MANCHESTAR: Tottenham players Aaron Lennon and Peter Crouch returned to the England squad on Sunday, but manager Fabio Capello again overlooked striker Michael Owen for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Croatia.
After impressing for Tottenham in the opening weeks of the season, Lennon is set to be given a chance in Saturday’s friendly against Belarus to stake his claim for a starting spot on the right flank against Croatia the following Wednesday.
England would qualify for the World Cup in South Africa next June if they make it eight wins from eight Group 6 matches against Croatia at Wembley. Capello has been impressed by the speed and shooting proficiency of the 22-year-old Lennon, who last played in the victories over Slovakia in March and Ukraine in April.
Crouch was left out of the squad for last month’s 2-2 friendly draw with the Netherlands, but returns after scoring his first goal for new club Spurs in a 2-1 win over Birmingham on Saturday. The 29-year-old Owen was in Capello’s provisional squad but again failed to make the final 24-man list despite scoring his first goal for Manchester United last week.
But David Beckham remains part of Capello’s plans. The 34-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder could extend England’s outfield appearance record to 115 by featuring in both matches — which would leave him just 10 short of matching retired goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s record of 125.
Capello plans to make six substitutions on Saturday against Slovenia, which were chosen as opponents ahead of the Croatia match because they have a similar style of play to Slaven Bilic’s side.