Roy Hodgson announced today at his press conference that Ashley Cole will indeed earn his 100th cap on Wednesday night when England play Brazil at Wembley. Both Ashley and Captain Steven Gerrard will be presented with their 100th official caps at a ceremony before the game. (Gerrard played his 100th game against Sweden this past November in Stockholm so did not receive his official cap yet). Cole will not lead the team out as some had suggested, that responsibility will remain with Gerrard. Winning 100 caps for your country is an impressive achievement showing dedication and commitment, maintaining quality performances for a long time at the highest level and let’s hope he gets a warm, appreciative reception from the Wembley crowd to thank him for his many top class performances for England over the years and not the childish booing which he sometimes gets when he is introduced.
Cole has been a top left back ever since he broke into the premiership with Arsenal and no sooner than he was playing for them, he was the automatic selection for England. To think he has played 99 times for England is pretty impressive and when you consider that every appearance has been as a starter it is even more impressive. We all know that Brazil has had some pretty awesome left backs over the years. Roberto Carlos, ex Real Madrid is the stand out with his speed, wicked bending free kicks and overall defensive abilities yet Ashley compares pretty well against him. He matches him with his speed and defensive ability but is behind him in the key category of attacking and more specifically goals. Ashley has never scored for England in his career so far and while he is considered a threat going forward he is not a goal scorer from free kicks or open play but Roberto Carlos scored 11 goals for Brazil in 125 games and was an awesome dead ball specialist with his bending deliveries from set pieces and curling shots on goal.
At the moment Brazil are for them struggling in the left back position. Their first choice currently is probably Marcelinho of Real but he lacks some application defensively yet is awesome going forward like several of his other Brazilian colleagues. Arsenal’s André Santos is another candidate for the left back position but he too is the same as Marcelinho, weak at the back but an accomplished attacker. Teams in Brazil are even having trouble bringing homegrown left backs through at the moment with Vasco Da Gama recently having to sign a left back from Peru because they could not find the right man for the job at home. When you consider all the candidates, I think that Ashley Cole would most probably find himself starting for the Brazilian national team at the moment were he Brazilian (obviously) and therefore looking forward to a home World Cup and who’s to say that Ashley would not have scored 8-10 goals if he had played 100 times with the attacking flair of the Brazilian national team over the years rather than for England.
Let’s hope that Cole marks his century of caps with a goal and gets the reception he deserves as a superb performer for his national team since he may not be the guaranteed starting England left back for much longer if you listen to the praise and recognition lavished on Everton’s Leighton Baines by Roy Hodgson these days and Baines definitely is a goal threat evidenced by his thumping free kicks this season. That said, there is no substitute for experience so I still think Cole is the current England first choice and I expect him to still be the first choice if England get to Brazil and YES he could be the starting left back for Brazil these days if he were to magically change nationalities.