It was a proud moment for Zamora’s and Fulham’s supporters last night as our number 25 stepped up in the England number 9 shirt, starting for the first time for his country and playing 70 very positive minutes before substituted for Darren Bent. His display was pretty much unanimously praised by pundits; while Zamora didn’t have a breathtaking game and perhaps should have scored a goal, it was an effective one and there’s no coincidence that our runners from midfield were so effective with him upfront.
Capello originally wanted to play Zamora and Welbeck together upfront according to a few papers, but Welbeck’s late withdrawal put paid to that (why then he didn’t use Sturridge instead, I don’t know. Both Welbeck and Sturridge are good players though, exciting talents for sure.) Instead, Zamora served as the lone front man, designated with the job to maintain possession and win territorial advantage while the 5 in midfield broke forward to support him. Zamora performed, I think, just as any Fulham fan watching him over the last 3 and a half years would have expected him to perform. Tireless running, the sly and useful ability to win freekicks from hopeless long balls with good use of his body, great awareness, good one touch layoffs, joining play to link passing movements as opposed to waiting to get on the end of them. A good performance.
Compare it with Bent, who is no doubt a good player but when he came on pressure on the Swedish goal noticably died down, we couldn’t keep possession as well and Sweden saw alot more territory and possession themselves. If England are going to play a single forward upfront, and it looks like we are (a 4-1-4-1 without Rooney and 4-2-3-1 with him, I imagine based off these two friendlies and games where Rooney has played) then Zamora has very effectively staked his case as the prime candidate for the 1 up top. Imagine Zamora and Rooney linking up just as Zamora and Gera did so effectively. And it’s refreshing to see from an England forward, to play with intelligence, composure, touch and utter selfishness. Rooney does, to be fair, but he is a totally different model of forward, without the discipline to play as that selfless frontman (although that’s not to detriment to the team as long as it is set up correctly, Rooney has all the talent in the world). Capello liked Heskey, so he must love Zamora.
And I think that last point is why us Fulham fans are so excited. Back in 2008 after his performane against Tottenham at home in a 2-1 win, I called for Zamora to be in the England squad. I think Heskey was in the squad at the same time and I made the comparison with the two; that if you were to choose a selfless target man with the job to allow the rest of the team to flow, then surely Zamora’s the better choice. And he might have been, if the achilles injury didn’t rule him out of the preliminary World Cup squad last year. Or the broken ankle from 5 months of last season. He’s been unfortunate for sure. But now Zamora has a very, very real opportunity to go to a major International tournament, and represent himself, England, and Fulham.
Zat Knight was the last Fulham player to play for England before Zamora and while I’m sure we were all proud, we kinda knew that he didn’t have the ability to play for England and that they were token caps in a meaningless US tour. But that game against Sweden DID have meaning. Capello has talked about Zamora ever since that first press conference after the Germany game, and at last fate/destiny has allowed him to make an impression, along with a load of other England hopefuls; Zamora’s first start came at the same time as Rodwell, Walker and Jones were talked about as part of England’s ‘new generation’, and it looks like Zamora is, in a way, a part of that. At least, that’s what his start against Sweden signifies to me anyway. There is just one friendly, the one against Holland, scheduled before the provisional squad is announced. No doubt Rooney will be involved so it will be interesting to see what happens with Zamora too.
And what will the knock off effects be for Fulham? As we know, he has a wondeful amount of ability, but he’s very much a confidence player. Zamora, after a stop-start beginning to the season, is coming into some form, and hopefully last night will help him really start to fire.
Now all we need is Capello to realise Stockdale’s clearly superior to Joe Hart and we’ll be laughing.