World Cup Squads Mean Debate and Heartbreak

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It’s June 1, 2010 and that can mean but one thing: the World Cup starts this month. Let joy be unconfined … well, for fans of the planet’s most popular sport and many of its star players. But not all of them.

The first day of the month also serves as the deadline for all 32 teams to trim their initial squads down to the 23 names allowed by FIFA (as well as clearly allowing Naomi Campbell the opportunity to pose with the famous trophy). In England, passions are running predictably high, with opinions on whom coach Fabio Capello should take to South Africa being heard across the nation’s classrooms, pubs and workplaces.

And finally, many hours after the expected decision, England’s foreign manager has made his mind up. Key midfielder Gareth Barry passed a late fitness text and is in, though he’ll miss the first game while recovering from injury. The shocking omission is of winger Theo Walcott (supposedly told this morning while on the golf course), which will be a bitter blow for the Arsenal player, whose hat-trick away in Croatia all but guaranteed England’s place at the finals. What a contrast from 2006, when Walcott’s inclusion at the tender age of 17 shocked the soccer world. But in keeping with the farcical nature of today, Walcott actually released a statement wishing his teamamtes good luck before it had been confirmed he wouldn’t be joining them in South Africa.

Indeed, the delay in England’s Football Association announcing the squad means that this shall be forever remembered as the day in which well informed journalists leaked the news out on Twitter (the Twitter 23, if you will), as it became increasingly clear that the likes of Darren Bent and Adam Johnson had missed out whereas Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Shaun Wright-Phillips would be on the plane.

Some surprises from the other sides were known earlier in the day: host nation South Africa dropped all-time record scorer Benni McCarthy and Mexico omitted Barcelona midfielder Jonathan dos Santos.

As for the U.S., it’s a relatively settled set-up, with the squad already installed in South Africa and coach Bob Bradley predictably pinpointing his side’s opening match against England as the key. Bradley will no doubt be gathering information on England from his players based there, such as Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, who spent a few months on loan at Everton at the start of the year. Get all the latest news here.