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Game Preview: England vs. Hungary


Yes, this is a Chelsea blog, but turns out I like England too, what with the being English and everything.

Time: 8:00 PM BST (12:00 PM PST), Wednesday August 11th. 

Location: Wembley Stadium, London.

What it is: An international friendly match between England and Hungary.

Why it matters: It's not a competitive match, but Fabio Capello will be looking to evaluate some unfamiliar faces before European Championship 2012 qualifiers get underway this autumn. And the fans want a chance to boo the team.

"When you lose something, the experience is very important, you have to understand what really happened and understand if I, or we, made mistakes and, from that, improve. Everyone makes mistakes."

-Fabio Capello

The battered, abject remains of the national team are being called to arms once more, facing Hungary at Wembley tomorrow in the first England outing since the dire World Cup performance. The core of that team remains, but on the periphery are several new faces. Three of Capello's initial 23-man roster have withdrawn from the squad, defender Wes Brown and Paul Robinson both retiring from international duty and Ben Foster out with a back injury. The keepers have been replaced by Watford's Scott Loach and some guy named Frankie Fielding. The timing of the match has drawn criticism from up and down the country, most managers not wanting a meaningless friendly match played just three days before the start of the Premier League season.

The squad that will try to dispel the ghosts of South Africa and avenge a 57-year-old defeat will have to go young. The Chelsea trio of John Terry, Ashley Cole, and Frank Lampard each played a full 90 minutes against Manchester United on Sunday and are unlikely to feature, depriving Capello of his typical first choices in defence and midfield, perhaps to be replaced by Kieran Gibbs, Phil Jagielka, and Jack Wilshere. Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart takes over from Robert Green and David James, while Michael Dawson should be expected to fill in the gap left by Rio Ferdinand's injury. The only member of defence who might reasonably expect to retain his position is Liverpool fullback Glen Johnson.

In midfield it seems fairly likely that captain Steven Gerrard will retain his place while a host of young wingers will be vying for Capello's favour, Ashley Young and Adam Johnson hopefully to feature. Forward is a question mark, and with Gabriel Agbonalor nursing an injury there isn't too much in the way of exciting young talent to be round, Wayne Rooney (obviously) aside.

It's not going to be a pleasant atmosphere for England, and every member of the squad to participated in the World Cup should expect a lot of stick from the home crowd. Capello simply has to do some experimenting with his lineup in order to get ready for England's next qualifying campaign, and Hungary are the perfect opponents against which to do so. I'd expect the defence and goalkeeping to be vastly improved, and with Wayne Rooney seemingly back on form we should see some attacking too. If Capello shakes up the starting eleven and they play effectively, it could be a fun day in the Wembley sun for England's new boys against a decidedly mediocre Hungary side. So, Fabio - let's show us what you've learned. It had better be good.

Update: Darren Bent's out too! Somehow I missed this piece of earth-shattering news.

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