Tonight's match at the Absa Stadium is a complete sell-out. 52,000 fans will be
Tonight's match at the Absa Stadium is a complete sell-out. 52,000 fans will be there to witness the biggest football match ever to take place in South Africa and there's plenty to look forward to. TheFA.com rounds up the team news ahead of the big game.
South Africa v England
International Friendly, Durban
Thursday 22nd May, 19.30
The big news from a South African perspective is that, at long last, someone seems to have found Quinton Fortune.
The Manchester United midfielder and one of South Africa's most inspirational players has gone missing in the build up to the game. The suggestion here is that he may have been disheartened by some of the criticism that South Africa's overseas contingent have received in recent times. Despite that, it now looks likely that he'll take his place on the field tonight, potentially in direct opposition to his friend and team-mate at Old Trafford, David Beckham.
Speaking of the England captain, a day after the South African coach Jomo Sono said he might need a witch-doctor to stop our number seven from wreaking merry havoc down the right flank, it seems that Sono may ultimately elect for a more conventional form of protection, in the form either Delron Buckley or Thabang Molefe.
Buckley, who plays for VFL Bochum in Germany, would relish the opportunity of marking a player who is worshipped here in South Africa.
"He is one of the world's greatest footballers - it will be a great way to gain experience," he said. "It will be a hard game for him and a hard game for me."
However, Sonu may yet go with the energy of local defender Molefe in a bid to snuff out our captain.
"I could use Molefe to chase Beckham around," the South African coach explained of his not-so-revolutionary potential tactical plan.
There will also be an intriguing encounter between Benni McCarthy and Rio Ferdinand tonight. The South Africa striker is arguably their finest player and he will see this game an ideal platform to earn a dream move to the Premiership.
Perennially linked with, amongst others, Middlesbrough, the former Ajax speed merchant who currently plays for Celta Vigo hade been overlooked by former South African coach Shakes Mashabe. However, with Jomo Sono now reinstalled for this game, McCarthy is also set to make long-awaited return to the national side.
It has been McCarthy's lifelong ambition to play in England and he'll be hoping that a dazzling performance against the world's most expensive defender could be his ticket to the Premiership.
At the other end we'll see Bafana Bafana captain and legend Lucas Radebe take on Michael Owen. The Leeds man may not be 100% fit but the veteran, described by his coach as a 'soldier', has no intention of missing out on what will be his final appearance for South Africa.
"It's time to prove that South African football has come of age," Radebe said ahead of this historic encounter. "We will be playing one of the best teams and we have nothing to lose."
However, Radebe will be under no illusions about the personal challenge that he faces tonight - he will have to be at his best stop England goalscoring machine, Michael Owen.
Owen finished his season in outstanding form to register his joint best haul of 28 goals last term and the top scorer in the England party will fancy adding to an international tally that currently stands at 20 goals from only 37 starts.
At the back David James - fresh from his heroics at the Stadium of Light - will play behind a defence that will show at least three changes from the back four that kept a clean sheet against Turkey. With Gary Neville, Sol Campbell (both injured) and Ashley Cole (rested) all unavailable, Sven will ask others to step into the breach.
At right back Danny Mills looks to be the obvious choice while, at centre half, Gareth Southgate's calming influence might get the nod, especially with the influential but still uncapped John Terry out due to a thigh strain. In training on Wednesday night, Southgate scored with a bullet header from a Beckham corner to the great cheers of the South African school children that had been allowed to watch their heroes in action. They might not be so happy if he repeats the dose tonight.
Left back is an interesting position. Recent call-up Gareth Barry can play there and he has had an excellent season with Aston Villa, albeit as a left-midfielder. Matthew Upson is similarly in fine form and his left-footedness also makes him a genuine contender for the role. But it might just be Phil Neville that gets the nod.
The Manchester United man has matured greatly this season and, having admitted this week how much he has missed being involved with England in recent times, he has impressed everyone with his attitude and focus on this game after a turbulent but ultimately triumphant season at club level.
It seems highly unlikely that Sven would contemplate leaving any of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard or Paul Scholes out of his starting line-up, which leaves only the left-midfield spot up for grabs.
There are a number of excellent contenders for the manager to choose from. There is the huge of promise of Jermaine Jenas, the attacking threat of Emile Heskey, the pace of World Cup star Trevor Sinclair, the sweet left foot of Gareth Barry, the passing range and goalscoring ability of Frank Lampard and the effervescent skill of Joe Cole. It's a manger's dream quandary.
Upfront it would appear to be either Emile or Darius to partner Michael, unless Sven decides to push Scholes further forward in order to make room for another new face in the midfield.
Whatever happens most of players will get a run-out. "We'll start with our strongest team and then make a few changes at half-time," Sven said. "But we won't be making changes Australian-style if I can express myself like that.
"It's up to me now to decide what is best for my players and we are preparing for the Qualifier against Slovakia. But this game against South Africa is an important game too. I don't like to lose any match."
"I will be happy if the game finishes 6-5 or 8-7," said the South African coach Sono.
This should be one to enjoy.
from Daniel Freedman in Durban
* England based trio Quinton Fortune, Lucas Radebe and Shaun Bartlett are all expected to play for South Africa. Remember to stay logged-on to TheFA.com for first and exclusive news of the England team line-up ahead of tonight's big game.
South Africa v England: Match Centre