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Capello close to World Cup goal

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Phil McNulty | 00:51 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

At Wembley Stadium

Fabio Capello's public stance is a stone-faced, unblinking insistence that England's mission to qualify for next summer's World Cup is not yet accomplished.

And yet even Capello's notoriously cold and calculating mind will struggle to come up with a formula that results in England missing the plane to South Africa next summer after the demolition of Andorra.

England would need to develop a strain of incompetence and amateurism on an Andorran scale to fail now after a seventh successive win put them 10 points clear of Croatia in Group Six.

If industrial action on the underground meant England's fans had it tough - and a wonderful turn out of almost 58,000 was testimony to their enduring loyalty and optimism - then Capello's players had it easy.

The suffering of the journey to Wembley and the grim prospect of car park gridlock on the way home almost made an England goal-fest compulsory. Luckily, they were aided by opponents who downed tools as effectively as the RMT.

Fabio Capello ponders England's progressIf anyone ever stops you in the street and utters the hoary old soundbyte about "no easy games in football", feel free to recite the names of the Andorra team who played at Wembley in June 2009.

It was little wonder Jimmy Greaves, paraded on the Wembley pitch after England's squad members who did not play in the World Cup Final win against West Germany in 1966 were belatedly awarded medals, cast a wistful backward glance as he walked off.

Greaves may have been remembering what might have been after he was excluded by Sir Alf Ramsey on the greatest day in English football history - or the old maestro might just have fancied his chances of adding to his tally of 44 goals for his country against Andorra, even at 69.

This game did not provide any kind of measure of England's chances of winning next summer's World Cup as Andorra spent most of the evening loading up ammunition for those who believe they serve no useful purpose at this elite level.

Despite this, Capello's contented mood - he even gave coach Stuart Pearce a playful (make that brave) dig in the ribs in a rare public display of joviality - was well-merited.

He was relaxed as he explained the reasoning behind the removal of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard at the interval: "Thank you very much. Have a good holiday Wayne and the same for Steven."

Capello even demonstrated his knowledge of the workings of industrial action after lavishing praise on the England supporters who showed remarkable stoicism, no doubt helped by a 6-0 win, as they queued long into the night in Wembley's car parks to go home, explaining: "When someone decides to strike he has to create problems for someone."

Indeed, making their way out of Wembley may just have presented the toughest task England's players had all night.

England's qualifying campaign, and their hopes of success in South Africa, cannot be examined in the context of this exhibition of punchbag football.

It can, however, be assessed as a body of work over seven games and, irrespective of the obvious flaws of opponents, a straight seven wins is impressive. It would need a deep dig to dredge up any negative aspect of Capello's first phase of competitive international coaching.

Capello's major success has been the harnessing of Rooney at England level. He has become more composed and mature as an international player, and his raw talent is now reflected in goals - 10 in his last seven games for his country and now level with Sir Geoff Hurst on 24.

The Italian loves Rooney's zest and untamed streak, and knows if he is at his best in South Africa, then England will have a weapon feared by the world.

Gerrard is another who, helped by Capello's tactical shrewdness, is in shape to flourish at a major international tournament. Capello is in the process of finally fashioning a team formation that suits Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

And other pluses are emerging. Glen Johnson has nailed down the right-back spot, showing his creative side against Andorra after a sketchy spell at the start in Kazakhstan. He was instrumental in three goals at Wembley, and with Ashley Cole undergoing a renaissance England have a potentially outstanding full-back pairing, vital at this level.

Capello knows he may have to deal with the imponderables. Previous England World Cup campaigns have been undermined by injuries to key personnel such as Rooney, Gerrard, Michael Owen and David Beckham.

And then there is the big question mark - England's World Cup goalkeeper. David James will not suddenly discover consistency at 38 and the cupboard is bare when it comes to proven international class.

But Capello was in upbeat and optimistic mood as he sent his England charges away for their summer holidays - and with justification.

Capello will keep the lid on the traditional England habit of over-expectation ahead of a World Cup, and the recent lesson against Spain can be used as a check on pre-tournament euphoria.

Both Capello and Rooney recently confessed England cannot play in the flowing, passing style of Spain. This was regarded as grim reality by some and a depressing admission of defeat by others.

Capello, however, gives genuine cause for hope. Watching England at close quarters in these qualifiers, there is a focus and direction that was missing in the latter days of the Sven-Goran Eriksson reign and throughout the entire Steve McClaren era.

He gives off an aura that commands total respect from England's players. There is a different feel around the camp. More of the football and less of the circus. Capello means business and nothing interferes with it.

And while this is no guarantee that England will finally progress beyond the last eight, the round that has claimed them in their last three major tournaments, it is a reason for optimism.

England's players left for a hard-earned break with words of praise ringing in their ears from Capello - and knowing they will be on a World Cup assignment this time next year.


  • Comment number 1.

    Congratulations to Team England. Fabio and his boys are doing fine. Phil is covering the England Football World Cup campaign with good and positive writing. Keep it up.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 2.

    Still can't see us beating Spain. Unless Xavi/Inesta/Torres get injured.

    Have got to be more hopeful than recent tournaments though! - At least we will be at this one!

    I am interested in the striker conundrum. Crouch was poor last night and Defoe is not a partner for Rooney. Heskey does well for the team but is getting on and will be 33(?) by the finals?

    Is the answer to push Rooney further up the field and play Gerrard in behind - making space for Joe Cole/Ashley Young/David Beckham to start in midfield? I for one hope he at least tries this as Capello seems to be able to get Rooney to play with discipline and I think he could do well at this role if needed.

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil.......first you say this which is 100% correct:

    This game did not provide any kind of measure of England's chances of winning next summer's World Cup as Andorra spent most of the evening loading up ammunition for those who believe they serve no useful purpose at this elite level.

    but then you say this.........

    Glen Johnson has nailed down the right-back spot, showing his creative side against Andorra after a sketchy spell at the start in Kazakhstan. He was instrumental in three goals at Wembley,

    Sureley you are contradicting yourself if you are saying Glen Johnson deserves to be England RB because he played well against Andorra.

    I think it would be more prudent to reserve judgment on Johnson until he can show he can play well agaisnt stronger opposition than Andorra and Kazakhstan.

    I imagine it would be any player's dream if they were told by their manager "You only have two games to prove yourself capable of the RB spot and they are against Kazakstan and Andorra".

  • Comment number 4.

    Is it not time for FIFA to take a leaf out of the ICC's book?

    It is not too often one can cite cricket as showing the way forward in sport, but in terms of structuring tournaments and fixtures that facilitate a trend of improving developing countries and their respective abilities to compete at the top level, the ICC appear to have done a much better job of it than FIFA.

    Sri Lanka (former world champions), Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and to a lesser extent Ireland and Holland have all made impressive strides over the last 30 years.

    The likes of San Marino, Andorra, Lichenstein, Luxembourg et al have not.

    Shoving all of these type of teams in the full mix of World Cup qualification is clearly not benefitting them, it certianly is not benefitting football as a spectacle and neither is it adding credibility to what is supposed to be the greatest football competition in the world.

    Time for a rethink FIFA!

  • Comment number 5.

    Glen Johnson has played outstandingly for Portsmouth for the last two seasons against some of the best players and club sides in the world. His only dodgy game for England was Kazakhstan - but then England started poorly in that game overall and finished it well.

    GJ has earned his place and is the best right back available to England.

  • Comment number 6.

    Is the answer to push Rooney further up the field and play Gerrard in behind - making space for Joe Cole/Ashley Young/David Beckham to start in midfield?

    no no no

    rooney has been tried in the lone striker role before and it just doesn't work - it has been tried by SAF at utd & for england by mcclaren & errikson i think

    that's the whole reason why heskey has been brought back in - cos rooney has to play up front with someone, preferably someone who is a natural CF - e.g. heskey

  • Comment number 7.

    Tytoalba...............Playing superbly well at club level earns you the right to be selected, tried and tested at international level, it does not however earn you the right to hold down a position for England indefinately.

    I like Johnson, I hope he can prove himself at this level, because his style of play is good for the game, but he has not proved himself yet.

  • Comment number 8.

    #4 I see what you're saying norapetti. However the problem is the countries you mention in the cricket example all have extremely larger populations to draw their cricketers from. That's the main problem with San Morino, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg et al. They all have very small populations that aren't about to get any larger.

    I agree with the principle though that really something should be done to give these teams more credibility. Something like a mini tournament between themselves for the right to occupy 1 space in the qualification phase of major tournaments. At least then they have a mini tournament that they have a good chance of winning. It can't do them much good getting beaten badly every time they play an international match. But then again you have to think what an honour it must have been for those players last night to play at Wembley against England, particularly when for a few of them it was their last game for their country.

    So really you can argue for and against why these smaller countries should be included, personally I would go with the argument that something needs to change. Giving them the mini tournament idea would at least give them something to play for.

  • Comment number 9.

    Beckham certainly seems to have upped his game and fitness since going to Milan. He played the full 90 minutes yesterday, looked fresh till the end and his passing was absolutely sublime, even by his high standards.

    It seems barring any major incidents he has secured his place in South Africa. A fantastic demonstration of will and perseverance which should silence his detractors, for now.

  • Comment number 10.

    From the main Andy Murray article this morning, "Meanwhile, unfancied English doubles pair Ken Skupski and Colin Fleming reached the last eight of the tournament with a shock win over world number one American brothers Mike and Bob Bryan - winning 6-4 6-4." Colin Fleming is Scottish! Can someone at the dire BBC please fix that and pay attention to detail please!

  • Comment number 11.


    Your point about population of these countries is extremely valid, but like you I believe there should be a mini tournament, where only the best of these teams earn the oportunity to play at the top level.

  • Comment number 12.

    post #6

    I completley agree with you, theres no way we shouldn't play without a big targetman so rooney/gerrard can operate in the space behind him. They are two of our most creative players and must be allowed the freedom to hurt teams where they can find space. Crouch wasn't brilliant last night but we've seen him time and time again putting away the chances he missed lastnight, plus i think he's a nightmare for defenders to play against. My first choice would be heskey but i'm abit worried his age might catch up with him by next summer at the top level. We will have to wait and see what type of season carlton cole and ashton have this year to be backup and i don't think we should use darren bent in that position as i wouldn't class him as a target man. England are slowly improving and as Capello says it's down to giving them the belief they are a top class team. Which country wouldn't like to have some of the england players, even spain would like terry/ferdinand and cole i reckon. I believe we can reach the semi finals next year, injuries permitting, and once you're there anything is possible.


  • Comment number 13.

    Just to answer two points. I do not believe Glen Johnson has cemented his place as England's first-choice right-back on the basis of last night. He has matured as a footballer over the last 12 months and has earned the right to keep the position.

    Sadly for Portsmouth fans, the strong word is that he will soon be on his way out of Fratton Park. Chelsea are currently favourites, but do not rule out Liverpool stepping up their interest in an attempt to sign Johnson.

    The other question from last night is - should Andorra be playing at this level? I confess to a real dilemma here because I do not like elitist talk which says "you're not big enough or good enough to take part" when we are referring to the World Cup, with the emphasis on "world".

    I must admit, however, that there were times last night when it really hit home what a total no contest this game was. There was not even the slightest competitive edge, which Kazakhstan at least provided for 20 minutes.

    Andorra were never even going to draw with England in light years, let alone beat them.

    Even though it goes against all my sporting instincts, I fear Andorra presented the best case for a pre-qualifying tournament for the next World Cup.

  • Comment number 14.

    Weaknesses with the England squad,

    Keeper: as McNulty mentions, no-one proven at the International level

    Left wing: Capello's been playing Gerrard there, with the licence to cut inside for Rooney to cover. This isn't a problem for Rooney as he plays out on the left for United (and very well too, but he's clearly at his most dangerous through the middle)But Joe Cole has hardly been involved in the latter part of this campaign through injury but he was one of our best players in '06 and is a lot more comfortable in that position than Rooney or Gerrard. Plus, in my opinion he's class, and offers the creativity and flare that England are going to need to succeed in SA.

    Centre-mid: We don't have a world class holding midfielder, Hargreaves might well be crocked as he can't get over the knee injury. You can argue all day whether Carrick just had a bad day against Barca or was outclassed, but either way the jury's out whether he can really boss holding mid at top level. Same story with Barry. I still think there's a possibility of us starting next summer with Lampard and Gerrard in the middle... this might not be such a bad thing, they're the best CMs in the country and against Germany (I think) Lampard played a very disciplined, defensive role in that position.

    Up top: Let's face it, the likes of Spain, Italy, Brazil and Argentina are not going to be too intimidated by the goal scoring threat of Emile Heskey, and it doesn't matter how many times Crouchy scores one of those audacious bicycle kicks, Puyol isn't going to be quaking in his boots.

    But if their presence alone, esp Heskey, can distract the CBs and let the likes of Gerrard and Rooney do their stuff in any space this provides it might not be detrimental to England's chances.

    Despite all this I'd like to say we're amongst the favourites because we have undeniable quality in our squad. Spain is the strongest XI I've seen since France in Euro 2000, but other successful teams eg France 98 had gui'varche up top and the Brazil team of 2002 had a distinctly average back four (but Brazil always do) were still successful.

    If Capello can engineer a of playing to England's strengths then we've got a chance of making the semis. Either way it'll be more fun to be at the party than it was last summer, especially as I had to watch the final with my spanish mate.

  • Comment number 15.

    Glen Johnson had an awesome game last night, but I worry about his defensive qualities. He does look a genuine threat going forward but I have always felt he is a liability when facing attacking teams.

    Maybe he will improve in that aspect, but I feel we need a few challenging games before the world cup to test that point, otherwise teams like Brazil, Spain & Holland will destroy him.

  • Comment number 16.

    Is it not time for FIFA to take a leaf out of the ICC's book?


    Nothing to do with FIFA, it's UEFA who organises the qualifying system.

    We should be copying the North American system where the lesser nations compete in early rounds of qualifying and the better nations only coming in later on.

    This would provide benefits to most teams as the likes of Luxemburg, Andorra, Malta and co would get a chance to be competitive in the frist round instead of getting stuffed 7-0 each game.

    There are 53 nations at present in the UEFA area and 13 qualification places.

    Put the top 20 teams (currently that would be - Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, England, Croatia, Russia, France, Portugal, Turkey, Czech, Switzerland, Greece, Ukraine, Scotland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Israel) straight through to the 2nd phase.

    The other 33 teams are split into 10 groups, the winner of each progressing to phase 2.

    That leaves 30 teams, split in 5 groups, top 2 from each go through, so does best 3rd place team and the other 3rds playoff for the last two spots.

    For the minnows of the world game there is a chance to qualify for phase 2, which for them would be like making the world cup itself.

  • Comment number 17.

    Greavsie coming on to get his 45th is a lovely image.

    Andorra were terrible, at least in previous games they showed a niggly stoicism in defense but the early goal here took all the fight out of them. Capello was completely right when he said that would be important, given Andorra score so few themselves.

    I admire how Capello has handled the England role so far. There are still things on the field that can improve but good steps have already been made there, the team seems to have respect and a desire to play well for their manager, and away from the pitch it's been pretty much perfect. Can't complain!

  • Comment number 18.

    From the main Andy Murray article this morning, "Meanwhile, unfancied English doubles pair Ken Skupski and Colin Fleming reached the last eight of the tournament with a shock win over world number one American brothers Mike and Bob Bryan - winning 6-4 6-4." Colin Fleming is Scottish! Can someone at the dire BBC please fix that and pay attention to detail please!


    From the FairPlayMotty quote today, a tennis comment on a football blog, please can someone at the dire FairPlayMotty please fix that and pay attention to detail please!

  • Comment number 19.

    norapeti, altough you can't spell the word 'definite' i tend to agree with you, but who else have we go to play there? Richards was everyones choice a year ago and look what's happened.

    Johnson needs a move to a bigger club and a few more internationals under his belt. Hopefully last night's game will give him more confidence to become a genuine member of the first team.

  • Comment number 20.

    First and foremost; congratulations England on a very professional performance. I continue to be extremely impressed with the new-found work ethic and professionalism instilled in this England side by Capello. It is refreshing to see a manager prepared to risk upsetting ego's and reputations, especially at this level.

    For all of the different playing styles, formations and transfer policies that we see from managers throughout the footballing spectrum, the vast majority of managers fall into one of two very different schools of thought.

    Firstly we have Sir Alex, Fabio Capello, Brian Clough and other likeminded folk who are true believers that in football if respect and above all else hard work go into the day-to-day activities then rewards will be reaped on the pitch come match-day. These types of managers command respect from their players, not demand it.

    The second school of managers are Keeganesque in nature, they advocate a sense of family amongst their players. Often communication with their players is conducted on a first name basis, there is no clear barrier between manager and player.

    Both of these styles have there respective flaws. SAF will be the first to admit that certain players do not like his style of management, the often brutal honesty and drive to constantly better the previous performance can leave some, perhaps more egotistical, players feeling "un-loved" or under valued. Likewise the Keegan type managers, the "motivators" (which in my opinion normally indicates a lack of real tactical guile), often find that when results are going well their team will feel on top of the world, full of confidence, however as soon as results appear to be going in the wrong direction more often than not the managers seem unable to turn things around. In my opinion this has to be down the fact that the team who are used to a friendly, personal approach from their manager suddenly side themselves being shouted out, or at the very least criticized. Its very easy for a manager to lose the respect and confidence of his team when this happens.

    I realize that i have deliberately chosen Keegan in order to emphasize my point but you can substitute Keegan for any of his like minded managers and the same result seems to materialize. Whilst i am delighted at the way the team are playing at the moment i cannot help but wonder what would have happened if the stricter, more professional Capello approach had of been adopted by McLaren and/or Sven?

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil, I read your blog regularly and have concluded that the need to be upbeat and positive introduces irredeemable flaws in your analysis. I don't work for the BBC so I am not constrained to be upbeat and positive all the time. I can think out of the box.

    England will be in South Africa, the job of serious analyst right now is to start thinking about how the team will get beyond the likes of Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Netherlands and Germany (oh yes, they are a tournament team). What is in England's arsenal?

    Wayne Rooney? Ok, who else? Gerrard - tactically a liability in a big tournament. Where will you play him? On the left - he will keep cutting in and exposing the left back. When he cuts in and Ashley bombs forward, Messi will be there to exploit the space...

    Gerrard in the middle? Oh dear, he and Lampard will be competing on who will score first for England, there will be no holding mid-fielder. Iniesta and Xavi will have a field day, Terri and Ferdinand will not cope. Terry is slow, Ferdinand is no more at 100% efficiency.

    England's central midfield and central defence are tactically going to get ripped apart and there is nothing Capello can do about it. The players are just not there. Rooney won't get served and will end up throwing his ManU tantrums on the world stage again.

  • Comment number 22.

    Let's not be too hasty in judging our team for 2010 on last night's performance. The truth is, Capello is getting it more right than wrong and long may it continue.
    That said, if our main concern is the 'man up top', my vote still goes to Heskey. Agreed, his goal return is poor but he will occupy (world-class) defenders all day long and make plenty of chances for Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard et al. Is he too old at 33 for next year? No in my opinion. If fitness works against him next year I hope - by then - Ashton is fit and in form as I think he has a future with England.

  • Comment number 23.

    4. At 08:42am on 11 Jun 2009, norapeti wrote:

    Is it not time for FIFA to take a leaf out of the ICC's book?

    Sri Lanka (former world champions), Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and to a lesser extent Ireland and Holland have all made impressive strides over the last 30 years.

    The likes of San Marino, Andorra, Lichenstein, Luxembourg et al have not.

    Time for a rethink FIFA!

    Sri Lanka - 20 million population
    Zimbabwe - 13 million
    Bangladesh - 161 million
    Ireland - 4.5 million
    Holland - 16.5 million

    San Marino - 30,800
    Andorra - 86,000
    Lichtenstein - 35,000
    Luxembourg - 491,700

    I think it's you who needs a rethink ;)

    Countries with million of people can be developed, because there is a wealth of natural talent that can developed. Countries the size of San Marino have a very tiny amount of natural talent. Pretty much all of the UK's districts have big populations than San Marino!

  • Comment number 24.

    Phil, those who say that acknowledging our inability to play free flowing football is "... a depressing admission of defeat ..." clearly don't understand how sport works, let along football.

    The important thing for any sports team, or individual, to do is recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and develop a way of playing that accentuates the former and minimises the latter ... otherwise known as playing to your strengths.

    Not every team in the world can play Spain's brand of free flowing attacking football, and that type of football does not always win competitions because it can be overcome by teams prepared (and good enough) to play in way that counteracts it. cf. Denmark and Greece winning the Euros, for example.

    England are capable of some good football, but are not in Spain's class. They can, however, play a high pressure game at a high tempo in an attempt to nullify a team like Spain or Brazil, and then hit them on the break.

    Whether they are good enough to do that against the best in the world remains to be seen, but it is not an admission of defeat to recognise that they cannot take them on at their own game.

  • Comment number 25.

    I feel i must speak out against calls for pre qualifiying tournaments, especially concerning such teams as Liechtenstein. Phil, please look back at Liechtenstein's recent results and tell me that they are walkovers. Recently they got beaten 2-1 in Finland after taking the lead and only lost 1-0 at home to Russia earlier in their group. I remember when England played them a few years ago and beat them 2-0 home and away. Should every team England can beat 2-0 be destined for pre qualification matches? Recently Portugal could only manage a 2-2 drew in Vaduz, surely this shows their quality. No they aren'y going to qualify, but they can be decent opponents. I remember when Wales and Northern Ireland were being beaten heavily by better teams, would you suggest to their fans that they should prequalify? Andorra and San Marino are terrible, but the other so called 'minnows' can get results. Just ask the Swiss about how they got on in this qualifying campaign against Luxembourg at home or the Austrians about their trip to the Faroes.

  • Comment number 26.

    Capello has to work miracles in the next 12 months to strengthen the depth of the England squad, or be extremely lucky that his key players for his preferred tactics don't get injured.

    A fighting and fully fit starting 11 may have a chance, but the squad depth is wafer thin, and at the moment he has no replacements good enough for Rooney, Heskey and Lampard. His system works mainly because of these three players,I hope they stay fit.

  • Comment number 27.

    Decent England showing last night, regardless of the clear inadequacy of the opposition. We are making positive steps towards mounting some kind of challenge next summer. I'm happy that Capello has finally solved the problem of Gerrard and Lampard but if we are to make the semi finals or further I feel we need a centre midfielder who can hassle and harry opponents such as Kaka, Messi, Iniesta. That person is clearly Owen let's hope he gets fit and is rested at appropriate times next term by SAF. I do like Barry but feel he should have gone to Liverpool to showcase his talents and earn his spot in the starting line up. IMO he would be a good option from the bench.

    Glen Johnson for me, has had a decent season for Portsmouth, and we will know one way or another if he should be England's first choice right back if he does transfer to Liverpool or Chelsea. I'd prefer him over G.Neville and Brown in any case. Rooney has to play the position he's been playing recently because he looks the part and is scoring goals and creating chances, and furthermore he's keeping his discipline. With Joe Cole to come back next season this will add to a bench in desperate need of proven quality. Hopefully Ben Foster will have an awesome pre-season and start for Man Utd-I feel Van Der Sar is average nowadays or he finds first team football with a loan spell. Anyway see what you think of this team to start our opening match of the World Cup.

    Foster, Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Walcott, Gerrard, Hargreaves, Lampard, Rooney, Heskey.
    Bench: James, Jagielka (can play right back too),Crouch, Beckham, J Cole, Barry, Agbonlahor

  • Comment number 28.

    post 14: joeybarton_everton you are very narrow-minded
    with Joe cole (good player but injury prone) on the left there is nio room for a target man because gerrard and roo would be in the middle and someone on the right. a target man is what makes space for rooney and gerrrad to shoot, cross pass and run. they cannot take on so need space made for them. hargreaves would be the answer but is injury prone too. carrick is not strong enough defenseiveley against elite players (barca, kaka). barry with wlampard is the answer and england playing defensively so they are not left in too many 1 on 1 situations.
    heskey is not there for his goal threat but rather his presence or crouches. heskey is the best bet. (however anything can change next season).
    you are not the favourites, you are well behind spain, holland, germany, argenmtina - then brazil and italy. along with france you are someway away from WORLD CUP WINNING form.
    "cafu, carlos, lucio and juan are average". shows what you know.
    i only agree with you on GK position.

  • Comment number 29.

    RE Minnows playing in WC qualifying.

    Surely the answer is a two tiered qualifying campaing. Something along the lines of the teams who finish in the bottom two/three places in each qualifying group this year play each other in a pre-qualifying tournament for a predetermined number (say, six) places in the main qualifying draw. The same is repeated for the following qualification cycle, where the six teams with the worst records in 'main qualifying' play alongside all the teams that failed to exit pre-qualifying in the previous cycle etc.

    This means that all teams are entered in the World Cup and progress on merit (hence no elitism), that those who do well in qualifying are rewarded by a guaranteed place in the following seasons main qualifiers, and it still gives some 'minnows' a chance to improve to the level that they reach the main draw and could play at Wembley/NouCamp/StadeduFrance etc.

    One other issue around the current system is that there is no motivation for the smaller nations to improve. They'll never qualify for a major tournament, yet still get the benefit of hosting (and travelling to) one or two major nations every couple of years. A two tiered system may well provide the motivation to improve training methods/funding/infrastructure to make regular qualification to the top tier a possibility

  • Comment number 30.

    Without a decent goalkeeper, England will fail.

  • Comment number 31.

    Guess what - only Spain can play the slick passing football of Spain...

    There's more than one way to skin a cat and as previous winners have shown us its as much about resolve, and peaking at the right time, as it is sexy football.

    Looking around world football (Italy, Germany and Brazil going through transition and Argies choking in big games) there isnt much for England to fear next year.

  • Comment number 32.

    math88.....I recognised the point about population in an earlier post, and like the other person you are correct.

    But the system is not working!

    The aim should be that teams like Andorra improve, at least measured on a decade by decade basis.

    The current qualification system does not allow teams like Andorra to play football in any other way other than to defend, and keep goals conceded down to a minimum.

    There should be a system where teams of a similar standard compete agst each other, and have the freedom to develop their own diverse style of playing football.

    The best of those teams can then enter the latter WC qualification stages, and better compete with England et all, but more importantly have the confidence to play against teams in their own style.

    Over time these teams will then become more competitive, small population or not.

  • Comment number 33.

    why did england not go 1 or 2 up and then try to play football. a new style or approach (plan b) is vital. england know that much stronger teams will not sit back like that, will try to score, will have more of the ball and defend better. so why not try a passing game in stead of cross after cross from young and co. forgive me for being negative but thisd was a missed opportunity. 6-0 or 10-0 against andorra does not improve your standing in world football or command respect. when england are in a QF with portugal and need a goal will they keep crossing it or try to pass and bring them out. there is no need to be the new argentina or spain but this newfound style could have been a surprise weapon as tactically everyone has figured england out decades ago.
    sorry if i sound negative but its true.

  • Comment number 34.

    Everyone getting excited after last nights thumping of Andora, hang on this was a part time team, they had regular day jobs, let us see first how they play against the likes of the Worlds seeded teams.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think Capello is shrewd enough to realise that whilst qualification is in the bag, England's chances of winning in 2010 are slim. I don't think Rooney will be "feared by the world" as Phil claims, nor indeed the England team as a whole. That is why Capello refrains from making any statement that can be construed by the media as 'complacent.'
    I agree about the pre-qualifying but I prefer the six lowest ranked European sides playing off with the winner joining the remaining 47 teams to make eight groups of six teams for qualifying proper. Yes, that would give Europe three extra berths or if the second placed sides had to play-off, one fewer than at present. The former would be much fairer as presently S.America, Asia and Africa are all over-represented.

  • Comment number 36.

    Emmnues wrote:England's central midfield and central defence are tactically going to get ripped apart and there is nothing Capello can do about it. The players are just not there. Rooney won't get served and will end up throwing his ManU tantrums on the world stage again.

    This statement is complete rubbish. The centreback pairing of Terry and Ferdinand are strong and i'm sure alot of countries would love to have them at the heart of their defence. Even if you don't Ferdinand,i reckon Lescott is perfectly capable of shutting out alot of class attackers as he does for everton week in, week out. People say against Spain our defensive centre would be ripped apart but isn't our number one centreback John Terry, the same John Terry who played against Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Eto and Henry for 180 mins in the Champions League and only let in a goal in the 181st? Also to say the midfield will get ripped apart is complete nonsense. You go on about England not having a world class holding midfielder but who does? The only possible exception to this amongst the favorites are Argentina with Mascherano. All the other top teams(spain included) have a average/good holding player which is exactly the kind of player Barry is. People love to slag England off but we have won 7 games in a row in qualifying, beat Croatia 4-1 away(all the other top teams would have probably won 8-1,yeah right) and are improving at the right pace for the World Cup. I'm sure you know more about football than Cappello though so thats alright. And it's good to see Rooney starting to show his real ability, a striker who is every bit as devestating as David Villa.

  • Comment number 37.

    Messino, #28:

    Er... that's exactly what I was saying, I didn't say we were going to win, I said if we play well, we'll make the semis. Which you could say of any club seeded in the top 8 in the world. But I am English so I dont think its too outrageous for me to back them. We're now 4th favourites to win the tournament, which is outrageous, we didn't even qualify for the euros.(for good reason we were rubbish) but as I said if Capello gets England playing efficient high-tempo pressing football we might make the semis!!

    On the issue of Joe Cole, I was suggesting (depending on next seasons league form) that he play on the left, with gerrard and lampard/Hargreaves in the middle and rooney + target man up front. What youre suggesting, which I think Ive interpreted right, is: lampard and barry in the middle with gerrard on the left and Walcott? on the right? Do you not think that that leaves Gerrard either out of his strongest position (CM) or if he cuts inside (as he is going to want to do), its going to leave our left midfield exposed?

    Delighted my opinion got you so riled though pal.

  • Comment number 38.

    #14 - "Up top: Let's face it, the likes of Spain, Italy, Brazil and Argentina are not going to be too intimidated by the goal scoring threat of Emile Heskey"

    Emile Heskey isn't an out and out goal scorer and will never be one. His, mostly un-noticed, assets and holding the ball up and creating chances for others. Something the world's best should really consider as a problem.

  • Comment number 39.

    The issue of small footballing nations in major tornaments is difficult. matt-h88 (#23) correctly identifies the small populations of the European principalities being the root of their problems ... not money or investment. I think the problem with either a pre-qualifying tournament or "small nations World Cup" which then passes representatives to the main competition would be finance. Who would want the TV rights and how much would they raise?

    The minnows in the main competition also lend a little but of that much vaunted FA cup magic ... who's going to stumble on a dodgy pitch in Kazakhstan ... who's going to be brought back down to earth by a San Marino goal ... England have been humbled by so called lesser nations before and it has probably been good for them in the long run. After all - we managed to get rid of Steve McClaren after his failings against teams that should have been dispatched.

  • Comment number 40.

    see post 31#
    typical england fan who refuses to accept reality and gives other england fans a bad name. as well as spain, argentina, brazil, italy and holland can play attractive football. (if you only watched them and not just believed stereotypes). mexico, germany, russia, croatia, portugal and france can play psossesion football (not to elite level but still ahead of england).
    just for the record argentina are prettier than spain and on their day so are brazil. for every xavi ther is a pirlo or riquelme or ronaldinho. right now xavi is the best playmaker but on form, not talent.
    regarding argies, which big game have england performed in. NONE.
    what a transition to go through if you are managed by lippi, and have squad depth that is stronger than every other nation except brazil (ironic considering what you say about them).
    germany are germany. they have qualified and will make the QF proper. granted they are used too easy draws but their mental strength (and physical strength) exceeds every other big nation. they are like england, except they are much more patient, confident, experienced, mentally stronger and physically can match anyone. - in other words better. they are not technically great but are not as simple as everyone says - ballack, schweinsteiger, podolski, frings and trochowski are gifted.
    the only plus for england is that capello is a better manager than maradona, dunga and loew combined. however, del bosque and lippi are strong. hiddink is strong too (but russia will be last 16 or QF at best).

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm on the fence about small nations in the qualifiers. I'd never contemplated the idea of pre qualifying before last night, but p'raps it's worth looking at the IIHF World Cup system. Ice Hockey has a world cup every year barring Winter Olympics, they use a divional system which includes promotion and relegation. This does mean that certain countries are unlikely to not qualify for the tournament proper, however something similar in Europe may be a good idea. Certainly far more accurate than the current world rankings system. Teams like the Faroes, Andorra, San Marino, Kazahkstan need to be playing each other more often to improve and build confidence and awareness. Fans like to see their team win occasionally. As far as TV rights go, I would have thought watching competetive football would be more attractive than endless drubbings

  • Comment number 42.

    I wish people would stop reading so much into the defeat against Spain - it was a friendly after all. Yes they did play they are also regarded as the number 1 ranked team in the world at the moment so is defeat to them in a friendly (and with players missing) really that much of a wake up call. It seems friendlies are only important to people when England lose one - if we win then goes back to its only a friendly ie we did beat Germany in a Friendly very convincingly and they are ranked 3rd (2nd at the time I think)

    People will also bleet about an easy group - really is Spains any tougher ? all the other teams in that group are outside the top 10 with most outside of the top 30 teams in the rankings. We are the only group with three teams inside the top 20 and have beaten the other two.

    Besides its how you perform in the finals not the group stages and I think we building gradually improving with each game - we used to scrape results against these lower teams now we are killing them off, scoring plenty as we should be and still people moan (take a look at Spains GD in thier group)

    I am not saying we are the better team or we will win the world but I just wish some 'fans' would get a grip, theres being realistic and therse being outright defeatist I think some people will moan even if we did win.

  • Comment number 43.

    #40 messino - are you for real? You come on here and seem really suprised English fans are backing England to win the World Cup,it's amazing isn't it!? I'm sure if you go on messageboards in all the other top nations, none of their fans are backing them to win the World Cup. Also you seem to be of the opinion that England fans know nothing about world football when there's nothing further from the truth. In work places, schools and pubs up and down the country you will find people debating and talking about football for hours on end and most are VERY knowledgable about the game we love. To suggest our opinions on other countries are based by "sterotypes" shows the kind of ignorance that we English are meant to be famous for. If we drew any of the top teams in the World Cup we would be nervous and respect the oppositions ability but we would also back our players to beat them and would fancy our chances. Why not? After all Spain didn't start looking like a tournament winning team till around 3 years ago, are you suggesting their fans shouldn't have believed they could win before that?

  • Comment number 44.

    Re: Messino

    I don't know whether you're being purposefully obnoxious but you have to recognise that England are always going to be regarded as one of the favourites for a big tournament. I'm not saying that it's always well-deserved, but our form in qualifying and squad on paper is more than enough to put us in the top half a dozen nations.

    Also, if Argentina are supposed to completely embody attractive football, they can keep it. I'd rather win ugly than be smacked up by the likes of Bolivia and Ecuador.

  • Comment number 45.

    England have done well so far - we've added a resilience that was absent during the McLaren and Eriksson eras. We're well-equipped to get to the last 8 of the World Cup, should we qualify (which looks pretty assured).

    However, we lack the class to really worry the top teams. I'd say we CAN win the World Cup - it's just rather unlikely.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    post 27

    err...hargreaves? the same type of player as messi and kaka??? admittedly its been a while since i saw him play but from memory i don't think he was quite that good.

    also, your not really mr current affairs are u, he's on the brink of retiring through injury so its unlikely he will be returning from injury anytime soon

    i do agree with ur comments regarding rooney and Johnson however

  • Comment number 48.

    #4 and #8

    I understand the point you are trying to make regarding the so called 'lesser' teams. In terms of ability they are miles behind us. But does this give us the right to tell them they have to earn their places for qualifying? I personally don't think so, they are recognised nations (the same as ourselves) and have the right to enter the competition at the same stage as everyone else. I'm not trying to get on my soapbox about this, but when Mr.Townsend tried to suggest this on the coverage last night I could have put my foot through the TV. Let's face it he was never the best and anyone who argued that the new Wembley Stadium should be built in the Midlands is clearly very short of good ideas.

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree with 1CharlieButler. Playing Heskey/Crouch up top always seems to encourage the other players to play long balls, which isn't what we want to see. I think Lampard has learned to play a more disciplined role under Capello so why not play Rooney up top with Gerrard just off of him. Ashley Young was much more effective last night playing on the left wing than Gerrard was so maybe Capello should stick with Young playing there. He gives England that little bit of flair which has been missing in previous campaigns. Also, Beckham was much more effective in the holding role that Gareth Barry and Theo Walcott was abysmal, so maybe when Joe Cole's fit, he could play on the right wing. Here's my line up for the mext game against Croatia (providing all players are fit).


  • Comment number 50.

    I actually thought that despite their thumping, Andorra's goalkeeper did ok. he pulled off a number of decent saves, and even though he fumbled Beckham's free kick, it did come through a crowd of players. It's just a shame that his team mates & manager weren't a bit more ambitious.
    I still think Beckham is our best corner, and free kick taker, by far, and a lot of goals traditionally come from set plays. His passing, especially long range, is excellent and he's the best crosser of a football I've ever seen. I think he should start, on the right, and then replace him with Wright Phillips, or Walcott, after say 60 mins, who can then exploit a tired full back. I don't rate Carrick at all, but then I think Lampard's hopelessley over rated also (& Terry for that matter).
    It's a shame that Rob Green didn't get a work out last night. Foster can't even get in the Man U team, James is a brilliant athlete, but puts the fear of God into me, everytime he receives a back pass, or a high ball, and the other contenders are all playing for struggling teams. I don't know why Green hasn't been given more opportunities: prolly the same reason Johnson may go back to Chelsea. Playing for a 'smaller club' should not damage your England chances. It didn't damage Hurst's, Peters' or Moore's.

  • Comment number 51.

    Can England win the World Cup? Yeah why not.

    I am not getting excited because they beat Andorra, rather re-iterating what Phil says in his blog. Over this qualifying campaign, there has been enough improvements to have some optimism for next year.

    England have gone 7/7, 100% record, 26 goals scored.

    Confidence, momentum and a winning mentality, quite an improvement from the last qualifying campaign.

    I keep reading about, oh we would never beat any of the fancied teams. But I bet you when the WC draw comes around and England are not seeded, England will be the one team the seeded teams do not want to draw. Some of you think as soon as we meet any top class opposition, we have already lost the game. You cannot say that, on the day Spain or Brazil or whoever could be rubbish.

    I'm am not saying England are the best team out there, they are not. Other teams are far more technically gifted, play 'better' football but I not supporting them. If you are not supporting England to win, then please don't support them at all. Stick to club football and leave your moaning there.

    Again, I said this last Saturday. Good job Fabio and the boys. This is one England fan that is behind you all he way.

  • Comment number 52.

    Capello must hope and pray that Dean Ashton has the season of his life and stays fit, as he is the only viable alternative to Heskey.

  • Comment number 53.

    Re next year's world cup. Although our players aren't necessarily the most gifted, or tactically aware, compared to Spain, Holland etc., they are certainly as good as Germany. Yet Germany consistently out perform England at major tournements. English clubs excelled in Europe, pre champions league, because the continental teams couldn't cope with English teams, pace, power & commitment, which for some reason gets lost by the national team. When England did display those attribute they thrashed Germany 5 - 1. The real problem with England players is their mental fragility, and our national psychology. We love heroic failure. Hence the headless chicken syndrome when they went 1 - 0 up against Brazil that time. They approach penalty shoot outs expecting to lose.
    It's this that I hope Capello can alter.

  • Comment number 54.

    I hope Robert Green keeps the No 1 spot, he has consistently been one of the best goalies in England. Unless Foster demonstrates outstanding form Green really has no competition

  • Comment number 55.

    My major concern about England is the goalkeeping position. David James is always prone to error and that will not change now. I am not convinced about him being the number one at the next World Cup, but who is applying the pressure?

    Manchester United's Ben Foster would appear to be the main contender, but will he get the games?

    And on another point, sadly and reluctantly I have to agree with the theory of a pre-qualifying tournament after watching Andorra last night. It goes against my natural instincts, but they were so poor they should be made to earn their place at the top table, not simply handed it.

  • Comment number 56.

    Agree with you Phil. David James, likewise David Beckham, should not be starting in the World Cup - experience on the bench is never a bad thing, but the future is the likes of Ben Foster, Joe Hart and Robert Green. Proven international class none, but Hart looks like he'll have a busy season at Birmingham to prove his credentials while Foster needs a season in the Premier League, wherever it is, to confirm to everyone what I believe - that he should start at the World Cup.

    I felt England played well last night but that kind of game revealed nothing to us, apart from the fact that Andorra have no intention of scoring goals whatsoever. The pattern of play was depressingly similar throughout and while that's no fault of Andorra's, they're making the best of the little they have, it really was a pointless game. To be quite frank, even the likes of Croatia, Ukraine and Belarus will not provide the litmus test of how we're going to do next summer. The actual tournament, against technically gifted Spaniards and Brazilians and obdurate Germans and Italians, will be the first time we know for sure if Capello is the man, however well he's done so far.

  • Comment number 57.

    Completly off topic can I just say that with Barcelona looking the dominent force in Europe at the moment and Madrid buying Kaka and Ronaldo so far, will Platini state how worried he is about the spanish dominence of Europe and will he state how troubled he is that a football club is spending £140 million on 2 players?


    He is a complete hypocrite, he man has a unfathomable hatred of English football, did his wife run off with an Englishman or summat?

  • Comment number 58.

    Sirsunderland.....I want to see these lesser teams improve, that is my motive for suggesting a pre qualifying tournament, not because of a superiority complex.

    The fact is these teams have not closed the gap and they never will when they are forced to play park the bus in 99% of their competitive matches. Last nights game was a farce for everyone involved.

  • Comment number 59.

    "Ashley Young was much more effective last night playing on the left wing than Gerrard was so maybe Capello should stick with Young playing there."

    i beg to differ here, i think young was poor yesterday and showed why capello has been unwilling to select him.

    To be honest the last thing england needs is another player on the left who constantly looks to come inside on his right. He does have the ability to cross with his left (on those few occasions when he does try to get to the by line) but more often than not he is not accurate enough with his left peg. The crosses he delivered with either foot yesterday were pretty poor and i can't see that he offers anything better than gerrard on the left hand side of midfield

  • Comment number 60.

    Should there be pre-qualifying tournaments? Maybe, but that can be an endless debate, with valid points both for and against, as have already been made here...

    But the one unanimous point is, these so-called minnows should be given more exposure to international football, if any improvement is to be expected...

    Throwing them into a major tournament's qualifying round once in a few years is not doing any good... Even if they do well occasionally, they would suffer to maintain consistency...

    Kenya were semi-finalists in the 2003 Cricket world cup, purely on cricketing merit, but where are they now?

    Lack of international exposure... Maybe another sport, but a very similar story...

  • Comment number 61.

    The burning Question ? What about the WAGS in South Africa ?

    That problem apart, Capello's problem is the press. Total dunces under Mclaren, yet the core squad is now world beaters.

    When in competitive knock out conditions, England beat one of the top teams, come back and talk them up. Good start, yes but thats all it is, you dont win WC's in the qualifying stages.

  • Comment number 62.

    And just for the record Phil, 'light year' is a measure of distance, not time!!!

  • Comment number 63.

    About this whole pre-qualifying malarkey, why is everybody saying this on the back of one game? Andorra clearly aren't being beaten 6-0 every match (their average goal difference/game is -3.7), and just because a team isn't very good doesn't mean they shouldn't be there. I mean, nobody called for Derby to be thrown out of the Premiership last season for just giving away points to everyone! (Admittedly, it's a slightly different situation, but bear with me). Just because in ONE match Andorra lost 6-0 doesn't mean they don't provide something of a test in other matches.
    Also, their lack of improvement isn't down to the format of the qualifying tournament, it's because they're part-time, playing against professionals on £100k a week! It's a Burton Albion vs Man Utd type of situation, the best they can possibly hope for is to give a good account of themselves. If someone invested money in Andorran football and helped the players become full-time, I'm sure they would improve (Ok, I'm being slightly optimistic)
    Finally, to whoever said that Africa and Asia are over-represented in World Cups, a look at the numbers:
    Europe: 53 countries, 13 places
    Africa: 53 countries, 5 places (and an extra one this year)
    Asia: 47 countries, 4.5 places
    Which of these is over-represented?
    Of course, you could then argue that it was in terms of quality of football, but then why include South America in your over-represented countries? They've produced plenty of WC-winning sides...
    Unless of course your real argument is that the WC should look something like this:
    Brazil, Argentina, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland
    Give the smaller teams a chance!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    A few points.

    Spain play an attractive passing game and keep possession very well, but they always have done. Before Euro 2008 they hadn't even reached a semi-final since 1964! They were as bad as England! So if an attractive passing/possession game is the only way to suceed, then surely Spain should have one of the best records in international football? But they dont, they have only appeared in the final of 2 tournaments (granted its better than England (1 final appearance), but its seriously lagging behind the Germans (13) and Italians (7)).

    Germany have never, ever played like Spain do, but are always very well organised, have a balanced team, great work-rate and do the basics very well (e.g. getting crosses into the box and getting strikers on the end of them). So I ask you, which characteristics should we be trying to emulate if we want to suceed? I'd much rather have Germanys trophy cabinet than Spains!

  • Comment number 65.

    Though England may never play fancy football like Spain, but they can stiil beat 'em...With players like Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney and Terry, who says England can't beat Spain?

  • Comment number 66. is not about one match, its about the historical results and performances of teams like Andorra, San Marino et al.

    Its also not about elitism, quite the opposite in fact, its about finding a way for teams like Andorra to close the gap and at least become competititive in matches if not victorious.

  • Comment number 67.

    post 47
    he wasnt saying that hargreaves is on the same level as kaka or messi, hargreaves's main role is to destroy other teams attacks and win back the ball to set up england/man utd attacks, and he is very good at it. If he gets back to full fitness he will surely be playin the role that barry has been

  • Comment number 68.

    norapeti- the reason that sri lanka and zimbabwe to anextent have made progress over the last 30 years is because cricket is big in these countrys, netherlands and ireland are still ot so great at cricket as the sport is not played often in these countries, as a matter of fact cricket has less international competitive teams then football, how many times do you hear of west indies vs australia , new zealand vs bangladesh, england vs south africa- where are the brazil, cuban, italian, korean, Spain, Nigerian, Senegal, Argentine, usa, Ecuadorian, iranian, mexican, french, cricket teams- football is more diverse, if you wanna compare sports then the last one you do is cricket- get real

  • Comment number 69.

    S. America have a ten team qualifying system with four *guaranteed* places plus one extra chance that is pretty darn likely. (I forgot to mention the over-representation of Conacaf.) So before a single ball is kicked 40% of sides will definitely qualify with a reasonable chance to make that 50%.
    Apart from the early years when Uruguay won on invitation only tournaments name (aside from Brazil and Argentina) the stellar S. American contribution, even to the last eight. Ditto Asia, Africa and Conacaf.

  • Comment number 70.

    A lot of people seem to be mentioning the age of Becks and Hesky. Might I remind everyone that the last world cup final had an aging France and Italy, possibly the oldest teams in that World Cup.

  • Comment number 71.

    it is arrogance of the highest degree to say that teams cant be ALLOWED TO COMPETE. who the hell are you to say that? if england were so great how come they've only been in one major final and two semis, not forgetting that two of those tournaments were played in england???? don't forget kazakhstan could easily have been one up very early on.... plus what about englands losses to northern ireland etc??? didnt new zealand beat italy (the world champions) last night and scotland beat the world cup runners up (france) twice in qualifying for euro 2008. so dont assume that the best team always wins... its that level of arrogance that assumed that all man utd had to do against barcelona was turn up and they would walk it. look what happened there... furthermore, look at teams over the years its not always the same ones that qualify for world cups, romania were ever presents not so long ago and norway were decent too, they've fallen, scotland have dropped and rose back. plus england thrashed turkey 8-0 in 1984 but turkey got to the semis of the world cup in 2002 and euro 2008 (better than england in both cases). what about the african teams, it wasnt so long ago that they were dismissed as a joke and look now at the top teams in europe (essien et al) ok so not every team will progress but surely fifa could do more to put money into the game.

  • Comment number 72.

    Still not sure about Glen Johnson, great going forward- but what about defending against top class opposition? What about Almunia for a goalkeeper? Is this for real or is it one of these things that get banded about?
    We miss a total goalscorer. This team is nowhere near stacked at the team from Germany 2006. The only real top addition to the first team is Theo Walcott. Everybody else is still good but Owen, Beckham and even Rooney aren't as good as 2006.

  • Comment number 73.

    Capello and England certainly deserve congratulations for their work so far. As of right now, Spain is the best team in the world, followed by 6-8 that are roughly on the same level. England looks like one of the better of these, but everything, including Spain's status, may change in a year.

    England's current strength is offensive organization. The general plan is to give the most dangerous players the space and support they need to be more dangerous.

    The problem is defending, which England has done very well in the recent past. James is not a great, or even a very good, keeper, and the back four are more exposed with England playing more positive football.

    As for personnel, Heskey's looked like the best choice to go with Rooney. I agree Cole is a better fit on the left than Gerrard, which means either he or Lampard won't start--unless there's an injury. But having one too many players is probably ideal, between the likelihood of injuries and the need to rest players. I'd bring both Beckham and Crouch, because together they're a good, if negative, plan B: sit back and let Beckham cross for Crouch or Terry.

    Overall, the team has a better chance of beating good teams than in the last couple of Cups. The problem is they're not as likely to sneak draws against the best ones. Having said that, I like their chances as well as anyone except Spain, and perhaps Brazil, and believe they'll be playing better football than they have in a long time, regardless of how they finish.

  • Comment number 74.

    England are doing fantastic. They can potentially beat Spain. Remember they did play with a weak England side against Spai

    However, Capello will be forced to bring back Michael Owen. You can't ignore his goal scoring record for England. The only reason why he seems to do bad is because he is playing at Newcastle. If he was playing for a good team, he would be doing so much better. For example, Alan Smith was good when he was playing for Man Utd. That was because he was surrounded by Stars. Now he isn't good because he is playing for Newcastle.

    England will definitely qualify for South Africa, and I can see them getting into the last four. Brazil, Spain, England, Germany.

  • Comment number 75.

    Once again (when oh when will you ever learn)england supporters get carried away (after beating the mighty Andorra)and see themselves as one of the favourites for the World Cup. Is it any wonder other nations love to see you fall flat on your face when you get knocked out of any competition. You have no devine right to winning and you won the 66 final through the help of a dodgy Russian liesman. I would rather watch total football from the Spanish and Dutch teams any day.

  • Comment number 76.

    norapeti - but these players are all part-time. Forcing them to play more matches (possibly) just to get to the level of teams that, let's face it, are almost as bad (England beat Kazakhstan 5-1) is just going to tire them out even more and then they run the risk of burnout, meaning even worse performances against the big teams.

    Maybe you should just be facing up to the fact that Andorra, San Marino etc are of a similar standard to, say, a football team made up entirely of players from Nottingham, and there isn't much you can do to help them compete with a team that can choose the best of 60 million people

  • Comment number 77.

    Are you all serious?!

    Look at who you have played so far! OK, I'l give you that you played very well against Croatia but you're group is hardly an imposing one!

    I really hope you keep this attitude going into playing the BIG teams. Because you will get HAMMERED!

    Spain game. England didnt have a sniff at goal! And u were lucky only to lose 2-0.

    If you play the same against the likes of Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal i can honestly see England being in trouble. (I hope)

  • Comment number 78.


    2002 World Cup quarter-finalists: USA, S Korea, Senegal

    2006 World Cup - I thought that Ivory Coast played incredibly entertaining football in a really tough group.

    S America: 3 WC-winning countries/12 = 1/4 success rate
    Europe: 4 WC-winning countries/53 = a lot less!!!

    Name me some European teams that would genuinely add more interest and excitement to the competition, other than the 'usual suspects' who are already likely to qualify. Personally I want to see entertaining football and the best teams from each continent, not a repeat of the Euros. It's supposed to be a WORLD Cup...

  • Comment number 79.

    >he man has a unfathomable hatred of English football

    He was a player in the 1985 European Cup final at Heysel. Like a lot of continentals of that generation, he probably blames the subsequent disaster on English footballing culture.

  • Comment number 80.

    We're not getting carried away off the back of beating Andorra, we're getting carried away off the back of winning seven qualifying games out of seven! You cannot claim that that is not an awesome acheivement.

    Under previous managers we'd have drawn vs Kazakhstan and Belarus, drawn vs Ukraine at home and gotten caned by Croatia.

  • Comment number 81.

    I'l be very intrested to know Englands chances as we all have heard the hype surronding it before. I would much rather hear other countries look on the England football team. I dont really think its world class, if u were having world class team i would chose 3 england players. Andorra had nothing in them but what will happen when we face a team that do for example Spain and France?

  • Comment number 82.

    I personally think that england have done very well in their group and if you compare them to the other 100% teams such as Spain and Netherlands, youd have to say englands group is more competitive (despite having Andorra and Kazachstan in there). I base this on Croatia and Ukraine being better competition than Bosnia-hertz/ turkey and Scotland Macedonia.

    Anyway I think beckham is a legend and should play in the centre of midfield, where he can influence the whole team through his outstanding passing game. With the two full backs bombing up and down the touchline, having someone who can pick them out from 50+ yards away is a major asset.

    Crouch is a bit rubbish, id rather have Heskey, he links the play very well and is every bit as good as Crouch in the air, despite a height disadvantage.

    In short, keep the team similer to what it was last night. Just get rid of Walcott and get aaron lennon/SWP in there.

    Goalkeeper's still an issue but Green is on form and should be given a fair chance

  • Comment number 83.

    england winning the world cup, what a joke. i would rate spain, brazil, holland maybe even germany ahead of england. potentially argentina, and i wouldnt discount the africans either. england may do well but winning it no chance. with a poor keeper, a right back who can't defend, poor cover at centre half outside of terry/woodgate (the better centre halfs are retired or permanently injured), over reliance on rooney... i mean if he got injured what then?? yes you could say the same about say torres etc but his influence on spain is much les than rooney's on england as spain have more all round quality. spain should win it but i can't see it myself. their records not brilliant and how many teams win back to back euros and world cups? plus only brazil have won the world cup outside the home continent, no other team has. technically you could say they've done it 3 times : 94, 2002 and 58. ok its unlikely an african team will win but it was equally unlikely that an asian or north american team would win too wasn't it? and look what happened...

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    Spain game. England didnt have a sniff at goal! And u were lucky only to lose 2-0.

    If you play the same against the likes of Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal i can honestly see England being in trouble. (I hope)


    Firstly, in the Spain v England friendly, Spain had a grand total of 4 shots on target. England also had 4 shots on target, so to say we "didn't have a sniff at goal" is clearly an exageration, and typical of the blinkered, "I hate england" brigade that seems to lurk on these forums. Granted Spain were the better side, but we were playing away from home against the best team in the world, and we were missing Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole, Walcott and Rio Ferdinand. Their first goal came from an inexperienced defender making a mistake and the second was a header from a free-kick, so we weren't exactly ripped apart, were we?

    You mention that we would be in trouble against the likes of Argentina and Portugal. Have you seen the results of these two countries recently? I'm talking about Argentina losing 6-1 to Bolivia and 2-0 to Ecuador.
    Just imagine if England had lost 6-1 to Bolivia and people were still talking about us winning the world cup? Imagine how ludicrous you would find that.
    Portugal may not even be at the world cup since they are 7 points adrift of the group leaders and have already failed to beat Denmark, Albania and Sweden (twice).

  • Comment number 86.

    results in qualification are irrelevant, how many times have brazil scraped through and won the world cup. how many times have teams won their first few games in the premiership and won nothing, look at hull they barely avoided relegation yet had good results up till christmas. you forgot to mention that the bolivia result was an abberation because of the high altitude and no mention is made of the inexperience of maradona as a coach. if argentina had a coach as experienced as cappello, i'm convinced they would be there or thereabouts. england may do well but win it hardly likely. despite all the arrogance of some england fans be realistic, 2 semis and a final (2 of which were in england) isnt an amazing record compared to brazil, germany, france, italy, holland, argentina, all have been in more world cup or euro finals and semi finals than england in the last 35 years. even uruguay have a better record than england (ok that was a heck of a long time ago but so was 66). if you look at england's record since 1974 what is it?
    74 didn't qualify
    78 didnt qualify
    82 2nd round
    86 quarter final
    90 semi final
    94 didnt qualify
    98 2nd round
    2002 quarter final
    2006 quarter final

    where's the evidence to support this continued assertion that england can win the world cup?

  • Comment number 87.

    Fabio is doing a fantastic job so far! As a country we need to calm down and except the fact that there are better teams in the world. However, with a slice of luck and top performances, we do stand an outside chance. Fabio will truly be the best international manager if he brings home a major trophy. Come on England!


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