchester City man.

Capello had picked out Hart as the future soon after taking over the job, when he pointed out that the best man available - James - was too close to 40 even then.

But Hart's nervous debut in Trinidad and Tobago two years ago, plus losing his place at Eastlands to Shay Given, saw him slip off the radar until the past few months.

The reality is that Capello had pretty much put his shirt on Ben Foster grasping the opportunity of being Manchester United No 1 to stake an unchallengeable case to be England's starting keeper.

When Edwin Van Der Sar was injured at the start of the season, Foster had the perfect stage and even when he lost his place at Old Trafford on the back of some decidedly ropey displays for Sir Alex Ferguson's team, Capello picked him for the games with Belarus in October and Brazil in Qatar the following month.

Yet Foster has since gone backwards at a rate of knots, falling out of the frame completely and forcing Capello to choose three keepers, none of whom he really believes in, paying the price of not blooding Hart earlier.

The problem, of course, is that Capello watches 10 Premier League keepers in the course of the season who are better than any of those he can select from.

Scrolling down the final table, the Italian would surely love to be able to choose just one from Petr Cech, Van Der Sar, Heurelho Gomes, Given, Brad Friedel, Pepe Reina, Saturday's opposing keeper Tim Howard, Mark Schwarzer, Craig Gordon or Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Despite all that, and his age, James is surely the best of the three at Capello's disposal, although there does seem to be some discrepancy between how the veteran views the state of his body and the opinion of the England medical staff.

Yes, James has always had a rick in him. That goes with the territory. But he is also the one man of the three you would tip to pull off the sort of world-class save that can win a game for you.

James also knows the value of making his verbal mark, guiding his back division through his vision and his tongue and England defenders like a keeper who will shout, scream and bawl them out when necessary.

Capello spent most of today's training session scrutinising all three options but of all the decisions he has to make, the first name on his team-sheet looks the biggest.

If he really does plan to wait until Friday to make it, that could be a genuine error from a man who makes very few. Yet whoever he does choose, you sense that Capello will do so with his fingers crossed.

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williamhill.com

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