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Capello can plot World Cup glory

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Phil McNulty | 00:31 UK time, Thursday, 10 September 2009

Fabio Capello makes managing England look easy - and he stepped just as comfortably into the hazardous minefield of managing England's World Cup expectations.

Capello swept swiftly into Wembley's media theatre only minutes after England booked a place in South Africa next summer with a performance he ranked as the best of his reign by beating Croatia 5-1.

There was no bad news for Capello after an England display that bore all the hallmarks of a team that could make a serious impact in South Africa - except that it was of such high quality that hopes, dreams and hype could now grow out of all proportion. Again.

The question inevitably, and correctly, came and Capello's handling of it was as sure as all the moves he has made in rebuilding a broken England and piecing together a squad that can take genuine optimism with it on the plane to South Africa.

Are England contenders to win the World Cup?

England players celebrate after scoring against Croatia
Capello said the victory over Croatia was his best since he took charge

The trademark Italian shrug, the response deadpan but delivered with conviction: "Yes, why not?"

And you believed him. In the same way as England's players believe in the methods of Capello, a coach who commands nothing except total respect from every member of his squad, with just a little fear thrown in for good measure.

He is comfortable with what is coming, the demand that England end the flatlining years of falling in the last eight at major tournaments, saying: "The expectation is really hard. We have to play to win because we are England. We are one of the best teams in the world. We can play against all the best teams."

So there you have it. Not building a nation's hopes up but not exactly knocking them down either. Not getting carried away but not underplaying the hand he has in front of him.

Playing it to perfection in fact.

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic, wearing the sort of stunned, glassy-eyed expression worn by old cartoon characters seconds after their head has made meaningful contact with a frying pan, was unequivocal when I asked him if England could win the World Cup based on the mauling his side had just received.

"Based on this match, definitely. It is not easy to play against every team like they did here, but I was on the touchline and they didn't miss a ball in the first half hour. The balls were always dangerous - just perfect."

Of course England can win the World Cup - whether they will is another matter entirely because they have been here before at recent major tournaments. False dawns a speciality.

But they have not been here before under Capello and the coach's reputation alone will make England's rivals wary in South Africa.

Capello accepts that qualification is only the first staging post on the journey the Football Association asked him to embark upon as he navigated his way through the wreckage of the Steve McClaren era.

The image of McClaren covering his embarrassment with an umbrella as England's Euro 2008 hopes, and indeed his job, slipped away against these same opponents in November 2007 seemed an age away as Wembley basked in a glorious night.

The bonus of early qualification allows Capello valuable extra time to pore over his blueprint for success in South Africa - and he had plenty to go at after England took Croatia to the cleaners in the most comprehensive fashion.

Capello was given food for thought, with Aaron Lennon providing the most palatable after a performance that suggested he has now made the leap from infuriating under-achiever to finished article.

He was Capello's only change from the England side that laboured to victory against Slovenia. And what a change it was.

If Arsenal's Theo Walcott was the catalyst for England's 4-1 win in Zagreb with a hat-trick that suggested Capello might be on to a good thing, then the Tottenham winger took top billing here and in doing so opened up some intriguing selection possibilities.

Lennon was electrifying in the game's crucial opening phases, winning a penalty for Frank Lampard to score and showing genuine end product, a major criticism in the past, to set up Steven Gerrard's first header.

It appeared his instructions from Capello were simple - run straight at Croatia with pace and terrify them - and he carried them out to the letter. And Capello likes it when players follow his instructions.

Lennon's display was not great news for the discarded Shaun Wright-Phillips, and with Walcott on course to return for Arsenal, where does this leave David Beckham?

Beckham was afforded his usual rapturous reception at Wembley, but if the wily combination of Capello and Harry Redknapp at Spurs have pressed the right buttons with Lennon and Walcott hits form at Arsenal, the old timer may have a fight on his hands to make the plane.

Capello has also got England's midfield in good working order, a trick that escaped Sven-Goran Eriksson and McClaren. Two goals each for Lampard and Gerrard provided compelling evidence.

Gerrard and Lampard have formed an effective midfield partnership
The Gerrard-Lampard conundrum appears to have been solved by Capello

Gerrard still has to win over some England supporters, but the very notion of a Capello side without the Liverpool captain is laughable.

He is now flourishing in a role which is seen as left-sided, but which in reality gives him free rein to push up alongside or just behind Wayne Rooney when England are in possession. Gerrard will be feared by England's World Cup opponents - no mistake.

It throws extra responsibility on Ashley Cole, but as the Chelsea defender is back at his best the format worked like a charm against Croatia. It may be tested by more accomplished opposition, but Capello now has time to experiment further, with Joe Cole ready to press his claims later in the season.

Capello, as expected, retained faith with Emile Heskey and the big man provided ammunition for both his admirers and detractors, working hard and keeping Croatia occupied but bungling two easy opportunities that came his way. All Heskey life was there.

The enthusiastic greeting Capello gave Heskey when he came off renders all arguments about his place in England's plans redundant. He will be in them.

Heskey is a striker, however, and it is only right that he should actually be expected to strike just occasionally, something he shows little sign of doing.

What if the one chance of a tightly contested quarter-final falls to the less-than-clinical Heskey? This is the major risk Capello is taking with his continued selection, but he is not for turning and, barring injury or catastrophic loss of form, Heskey will be in South Africa.

Capello can now go into overdrive on getting England's goalkeeping position straight - and for all the questions about Glen Johnson, he will be the right-back. He improved defensively against an admittedly poor Croatia, and showed his progressive nature by setting up a goal for Lampard.

And he will be aware of the threats from outside England. Spain currently look the most complete side in world football and gave Capello's side a lesson in their last meeting, while the hugely-gifted and powerful Ghana have been touted to lead a serious African challenge.

But if England fans are attempting to detect the greatest hope that they might actually be in at the sharp end in South Africa, it comes in the shape of their coach.

This is no Eriksson, who was horribly inert when it mattered in quarter-finals in Shizuoka, Japan, Lisbon and appeared to conduct the 2006 World Cup campaign in Germany on a wing and a prayer.

England's adversaries know they are being overseen by a coach to be reckoned with, someone with the expertise, experience and confidence to plan a campaign meticulously.

Capello will keep a lid on the hype and hope for luck with injuries - especially to the mercurial Wayne Rooney.

But a flawless qualifying campaign containing eight straight wins suggests just a little hope is justified that England might be ready to give the football world a run for its money in South Africa.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Phil, I totally agree that we need to have a cautious optimism in terms of our chances next year. I really hope the players and the media don't get carried away with talk of winning the cup...let's just focus and prepare on getting the team playing to it's optimum potential and have the results speak for themselves.

  • Comment number 2.

    Relax guys, they have just qualified to play in the world cup... not won it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Billionplus i dont see anywhere it saying that england have won the world cup!

  • Comment number 4.

    Just the two problem positions now, right back and the goalkeeper. If these can be solved, we could have a decent chance. Still think that if we have the very best raiding at us in a quarter or semi final i.e Spain or Brazil, there will be problems.

  • Comment number 5.

    Top result last night. Credit where credit's due, the boys played Croatia off the park for the first hour of the game. Slacked off at 4-0 and a few mistakes started creeping in, but otherwise a benchmark to be used for the remaining games for anyone hoping to break into the team for the WC next year. Impressed with Lennon, who looked nothing like the player I've critised of late and I'm glad to be eating humble pie on that one, but Johnson needs to improve his defensive work this season or he will be a constant risk for us when we come up against anyone with a decent winger.

    Will Capello experiment with a variety of different players in the remaining qualifying fixtures & friendlies, or will it be a case of just one or two to look at? I can't imagine huge changes personally, but perhaps Defoe will get a couple of starts under his belt providing he remains in-form for Spurs. Who knows really, but at least this morning most England football fans can take a long breath and relax, knowing that next summer, we'll have something worth watching on TV

  • Comment number 6.

    Without Fabio Capello we would still be the football world's greatest under-achievers. All the praise has to go to this mercurial manager who has recued England from being a bedraggled team of misfiring misfits into real contenders for the World Cup Final. A huge 'Thank You' to Fabio.

  • Comment number 7.

    KingsmeadowDons... are you not happy with the improvement Glen Johnson is showing?

  • Comment number 8.

    No, we're nowhere near to the current level of Brazil and Spain but frankly, who cares at this stage? We're going to South Africa!!!
    Here's hoping for an absense of broken metertarsels, affairs at the FA, the manager falling in love with a few players, faith healers, petulant kicks, and PENALTIES.

  • Comment number 9.

    Phil this is a pretty well rounded piece. I think England are behind Spain and Brazil in the pecking order though alongside Germany, Holland and perhaps Italy.

    The following line IS laughable:

    'Gerrard still has to win over some England supporters, but the very notion of a Capello side without the Liverpool captain is laughable. '

    Gerred played ver well last night as did all of them. However Gerrard has consistently let England down when it mattered. He isn't the only one so last night's performance is recompense of sorts. Insert 'squad' in the above line instead of 'side' and the comment is valid.

    All of the England players will be picked by Capello on merit - attitude, application and performance and Not reputation - just ask Michael Owen.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog as always Phil!

    However, I think we need to be careful in not being too bombastic in our praise for England as they were up a decimated Croatian side. Questions still have to be asked about Glen Johnson, for instance, who is extremely suspect defensively and would have been destroyed by an in-form Luka Modric, had he been fit.

    England were up against a side not too dissimilar to the one they fielded against Croatia at Wembley the last time this fixture took place - lots of injuries to key players, second choice keeper, team nervous and under-pressure to qualify. I know that England can only beat what's in front of them and they did that well, but up against Russia, Spain, Germany or Brazil I think a hell of a lot of players will get found out.

    Green is not up to it and even against a severely weakened side last night Johnson managed to be a liability for Croatia's only goal. Beckham, much as I admire him, is surely now a nightwatchman on the right, keeping the place warm for Lennon or Walcott.

    Still, good game and always nice to see England win by such a large margin!

  • Comment number 11.

    On the strength of last night's performance it's easy to agree with all Phil writes here, but already the weight of expectation is becoming heavy. Capello's discipline currently extends to the team, but it remains to be seen whether that can continue for the next ten months under increasing media hype.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think we played really well last night. As for the final squad i think David Beckham must be on the plane. He will deflect the publicity from all the other guys and his experience is needed in the squad as you can tell the younger guys still look up to him and pass to him on every occasion they can when he comes on.

    As for the starting line up. I think Carlton Cole to start in place of Heskey as he is just as much of a nuisance but better on the ball and more clinical in front of goal.

  • Comment number 13.

    Best performance in a while, great pace, great passion, can't remember seeing a performance like that over the 90 mins in a long time.

    We have qualified, but one thing I wouldn't do now is to tinker with the team (with the exception of maybe the goalkeeper) and start to experiment. We need continuity and a winning mentality just like the Germans or the Brazilians, they don't know how to lose. Therefore, I would keep the same team for the next 2 qualifying games and make sure we get maximum points.

    Let's not get too carried away, but I say that every time we qualify for a major tournament and still get sucked into the hype. However, have we ever been in such a good position to win a WC? Great team spirit, real quality, players at their peak and the real difference, a great manager who is like a 12th man.

  • Comment number 14.

    Congrats England, it was not just beating Croatia but a good revenge as well. But without blowing the bubble, your group was not that strong. You need to face more bigger opponents like Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Argentina or more so, South American teams to be able to test your strength. Lets be open minded here. This group was not at all that strong hence 8/8. Look at other groups which are strong and see how other bigs teams are fairing. Whether you like it or not, you are gong to face them. So I suggest we prepare the squad like that and then we can make conclusions about winning the world cup

  • Comment number 15.

    As you said Phil, let's measure of optimism. There's always room for improvement.
    I thought we looked nervous during the first 10 minutes of the second half.
    The goalkeeper position is not sorted. I'm still not convinced about Green and James has buried himself by staying at Pompey.
    I also hope we can have a fit team and no "superstar who is rushing his rehabilitation to make it just in time" (ie, Becks in 02, Rooney/Owen in 06).

    Apart from that, as I always say, if Greece won the Euros, I can't see why England couldn't win the World Cup!

  • Comment number 16.

    Great performance from England last night though one good match from Lennon hardly makes him the finished article. He did better than SWP though. I think the English fans need to temper their predictions of winning the world cup, even with the possible basences of Portugal, Argentina and France, there are still a lot of good teams in it- Brazil, Spain, Germany, Holland and maybe Italy though they seem to be going backwards. It also depends on the draw for the world cup.

    Think England may make the semi's and im sure if their odds were decent they might be worth a cheeky bet! Fabio has another 8 or 9 months to work his magic!

    Disappointed for the remainder of the home nations last night, noone got the result they wanted.

  • Comment number 17.

    Oh dear. Excessive optimism I fear. Look how easily Capello's England team were brushed aside by Spain in the friendly. Rooney will get sent off if targeted, non of our other strikers are world class, our right back can't defend and we don’t have a goalie who can keep the opposition of the score board on their own. Add to that we don't have any supper creative talent (other than Joe Cole) in midfield and the picture isn’t that great.

    Yes we should do well. But win it? No chance.

  • Comment number 18.

    the big question doesn't seem to be RB & keeper - johnson & green seem to be alright, with brown able to challenge johnson if he plays regularly

    the first big question is up front - heskey/defoe with rooney. heskey has lost his confidence but he gives us a physical presence

    there's also the questions of what our best team will be with walcott, j. cole and hargreaves due to come back

  • Comment number 19.


    Your comment is truly laughable. Gerrard will always be one of the first on the team sheet under Capello and rightly so.

  • Comment number 20.

    Technically any team that makes it to South Africa can win the world cup, as with any tournament held in football.

    I have not looked at this mornings papers but I would imagine they follow much the same line of this blog "we can win the world cup". Woohooo hold your horses, so we have a good qualifying campaign, but with the greatest of respect to Andorra, Kazakhstan, Belarus et al I would hardly call them world cup sides and good enough to judge England's potential against. Would be like Arsenal winning a couple of qualifying rounds, undefeated and in style, of the Champions League and everyone proclaiming they can win the whole thing.

    I look around the world and whilst England look good I see a number of other teams who will be there or there abouts come the summer of 2010. The Netherlands look pretty sharp (yes we drew 2-2 but still), Spain look very good as always (and I believe they have escaped the shackles of the 'we can't perform at major tournaments' syndrome), Brazil will always be there or there abouts, there will be a couple of dark horses (like South Korea were in 2002), the German's cannot be underestimated, Russia with Hiddink may offer a few surprises and so on (if they make it), USA will be well organised and I would imagine that Argentina will scrap in. So really at this stage, there are a large number of teams who have the potential to make the knockout stages. I would expect England to do so with ease. From then on in lady luck must be on your side.

    Yes we do have a chance but lets not get too carried away. The defence looks rather shakey, again another sloppy goal was conceded at the back, and at the start of the 2nd half England almost went asleep. And when ever Phil blogs on Liverpool winning the league the comments from United/Chelsea fans are "they don't know how to deal with the pressure of the run in at the end of the campaign/they will crack" etc etc. The same view must be applied to England. If we make the semi-final's it will be unchartered territory for the vast majority of players, they could crack, they may not be able to deal with the intensity of the media speculation and 'the nation expects' attitude. Where as teams such as Italy, Brazil, Germany (in their home tournament) have been there and done it. Some may laugh at this as after all they are professionals but I have seen it written so many times about Liverpool, the same should apply to England.

    So yes we are in with a shout but a bit of realism would be lovely. However come 6th July of 7th July if England are in Durban or Cape TOwn I will be getting very excited!

  • Comment number 21.

    I dont think that England could win the world cup. Its a long way to go. perhaps only a bit of luck can take them to semifinal otherwise no way.

  • Comment number 22.

    Absolutely fantastic display by England.

    The performance was far superior to that of our visitors and the Capello influence really shone through in an epic 90 minutes that secured our place in South Africa.

    We have the manager, we have the squad and we’ve now shown we can put the performance in.

    Feet on the ground there’s still along way to go, we have to be realistic and cautious about the build up to next summer but last night really emphasised our potential.

  • Comment number 23.

    RE: the striker debate, as a Spurs fan, obviously it's nice to see Defoe in the mix. However, I have to say that I think Defoe and Rooney are not different enough to necessarily justify Jermaine a starting spot.

    On top of that, it is far from certain that Defoe's form will be anything like it is now by the end of the season. Traditionally, he's a player who has blown hot and cold through patches of each season for us, which is why he was so heavily rotated like for like with Robbie Keane before they both left, and then returned, to us.

    Rooney has to be the main man.

  • Comment number 24.


    It amazes me how some people cant put aside their domestic rivalries to support their country.

    I was in a bar in Turkey in august 2005 when newcastle were playing man united. Some newcastle fans were shouting abuse at Wayne Rooney, none of which I can print here due to its nature. The same fans were undoubtedly cheering Rooney on in the following year's World Cup in Germany. Go figure.

    Totally agree with #19. Gerrard, if fit, will definitely be in the England team. It has nothing to do with reputation, it has to do with hin being one of the best midfielders in the world and one of the few world-class players England have got

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm sorry but bluetikolo is talking utter rubbish. A group involving away ties against the Ukraine, Croatia and unpredictable Belarus is about as tough as it gets. Teams like Portugal (whose group includes decent but pretty mediocre teams like Sweden and Denmark, not unlike ours which contains Croatia and Ukraine)are unlikely to qualify at present, as are the Czech Republic who have one of the easiest groups you'll ever see. France are second in their group to Serbia (the same Serbia that lost 6-1 to Argentina at the last world cup and who, although they have clearly improved since then, France would clearly have expected to finish above). Argentina are in a complete shambles due to a shaky defence and a legendary player who has no grasp on tactics. Italy are in an easier group than ours and have been unconvinving ever since they won the WC 4 years ago. All this means that the only teams England should fear on current form are Spain, Holland and Brazil. I have never been one for jumping on the bandwagon because for the last 5 years England have had a great team on paper, but the fact is that Capello has managed to instill a confidence in the players and fans, resulting in performances like this and the determined effort against the Dutch recently. We now beat teams we should beat, and beat them convincingly. Yes the real test will come later on, but right not there is, for the first time in my memory (I'm 18!) something to back up the optimism that surrounds England at every major tournament. This is because of our own results (as well as performances which are improving), and also the fact that several of the traditional favourites (France, Germany, Italy, Argentina etc) are as weak as they have been for many years. Germany may be top of their group ahead of Russia at present, but I know who I'd rather play at the WC! Imagine Lennon, Walcott, Milner or Ashley Young running at their shocking defence!

  • Comment number 26.

    I have no idea why bluetikolo is banging on about South American especially when Argentina don't even look like they're going to qualify. Losing 4 of their last 5 games to teams like Chile? Not exactly scary are they?

    These teams are living on their reputations and England shouldn't be scared of anyone.

  • Comment number 27.

    We have to take a leaf out of Capello’s book here and all stay calm. Last night was terrific, a superb display by England but Capello knows there are still a few creases to iron out and he will be focusing more on the defeats Spain and France handed us not so long ago rather than the thumping we gave Croatia last night.

    He’s a perfectionist; you can see that from his reaction when Croatia scored. 4-0, 0-0, 1-0 it doesn't matter, his reaction is that of disappointment and annoyance if something’s out of place in his team.

    If we keep our feet on the ground, keep playing the way we’re playing then confidence will rise along with the expectation as always. We shown last night we’re a force to be reckoned with for sure but the manager knows better than anyone there’s a lot of football to be played before the summer of 2010.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Phil,

    Great report and congratulations!
    It is simply great to see england not only winning and booking its place in South Africa but also doing it with confidence and style.
    Asa brazilian, I can see that we should realy be careful with England if they continue to show this cautious (but confident) approach and the quality they showed yesterday night.
    As a person basedin England for 10 years, I really look forward to have again to experience the euphory of leaving in a nation at the moment they win the World Cup.
    I agree 100% with Capello when, at monent he was asked if England could lift the cup, he said "Yes, why not?".
    This is exactly what we expect in Brazil from the manager and also in other main nations. No over-optimism but also no let down.
    I just hope that, when S.A. starts, also England loses their underdog approach and see each nation (whoever they are) at the same level and with the same chances. If England does that and play well, then England is sure to succeed.

  • Comment number 29.

    Well I was mipressed last many on here.

    Some have commented on the fragility of the RB and GK positions but I say nay. Johnson is a great player and will do well there, he certainly made up for an abject performance against Slovenia. Green for me is the best we have at the a Spurs fan I have always thought fondly of Paul Robinson so I would like to see him back in the fold.

    All looks well for the men in white shirts!

  • Comment number 30.

    We are genuine contenders. Whether we can win it or not is another matter, but in terms of the form teams that have a chance we should definitely be in there.

    The Five Live guys were quick to put the boot into any wild celebrations, it is only 'step one' after all. But still, Capello deserves many plaudits for the way he's guided England through qualifying.

  • Comment number 31.

    Look England is not going to win the World Cup that much is clear. I am sure they will get into the semis...but may be not. At the moment I can see only 2 teams that can do way with England and the is Spain and Brazil. If by some strange occurence both spain and Brazil are knocked out then England can even get to the final and win it.

    Otherwise they can forget it. They have a great coach in Capello but they are not the best in the world. Needless to say that they are on par with Germany, Holland, Italy and Argentina and matches with any of these teams can go either way.

    They have done well to qualify so far. At least we will see the rowdy English fans at South Africa.

  • Comment number 32.

    Lots of praise for gerrard and Lampard, rightly so, along with Lennon, but I thought once again Rooney our best player.

    His vision and link up play is truly exceptional, in the last 5 minutes when we were playing keep ball, he was the focal point of what looked like 20 plus passes, and then pinged a 40 yarder over the defence to Defoe, who should have scored. (defoe , for once, looked a bit lost when he came on,I still think impact sub is his best position)

  • Comment number 33.

    I think England's first team has the potential to look quite different come the WC. There are a few good players out with Rio, Hargreaves and Joe Cole but the keeper position does worry me - especially compared to the class of keepers from the other top nations. I just don't think we have anyone good enough!
    For much of the campaign I've been longing for Hargreaves back and at his best but I must say that Gareth Barry (who I've always thought was a little overhyped) was excellent against Croatia. He pressed the ball well, kept the ball well and looked like a real physical presence in midfield going well with Lamps.
    I'm not too worried about strikers as long as Rooney is fit! Capello will get it right and may choose different players against different opposition.
    I wonder if it's worth changing formation though? Don't spain play three across the middle with two out wide and one up (4-3-2-1)??We may struggle with 442 against this (like ManU did against Barca). My point being, can you imagine Lamps & Barry trying to get in the game against Alonso, Xavi and Iniesta?? They wouldn't even see the ball for 90 minutes. I just get the feeling we'd be dominated and then WR would probably end up dropping to get some of the ball and it could all go wrong if Emile is left up on his own to try and score. I suppose we could always throw in a fit Hargreaves (if he ever comes back)to make a 3 in the middle and match them up with our physical strength & energy, if not technical ability. I guess the problem with this is that when the formation is changed, our players seem to struggle to cope and can't get used to it as a lot of them are only used to playing 442. Chelsea and ManU have recently gone back to 442 after flirting with the Spanish 4-3-2-1 idea. What do people think about formation?

  • Comment number 34.

    A well thought out and cautiously optimistic piece Phil, something we will need to maintain in the build up to the World Cup.

    On the subject of the right back position, i think Glen Johnson still looks slightly suspect at the back, my main concern not being that we're exposed on the right, i don't think we do, it's that John Terry consistently moves across to nullify this threat, leaving us exposed in the middle, i missed the Holland game, so couldn't comment on that however both the Slovenia and Croatia games i saw this happen consistently. I would expect though, that a naturally cautious manager like Benitez(not an insult)will train this out of him over the coming months.

    The most exciting thing for me, is not how well he has the first team playing, although it's great to finally see us playing well and not stuttering through games. It's the ease and confidence with which the substitutions come off the bench and impact the game, by changing the set up of the team. James Milner looks like a great replacement for Gerrard when the dynamic of the game needs to be changed, Lennon, Wright-Phillips, Walcott and Beckham all bring uniquely different qualities to the right hand side. Jermaine Defoe and C. Cole can replace the front line and again, change how we need to play (I don't see C.Cole as a like for like swap with Heskey, i find he's more direct)

    It was fabulous to see Bilic on the touchline with his head hung in disbelief. Like he'd just seen the kid he bullied a few years ago, come back twice as big and twice as strong as he is!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    Great result for England and I agree that the best thing for them is to keep their feet on the ground and not allow for any time to get carried away with the result.

    We've seen England qualify on the back of a 5-1 result before, the team beaten on that occasion went on to feature in the World Cup final whilst England dropped out in the quarter finals.

    Lots of work to do still but shows England are on the right track at least.

    South Africa will provide big tests for this team regardless of who qualifies. There will be tests on the players fitness and stamina also for those games played at altitude (something that was raised as advantage for South Africa vs Lions on the last tour).

    England should stay positive and believe that they can win but should retain healthy amounts of caution and ignore the hype that a successful qualifying may bring.

  • Comment number 36.

    can't see Capello taking both Wright Phillips and Lennon and Walcott, it will be 2 of the three with Beckham, and one less striker as walcott can cover, joe cole will also be taken





    you've got one space available, in which you could put both strikers in, or just one and have one more centre midfielder

  • Comment number 37.

  • Comment number 38.

    Phil - a couple of points. First of all Beckham must now say 'goodbye' to the squad. Lennon is currently number uno with Walcott on stand-by and Wright-Phillips also available, so where does that leave Beckham, who just never takes on or beats anyone nowadays. How great to see an England winger (Lennon) actually running at the defenders.

    Let's not forget that Englands defence looked decidely second-rate against Holland not so long ago. Fortunately the Dutch defence with Oojer and Heitinga in particular were equally poor hence the 2-2 draw.
    Green is still not convincing in goal and Glenn Johnson was suprisingly not really tested against Croatia until he allowed the winger to turn him inside-out and cross the ball for the only goal. Bilic made a big mistake by not playing on Johnson's weakness in tackling.

    Argentina in deep trouble and I have NO sympathy at all.
    Maradonna implicated GOD when he cheated in 1986, when he could have admitted to the referee that he had handled the ball. Now GOD is seeking his retribution on Maradona so the finality is that the AFA must dispense with Snr. Diego and rescue their fading hopes in the last 2 games and hope for a play-off place, probably against Costa Rica.

  • Comment number 39.

    England are definitely contenders, especially as I think they will continue to improve between now and next summer.

    However I just feel the squad overall is not quite strong or deep enough to win the world cup, and if we were to lose key players for key games, either due to injury or suspension we would struggle to cope.

    We can win it, but we will need quite a bit of luck in regards to injuries and suspensions.

  • Comment number 40.

    Why are all you guys having a go at Robert Green, Even with the Goal Croatia scored he cannot be held responsible. He made two really good saves just before their goal and didn't make one bad move. Yes i know the opposition were not much of a threat but who else would you choose.

    Foster- not ready to step up yet.
    Hart- Maybe but i don't think he's any better than Foster.
    Robbo- Should be on the plane.
    James- Possibly, may be too old and depends on form of the others.

    Well thats my opinion feel free to disagree.

  • Comment number 41.

    Gerrard still has to win over some England supporters, but the very notion of a Capello side without the Liverpool captain is laughable.

    He is now flourishing in a role which is seen as left-sided, but which in reality gives him free rein to push up alongside or just behind Wayne Rooney when England are in possession. Gerrard will be feared by England's World Cup opponents - no mistake.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------- maybe right about that, but things can change quickly in the space of a season, and a certain Joe Cole, who with consistently strong performances before his injury had held down that left side position at the expense of Steven Gerrard, may just have a different opinion to your own.

  • Comment number 42.

    Phil I totally disagree with everything you are saying. The figures just don't add up so there is no way I will be investing Mrs P's shopping money on a bet on England this World Cup and for that reason.............

    Im out

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm sorry but we have every right to be excited. We thrashed a team which has supposedly been in the top 10 in the world for the last 4 years. It could have been 7 or 8 to England and the Crotia goal was offside, terrific save to keep out the Eduardo header then the player following up was offside so a bad lino cost us the goal.
    Very impressed with Gerrard and Lampard combo, which works well with Barry sitting. Ver impressed with Lennon, who can mix it up on the right now and who makes teams double up on him, allowing the full back and/or striker more freedom. Impressed with Terry as well from last night.
    Disappointed with Heskey. It's a fallacy to say that Heskey played well last night. He wasn't invovled in the build-up to any of the goals, looked jaded and uninterested at times, I think he lost more headers than he won and fluffed 2 chances that my gran on her zimmerframe could have put away. Beckham will always be trophy that England wheel out, a bit like Cannavaro at Juve, he has no pace and often the team has to accomodate him.
    Carlton Cole, providing he has a good season, is a no-brainer up-front instead of Heskey at WC2010. Defoe will be a sub, unfortunately but that is Capello's way.
    All in all a terrific night and after these qualifying campaign I would put England 3 favourites behind Brazil and Spain. Ahead of Germany, Holland etc. Don't forget a weakened England team went to Berlin last year and beat Germany. Don't forget that we drew 2-2 with Holland away a couple of months ago and when we play them in a friendly in Nov at Wembley we will dross them up, mark my words.

  • Comment number 44.

    Italians know about winning this tournament. If we have more luck with injuries then we have a real chance, as the climate in S Africa will also suit the English. Capello must use the luxury of the two ties remaining plus friendlies to give Carlton Cole regular starts, Heskey is a good link player, but his goal return is not international class, (consider the strike rate of Villa and Torres for instance)Cole looks to be more mobile and a better finisher. With Rio to come back, plus SWP Young and Walcott to fight for their places then the squad has an adpatable solid feel to it. Fingers crossed that our star players avoid serious injury in the months ahead. But will beckham make the plane?? How pragmatic will Capello be on that dilemma.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think England played with exactly the right spirit and energy last night. They played more like a Premiership team, as they should do, and should have done for years. Hard and fast, getting at the opponents. Lennon had the Croat defence running scared within minutes - the penalty looked like it was going to happen and did.

    But as with any blog like this, out come the people who say the same thing EVERY single time. "No chance" "Brazil and Spain are better" "England had a soft group" etc etc. You people are tedious. We qualified - in a harder group than the one we failed to even come second in for the Euro 2008 - and that is what matters. Since England will be in the World Cup they have a chance of winning - look at Greece winning in 2004. Germany getting to the final in 2002 by some miracle. Spain and Brazil could meet each other in a knock-out game. England can beat any team on their day, and if we met a Brazil or Spain in the quarters or semis, and we have a good game, and they a poor one - well who knows.

    Well done for qualifying. Give it your best in South Africa. We have a world class coach and a good squad of players. We may not have the technical ability of the likes of Spain or Brazil, but equally I doubt either of those two teams would like to face a team playing the way we played last night. That last statement sounds a bit Corporal-Jones-they-don't-like-it-up-'em I know, but it's true.

  • Comment number 46.

    England were excellent but Croatia were very low on confidence. Cant remember Upson having that much to do. Win it? I will hope and pray but it wnt b easy. If Argentina qualify thru any route, they will b a dangerous side coz they'll b without the heavy monkey of expectations currently being fastened on England's back. Remember Brazil in 2002. Lets temper the hype.

  • Comment number 47.

    Capello has done one thing that is very important, he's put to bed the nonsense theory that Lampard and Gerrard can't play together. It goes to show the level of incompetency that England have suffered under the tenures of Eriksson and McClaren.
    IF England are to have a chance in the World Cup, then it will revolve around Steven Gerrard and not Wayne Rooney. The press have lauded Rooney to the rafters for so long now and he's yet to really pay any of that faith back by winning a game in the same way that Gerrard or Ronaldo or Messi do on a regular basis.
    I also thought Glen Johnson was outstanding last night, he's fast becoming the most complete right back on the continent, players just can't compete with him physically and he's got great skill and tackling ability on top of that. With him and Ashley Cole, England have comparable defensive width to that of the Brazilians, and I feel they are also superior to the Spanish in the this department as well.
    Aaron Lennon had a great game, but it would be a poor manager who would 'rely' on him to perform like that in every game. He's a great option, but the real strength of the team will come from the central midfield and full backs, who can physically drive the team on and deliver great final balls or release a shot.
    We know that this team works, and I hope that Capello uses these two 'spare' games in the group to get the likes of Carlton Cole, James Milner, and Ashley Young forming a partnership at international level. I'd also like to see Tom Huddlestone in there, perhaps even behind a striker. His ability to create is exceptional.
    Jack Wilshire? No, I think this World Cup will be a year too early for him.

  • Comment number 48.

    KingsmeadowDons - how can you be so unhappy with Johnson. I don't get this whole argument, so every time we get a cross in is it because the oppositions full-backs are useless? or because our wingers are good?

    You can't have it both ways, we would assume that a wingers job is to beatt he full back and get a cross in, opposition teams think the same way and you would expect a few crosses to get past cole and Johnson the same way you would expect the majority of our crosses to beat the 1st man.

    I think everyone should get off Johnson's back, the goal from Croatia yesterday could have been stopped by Green, and after the 1st save Terry or Upson should have reacted better and got it out, end of story.

  • Comment number 49.

    I personally believe Green is up to the job - especially considering our other options at the moment but, the next 10 months or so will tell!! Green had very little to do last night but, when called upon, and not helped by a vacant Johnson allowing a cross to come in, he did not let us down with a couple of fine saves that unfortunately fell at the feet of Eduardo who on another day may have fallen over from the pressure of the football on his little tootsies!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Last night was a simply fantastic performance, most notably when we didn't have the ball. Croatia never had a chance to settle on the ball and that's what made an understrength but never the less technically gifted team look very very ordinary.

    The Gerrard debate will run and run, the Liverpool fan above who seemed to think a Villa fan has some form of bias against him is living in a dream world. (As if Villa could give two hoots about Liverpool) Gerrard have consistently been one of Englands worst players, admittedly played out of position on the left. Tonight was the first time he has had the discipline to be out on the left to receive the ball from Cole, and to drift in when the ball was more central. He provided excellent passes for pretty much all of the goals and took his chances superbly. Whilst Lennon was good, Gerrard was my man of the match (Tall praise coming from me as I'd have left him on the bench coming into the match). If Gerrard can keep up this level of performance he's good for his starting position. (Oh and how many showboating shots from 25 yards did he have last night? None! Now that's progress)

    The last remaining debate is over Heskey. Personally for me he's a starter. He is easilly Englands best holding striker, and he makes Rooney, Gerrard (tonight), and Lampard work together. I'd pick those three playing to potential over Dafoe any day. He's what enabled England to keep possession so consistently for so long. Admittedly he should have scored at least one of the two chances, but I think the keeper did reasonably well on both occasions and made it hard for him. I've been a big critic of Dafoe in previous years, but now he is starting to show the kind of consistency that marks the step up from being a good domestic player to being a good international. If he keeps it up he'll be certain to get a role tormenting tiring defences for twenty minutes a match.

    The last two positions, rightback and keeper, are filled now. Like it or not Johnson and Green are the best we have, and whilst not perfect, should be good enough.

    Incidentally, can anyone else think of a team who score goals for fun but are a little leaky at the back, have wingbacks who are hugely talented going forward but defensively frail, and have regularly scoring midfielders?
    We're starting to have a Brazilian feel to the team, and lets face it, they've done alright for themselves over the years...

  • Comment number 51.

    This was a great performance, but there are still issues unresolved.

    GK is one, Heskey's lack of goals is another. As a Villa fan I am bound by loyalty to support him, but he should have scored twice at the end of the first half. He is great at being the battering ram that creates space for others, and as long as those others go on scoring, it will not be a huge issue, but when the team stops winning, questions will start to be asked.

    The other issue is concentration at the back. We could do with a few clean sheets in the coming matches to settle the defence into the habit of being a little tighter. Johnson was great going forward but the question mark remains over him being a great defender. Imagine Ronaldo running at him.

  • Comment number 52.

    England cannot win the world cup without a massive massive stroke of luck..

    They couldnt beat Holland, Spain, or France under Capello and these are the teams they should expect to face in the latter rounds..

    Nevermind having to face Brazil/Argentina/Portugal.. (provided the last two qualify)

    We did beat Germany though..!!

  • Comment number 53.

    "England might be ready to give the football world a run for its money in South Africa."

    "This year is Liverpools year"

    sorry, Phil, after the prediction that this year is their year being so hopeless, I've little faith in you predicting England to do well.

  • Comment number 54.

    It is precisely articles like this that are the reason people get carried away. In my humble opinion, the media has a lot to answer for when it comes to major tournaments as, on paper, we are a quarter/semi final team with the players to match.

    The depth in the squad simply isnt good enough to win a major competition because if Spain can replace Xavi and Iniesta with Alonso and Fabregas, we can replace Barry and Lampard with Milner and Hargreaves - which doesnt exactly fill me with confidence.

    Let's not forget that Croatia had probably their 3 best players missing last night in Modric, Corluka and the 'keeper. If we had a similar situation with Rooney, Terry and Lampard missing - would we really have won 5-1? NO!!

    The media needs to accept we are a semi final team at our absolute peak and stop all this ridiculous "we can win the World Cup" talk. We have heard it all before and it would be nice, for a change, for people to expect us to get through the group and nothing more.

    If we win the World Cup, it would be the equivalent of Everton winning the Premier League

  • Comment number 55.

    With regards to Beckham, I know we had the game all but won when he came on but he did make some exquisite passes, inch perfect and the vision was phenomenal. I thought it was a great performance last night, if we have ferdinand and terry forming the old partnership next summer we should see less of the slight defensive frailties we glimpsed last night. Great play from the fullbacks to free up the midfield. All in all very satisfying, still a way to go before we can compare to Spain and Brazil but other than that we've looked as convincing as holland and a lot more so than France, Italy, Argentina (doubt theyre gona make the world cup!) and a few of the other big dogs. Ghana look like they will be dangerous, strong, physical and some good flare players in there.
    Lets just hope someone pulls a new David Seaman from their academy in time haha!

  • Comment number 56.

    Firstly, congratulations. As my moniker would suggest I am a Northern Ireland fan and after a glimmer of hope, last night has confirmed what I suspected all along - that I will, yet again, be watching you guys at World Cup and not my own beloved country.

    Can you win it? I think it's much more likely this time than it ever was under Eriksson. Capello IMO is/has been the best manager in world football for the past 20 years and I knew that he achieve something special with England when he took over.

    Personally I don't think England are at the level of Brazil or Spain, which are the 2 teams that must be considered favourites for WC. Spain really are a formidable team.

  • Comment number 57.

    Great result last night and a great performance. The inevitable overhype from the media has already begun in the papers this morning, I really hope the weight of expectation doesn't lead to failure again. Remember under Sven we qualified comfortably for 3 major competitions but at those competitions looked scared of touching the ball and struggled to beat teams such as Paraguay and Ecuador.

    I'm not too worried about the GK or RB positions, Green and Johnson will settle into them over time, we have 2 games left that can be used to experiment too. Before the game last night I was unsure about who should be partnering Rooney but I think Heskey is the right choice. He allows Rooney to flourish and brings the best out of his game, maybe he doesn't score goals but he is a big game player, caused Croatia a lot of problems over both games. Defoe on the other hand looked lost as he always does against any team of notable stature. Impact sub is his best role but I wouldn't ever rely on him if we came up against the likes of Brazil or Spain.

  • Comment number 58.

    Doesn't matter if Rooney remains injury free, or whatever happens to other players, but one person should be there in South Africa if England are to win. And that is Fabio Capello.

  • Comment number 59.

    Lets be honest it was hardly a challenging group. They have not played a team with any pedigree thus far, best not get carried away just yet.

  • Comment number 60.

    # 25. At 08:42am on 10 Sep 2009, Villa_90 wrote:
    I'm sorry but bluetikolo is talking utter rubbish.

    You are also talking utter rubbish Villa90!
    You called Sweden and denmark mediocre. Now denmark have won a major tournament in the 90's, sweden another team you describe as mediocre. You do realise that in all the competitive matches between England and Sweden, England have only ever beaten them once!

    The ukraine are not the team they once were, and croatia had numerous injuries to key players, and a second keeper in goal last night.
    Add to that the fact that Croatia should have had a penalty at 2-0, Glen Johnson was climbing all over Eduardo in the box. Think that the dive from CL match counted against him there. Had they had a penalty given and the score been 2-1 how would that have changed the game? England were all over croatia in the first half, however, they did not start the second half as well, and a goal the other way could have massively changed the performance.

    Don't write of the germans or the italians, they are both always there about in the major tournament, as even when they are missing players, or lack form they have the experience and discipline to get the required results.

    England have done well, but they were the favourites in the group, and although Capello has them playing well there is a long way to go until south africa.

    The other countries have time to improve their form, and injuries throughout the season will affect the squad.

    I'm not knocking england, they've preformed well throughout the qualifying campaign, but they were hardly convincing on saturday were they?

    All said, they can do well at WC 2010, but it also depends on the draw, and other teams form come the finals.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hey England, so gonna win the World Cup now are yee? By the sounds of it you've already won. You guys might actually be worse winners than you are losers (and that's saying something). Just so you know; the rest of the World is having a great laugh at all this 'so we're real contenders' talk. Keep it going; it's good fun.

  • Comment number 62.

    One thing I have noticed from reading the comments above is that it seems no one considers any of the teams from Africa a threat in next year's world cup.

    I myself don't expect an African team to win the tournament, but I do think teams like Ghana, South Africa and Ivory Coast can go far,and claim some big European scalps along the way. I just hope one of them is not England.

  • Comment number 63.

    England played very well last night and never gave Croatia a chance to get going. We looked solid in the middle and our attacking play was very quick and decisive. But I still think we have not be tested very well defensively, and when Croatia did attack they were given too much space. I think there are areas, defensively, that need a lot of work still.

    Lennon was fantastic last night and I wrote an article about a month ago saying how I'd like to see him at United. In the article I also wrote this will never happen as we had signed Valencia and Obertan instead but I was just trying to get people to think what an asset he would be. Nonetheless, the article flopped, and was given 1 star by some people and I was ripped for saying Lennon could play at United. Apparently he was to inconsistent and didn't have a final ball, and yet these fans all thought we should sign Modric instead....and I was told I didn't know what I was on about!! Well so far this season, he's getting better and better, so is his final ball, which in the past has been poor. I stand by my high rating of Lennon and I fully hope he is our first choice right winger at the World Cup. He's certainly streaks ahead of Walcott and Wright-Phillips.

  • Comment number 64.

    Sith Efrika here we come! Englanders meneer. Duisende van hulle!

  • Comment number 65.

    What if the one chance of a tightly contested quarter-final falls to the less-than-clinical Heskey?
    Without Heskey in the team we won't be making ANY chances.

    It isn't a coincidence that since winning in Germany every time we have thrashed a top side Heskey has been heavily involved. Or that we struggle when he isn't in the team.

    "But then if he doesn't score goals he must be rubbish." Yeah right, stick to the highlights program plastic fans.

  • Comment number 66.

    Phil said:

    "And he will be aware of the threats from outside England. Spain currently look the most complete side in world football and gave Capello's side a lesson in their last meeting, while the hugely-gifted and powerful Ghana have been touted to lead a serious African challenge".

    I see how you did not mention Brazil or Germany when clearly this two teams are among the 3 favourites to win the world cup, I'm afraid you need to give credit and respect when it is due and in doing so recognize you major threats...this is quite laughable

  • Comment number 67.

    Well done England. Every right to be optimistic.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm also surprised none of the papers went with the headline:

    Ab Fab Cap

    Absolutely Fabio

    Its pretty dreadful and the sort of thing you would expect isn't it..?

  • Comment number 69.

    They showed the Scotland Holland game here in Moscow live, and i'd have to say that was the most committed i've seen a Scotland side for quite some time. Result didn't go their way this time, but there was nothing wrong with the intent of the team, and my congratulations to them for a good effort against a talented team. Likewise Wales showed a lot of heart against a Russian team that should frankly have played with a little more cohesion, but like Capello has done with the English team, so Hiddink will do with Russia. Same with NI. All three of these home teams, although not going to the WC, can at least take heart from an improvement in their general team play, and more importantly a more ruthless and determined attitude to winning.

    The England performance was good, and Capello shows once again his unlimited commitment to the side. For once, England has a manager that is immune to the nonsense of tradition and the emotion that goes with that, and is intent on winning, no matter who's thinks their nose is out of joint, or who thinks they should be included. I've often though of Beckham as overrated, but he showed some class in accepting he will have a reduced role in the side, and supporting the national team is in his blood, not just the bank balance.

    I take odds with one thing. A goalkeeper is only as good as his defence, and maybe the emphasis should be on getting the back "5" to work together in a more cohesive manner. It's easy to blame the goalie, but frankly he should have the least to do if the defence are doing their jobs correctly.
    And make no mistake, this is a job to do, not a flag waving orgy of expectation. Every other team going to SA will be cold and ruthless in their intent, and devoid of the malaise of expectation so often driven up by the press in England, and correspondingly so damning when the "cup doesn't come home, as it rightfully should."

    A good result with work still to do. If the press stay calm and objective, and adopt the same cold and ruthless winning intent as the national team, with practical critique devoid of sensationalism, then the England players will go to SA with a practical and realistic intent, and not one driven only by emotion, and hyper expectation which will always be a recipe for disaster, as history shows. Great play, great skills, determination, and a ruthless desire to win from a strongly united and cohesive team unit will bring it's reward. Blame 1, blame them all, reward 1, reward them all.

    Another successful step forward last night.

    Good luck.

  • Comment number 70.

    Now that we have qualified I would like to see Carton Cole start upfront in the last two Internationals,

    I believe that Cole can do the job Heskey is currently doing as he is also bulit like an ox and if that half-chance comes along that Phil was mentioning, You would rather Cole be in that position than Heskey.

    But Heskey has been fantastic for us so far, we have enough players who can score apart from him, his role as a human battering-ram is a big part in why Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney can find goalscoring chances.

  • Comment number 71.

    Last week England struggled to beat Slovenia. It needed an atrocious decision by referee to help England win the match. So I find it difficult how England can beat likes of Spain, Italy, Brazil and Germany. I would love to see England win the world cup but I would not put them as a favorites.

  • Comment number 72.

    Incidentally, can anyone else think of a team who score goals for fun but are a little leaky at the back, have wingbacks who are hugely talented going forward but defensively frail, and have regularly scoring midfielders?
    We're starting to have a Brazilian feel to the team, and lets face it, they've done alright for themselves over the years...


    LOLLLL come on now

    you're just as bad as the media over here

    brazilian feel?????

    england are and will not be nothing like brazil ever

    brazil probably have a whole team of technically gifted athletes

    england probably have 1 or 2

    dont get it twisted mate please

    england are not brazil

    if any team needs comparing to brazil, it is spain

    and we are definetly not spain.

  • Comment number 73.

    I think it's only right that there is alot of excitement, even euphoria this morning after last nights game. Fantastic performance all round.

    Whilst there will be alot of talk about the World Cup over the next few months, particularly when the draw is made, we can largely forget about the competition until it happens.

    Meantime, the starting 11 is not set in stone and there are a few points to be decided, though the squad itself has got a pretty final feel about it.

    1) Will Johnson be right back? Maybe, and a good season at Liverpool will help this. What about Brown and Richards though? I see those two as the options but fitness and form may be a big issue.

    2) Goalkeeper? Well, Green looks in pole position. He has taken his chance well and looks better than earlier in the campaign. I think the confidence between keeper and defence is improving as well which is almost as important as the actual abilities of those players.

    3) Rio will walk back into the team but Upson has shown that he is an able deputy and is ahead of the likes of Lescott. King and Woodgate just can't be relied upon.

    4) Barry and Lampard - works just fine and I really can't see Hargreaves being ready. Carrick is a good understudy though he doesn't seem to have quite the snap and bite that is required of a central midfielder for my liking.

    5) Right wing - Lennon, if he remains in form, is likely to be first choice, and rightly so. Walcott still has things to prove I think. SWP can all but book his summer holiday now. He doesn't convince me in the big time and it would take injuries to at least 3 people for him to be in the squad.

    6) Left wing - I think Gerrard and J Cole will have this position wrapped up between them. No one else has realy made the impact that these two have in this position. Downing? You've gotta walk before you can run.

    7) Up front - Rooney, check. Defoe, check. Heskey and C Cole, check. I think C Cole could play ahead of Heskey if he offers all that Heskey does (which shouldn't be underestimated) but throws in goals as well. I think C Cole has the potential to be better than Crouch overall but this season presents him with a real goal.

  • Comment number 74.

    "except that it was of such high quality that hopes, dreams and hype could now grow out of all proportion. Again."

    Yes Phil, and your headline has started that particular ball rolling! Remember the hype before 2006?

    There's still a problem with the goalkeeping position and in 2006 there was a better and far more experienced right-full and, in Rooney and Owen, 2 world class strikers.

    Lennon also arrived on the scene in 2006 and has been up and down ever since. I'd give it some time before declaring that he has 'arrived'.

    Finally, Capello is a good coach, no doubt, but at the end of the day it's down to the players and I think you give far too much weighting to this aspect.

    Keeping expectations in perspective this article is not!

  • Comment number 75.

    If I was Stevo McClaren I'd be asking why that (which is essential the team McClaren) did'nt 110% for him. Is it the Italian Fabio that is making all the difference?

  • Comment number 76.

    "the very notion of a Capello side without the Liverpool captain is laughable."


    "Your comment is truly laughable. Gerrard will always be one of the first on the team sheet under Capello and rightly so. "

    Remember, Gerrard wasnt in the team that did Croatia 4-1 in Croatia. If Joe Cole hadn't got injured, there is a chance he wouldnt have been in the team after.

  • Comment number 77.

    England...Oh England! So here we go again. Surely England's World Cup hopes cannot be judged by matches against Croatia, Belarus and Slovenia???
    As usual, reality checks are very conveniently forgotten. No one seems to rememember what happened against Spain so recently...
    Just like listening to the Ashes build up. A newcomer would've thought the last Ashes was in 2005! Happily, the Ashes ended well. But I would still advise caution. And for once, the nation should spare itself this masochistic set up for heartache. Compare England against the countries who can ACTUALLY win the World Cup, and you'll see there's still a load of work. Then just get on with that work, and quit all the talk aready!!!
    Congratulations! by the way. Good job so far!

  • Comment number 78.

    as a liverpool fan whose seen quite a lot of heskey and crouch over the years. I cannot understand why crouch seems to have been forgotton. Great at holding up the ball and an impressive scoring record for club abd country

  • Comment number 79.

    Plenty of cautious optimism on here...and that is exactly how it should be.

    the_fosse (post 22) pitches it exactly right. Let's laud last night's display for what it was, outstanding, and then be measured about England's World Cup prospects.

    Few things I'd like to tackle. Firstly, I genuinely felt this was a tough group, not so tough that England would fail to qualify, but to record eight straight wins is top class.

    If Fabio Capello had offered any England fans a 4-1 win in Croatia followed by a 5-1 victory at home, they would have been on their knees in thanks. This was a superb achievement.

    Thought the minor criticism of Robert Green for Croatia's goal was very harsh. Not sure he could have done any more than make the two excellent saves before Eduardo scored. It would be good to see him really put to the test in an England international - although Capello might feel otherwise.

    And to those who mention Joe Cole, don't worry I will not forget him. I am a massive fan and hope he regains fitness for South Africa. Where would he play though?

    I remain unconvinced about Emile Heskey, but Capello doesn't and I have to admit that is slightly more important!!

    Debate this one as well. Should David Beckham be on the plane to the World Cup? Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott might make it uncomfortable for him, but should his experience earn him a place?

    And just one minor note of discontent from me about last night. Isn't the jeering of Eduardo getting a little bit tedious and over the top now? It is starting to have the hallmarks of a witch-hunt and the vast majority of supporters are better than that.

  • Comment number 80.

    Remarkable that so many have commented on Steven Gerrards inclusion as a starter might be under threat from Joe Cole.
    Good though Cole may be, I am willing to bet that every coach in the English premier league (and probably all but the least honest fans) would put Gerrards name first on the team sheet if he was at their club.

    Moving on to more serious issues connected with our world cup hopes, there is a full season for a few fringe players to make themselves indispensable, and also for injuries and poor form to impact the squad. Knowing that we have already qualified and that a trip is on the line, it will be interesting to see if any players start to protect themselves from injury as the time gets nearer. As a Liverpool fan I recall a certain impish striker doing just that in the lead up to 2002.

    One final thing, Capello will not take injured players, he will not take 16yr olds with no first team experience, he will not take a single player who he doesnt have a plan for. In short he will not do what multiple coaches before him have done, and will be all the more likely to bring home the trophy as a result.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think it is purely the media who stoke up these expectations. Everyone I know doesn't feel we can win it but agrees that a semi-final place having played some good football would constitute a great World Cup. This I think is possible under Capello.

    The trouble with the tabloids is that when England lose then we're the worst team in the world. When we win then we're going to win the World Cup. Theres no inbetween and people seem to assume this is also how the general England fan also thinks (hence why we get called arrogant by some)

  • Comment number 82.

    A decent performance by England against a terrible Croatian team, was surprised by how poor and scared they looked, but maybe that is a sign of how far we have come on in the last year or so.

    Still think Johnson will struggle big time defensively against decent opposition but I agree he does give us a bit of attacking threat from deep. I think teams such as Spain and Brazil will scare the life out of him defensively it will limit his attacking play.

    The right side of midfield worries me too. Lennon had some decent moments last night but they shouldn't hide the fact he is a winger who cannot cross the ball well consistently (ok he crossed for Gerrard's first, if it was actually meant for him, but on other occassions he got into good positions and just ballooned the ball across the pitch. Will be interesting to see the competition for that position as the season goes on.

    Will also love to see Hargreaves get fit and challenge Barry for the holding midfield fole, he would give us great energy in the middle of the pitch, would be tough to call between those two.

    All praise Capello !!

  • Comment number 83.


    ha, ha, ha sorry bout that

    brilliant performance, poor opposition (bilics mind games games worked well didn't they)...he was gracious in defeat though and his summary of our team was spot on - perfect

    brutal, brutal hangover today...well worth a day of suffering at work though

  • Comment number 84.

    A great performance from everyone on the pitch. I think it will either be Green or Kirkland for England. I can't say a thing wrong about Green. He has always been consistent for club and hasn't really put a foot wrong in this run of games he has had for his country. He has good ability.

    Johnson made a defensive error. He is great going forward but he does make mistakes. I think this will come out of his game once he gets a good run of games in the Liverpool side and the England side. He has only had a handful of caps for England and it will take him time to bed down and work with his England team mates. He has improved quite a bit over the past year.

  • Comment number 85.

    #79 Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:

    And just one minor note of discontent from me about last night. Isn't the jeering of Eduardo getting a little bit tedious and over the top now? It is starting to have the hallmarks of a witch-hunt and the vast majority of supporters are better than that.
    Don't you believe it Phil. How many years has Ashley Cole been booed for now? And he plays for these fan's national side!

  • Comment number 86.

    Well done. Spain and Brazil are still a step above, due to them having outstanding keepers. But England are definitively up there amongst the serious contenders.

  • Comment number 87.

    Phil, please tell me how one good England game for Aaron Lennon makes him a "Finished article"? Thats just tabloid nonsense and we dont want to go there.

    There is one BIG difference between the way England play now and the way that have played for the many many years and you know its simple, its called something that no English team has ever been aware of in their 100 odd year history of a nation that invented the game, are you ready for it, here it comes its called...


    This concept has baffled England teams of yesteryear, but it seems now if they keep this up they have a good chance of winning something.

    I bet the Sunday League Dads of today are disgusted and the Sunday League dads of yesteryear are rolling in their graves to the loss of the long ball and kick 'em attitude.

  • Comment number 88.

    I think that England have a half chance for one main reason. Outside of Brazil and Spain are there any other teams streets ahead of England?

    Germany and Holland are talented but beatable and Argentina are struggling to make the plane.

    England will not go to this World Cup as the best or second best team, but a decent draw and a spot of luck and they should get to the semi's. After that who knows?

  • Comment number 89.

    Capello can plot World Cup glory


    Oh dear. I see the hangover has not yet worn off.

    Let me see..

    England qualify in style? Look good? Good potentially great manager?


    So they've as good as won the WC then?


    Starting to look like 2006 all over again. Press hype. Fans believe it. Players wilt under the pressure. Scapegoat blamed. Come home having "failed" (according to the hype). Sack manager. Appoint English gaffer. Flop.

    And off we go again for 2012.

    Calm down eh?

    One step at a time.

  • Comment number 90.

    As far as I'm concerned the World Cup is England's now! No team in the world beat England what's the point of the competition we might as well award the trophy now!

  • Comment number 91.

    Mr Capello can be rightly satisfied with his work so far. He has finally managed to organise England's talented team of individuals into a disciplined and hard working unit. It's great to see an England manager angered when the opposition scores- it's obvious that he has pinpointed defence as England's potential banana skin. However, with an almost full premier league season ahead, he will be banking on the likes of Green and Johnson learning and fine tuning their games.

    Heskey will certainly maintain his first team spot- Capello knows that England's goals will come from midfield. He also believes that opposition defenders do not like playing against Heskey and I suspect he is correct. England need the other strikers competing for a place on the sub's bench to play well. I hope Micheal Owen scores 25 goals this season and finds some form- I still believe that his experience and eye for goal could serve England in a major championship. Not to mention that by the summer he will know Wazza's game inside out.

    The calm understated manner of Mr Capello will serve us well; he knows that there are 6 teams ahead of us in the rankings for a reason. Spain and Brazil, in particular, are wonderfull teams- especially Spain, who have 15 or so genuinely world class players; England only has 6 or 7 in my opinion! But there is genuine cause for hope; England is a team that is on the up and looks like scoring every time they play.

  • Comment number 92.

    All the comments about leaky defence and not enough goals from Heskey; P8 W8 F31 A5. The highest scoring team with the best goal difference.

    Why change a team that is dominating opposition in COMPETITIVE matches?

    @ #61: Not bitter then? Don't worry, you can do the right thing and support the British team who made it through, like we would.....

    We have every chance to win, but let's not book the open topped bus until Terry has has hands on the trophy.

  • Comment number 93.

    Well done England.
    The thing which impressed me most was both the workrate and movement of the team as a whole, something lacking in previous games. My only slight doubts are Heskey and Johnson. I would like to see Carlton Cole given a half in one of the next games to see if he can be as big and of nuisance value as Heskey, perhaps with a goal or two. Johnson, just a bit slow when against a good winger but still probably the best available at the moment.
    James or Foster instead of Green? The jury is out at the moment...
    Defoe is good enough to be in the starting line-up but as I believe we need a big target man and Rooney must play if fit then where does he fit?

  • Comment number 94.

    #81 BognorRock

    But enough people seem to believe it, that's the thing!

    Let the media have a bit of fun today. If they bang on about it all season then that will be too much though. The whole of the domestic season should not be looked at through the prism of next summer.

  • Comment number 95.

    I thought Johnson did brilliantly defensively last night! Most people just pay too much attention to what the commentary team on ITV are saying!

    The challenge on the edge of the box half way through the second half and winning that header above Eduardo, I'm sorry but if any of our other 3 defenders had the balls to try and win the ball in either of those two situations they would have been sent from the field! He had a cracker! He got skinned for the Croats goal, so what, everyone gets skinned! How did they get a free header in the box when Terry and Upson were stood 2 yards away is what I want to know?

    I'm sorry, but John Terry is not good enough, nor is Cashley! I just wish we had a Carvalho to carry them both like at Chelsea.

    Instead, yeah Terry is a good Leader, but can we not bring in a good leader that can do something with his feet rather than just his head, and doesn't embarras himself after every game by surrounding the referee?

    We should drop last nights SQUAD for the next game and try out some completely different players. I would like to see players who are on form in club football, like:
    Joe Hart
    Ryan Shawcross
    Gary Cahill
    Micah Richards
    Stephen Warnock
    Michael Carrick
    Lee Cattermole
    Danny Murphy
    James Milner
    Ashley Young
    Gabi Agbonlahor

    All of these players hsould be at least LOOKING for a possible call up. Yes, Danny Murphy is unlikely because of his age but was the catalyst in Fulham's European Qualification last year and at least deserves another shot! But will not replaced Lampard/Gerrard unless there is injuries!

  • Comment number 96.

    "Debate this one as well. Should David Beckham be on the plane to the World Cup? Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott might make it uncomfortable for him, but should his experience earn him a place?"

    definitely should have a spot on the plane for becks. Walcott and lennon will start most games but beckham gives us something different (set pieces, better defender than the other two, bags of experience) so it makes sense from a tactical point of view. He can also play in 3 positions in the midfield so (in the absence of carragher) he can be that ole cliche, the utility player .

    add in the fact that walcott can play up front and you've got a range of options from three good players, rather than just three right sided midefielders

  • Comment number 97.

    a bit strange how everyone is saying 'lets not get carried away' or 'there is no chance of winning the world cup', when hardly anyone has said it will happen. does everyone just read the Sun and then Mr. McNulty's blog?

  • Comment number 98.

    England were brilliant last night, the best I've seen us play in a long time. Well done the lads, well done Capello! So, can we win the World Cup - why not, says Capello? I will tell you why not: 1. Goalkeeper, 2. Defence. You cannot win a major competition with a weak defence - prone to panic (we saw it again last night even though Croatia offered very little threat up front) and a inexperienced goalie (thought Green was excellent last night but that doesn't make up for lack of experience) or a goalie who is likely to blunder at key moments (calamity James, anyone?). Remember the Holland game not long ago? Remember the game against the Germans in Berlin? Defensive errors, giveaway goals, misunderstandings between goalie and defence, prone to panic in defence, etc. You won't win anything on that basis. HOWEVER, if Capello sorts out the perennial England goalie problem and somehow stops England 'snatching defeat from the jaws of victory', then we certainly CAN win the' on England!

  • Comment number 99.

    There's a hell of a lot of knit picking going on here which goes to show how much is right about the England team at the moment.

    Capello is the first England manager in my life time where I don't sit in the pub thinking I could make better decisions than him, I am quite happy to leave him to pick the team!

    The media fuel the whole RB GK issue, Rob Green has hardly put a foot wrong in an England shirt and is by far the most reliable performer. We don't need the best goalkeeper in the world to win the world cup.

    Brazil won it several times with awful goalkeepers. Also GJ may not be the best defensive right back but he's probably the best attacking right back around at the moment. He needs to improve his decision making in defence and maybe gets a bit gung ho charging forward at times but Rafa will help him with this.

    With regards to Heskey I think you are way of the mark Phil, we don't need Heskey to put away that one chance because this team will create more than one chance. Heskey is a key element in England's attacking platform especially early in the game when things are tight. We are not going to play through teams from the back like Spain do therefore we need a player like Heskey. I would never start Defoe and Rooney up front. It works near the end of a game when players are tired and there's space to play through but not in the first 60 minutes. Capello knows this all to well. It's a shame the likes of Sherringham and Townsend can't appreciate it.

    I also think ITV's coverage is a disgrace particularly with the close ups of Defoe when Heskey failed to score. Compounded by the two commentators banging on about how Defoe would have scored. They ignore the fact he would not have won all the headers and held the ball up like Heskey. I also mentioned near the end that when Defoe failed to control the ball on his chest when clean through that Heskey would have scored that but there was no such mention from the commentators!

    My main concern is we only have one Heskey and if he gets injured then Crouch and Cole aren't as good. For me I would start Cole and Defoe and Cole and Rooney so we can get a good alternative should Emile get injured, as we know what Crouch can do.

    I think we should be very confident about this England team and I wouldn't be afraid about playing Spain. Let's not forget we played them away from home with a severly under strength team, and for all there quality they are fairly one dimensional in their approach. Therefore if we can have confidence in impressing our game on them there's no reason that this team can't win the WC with a bit of luck.

  • Comment number 100.

    All of the England players will be picked by Capello on merit - attitude, application and performance and Not reputation - just ask Michael Owen.


    If this is true why do we continually see Crouch in the squad. I know he has a number of goals but none against the top international sides.

    Gary Neville is another. He never was the best man for the job when he was at his best, he's certainly not now.

    Last night I heard that Hargreaves could be back when he's fit. I hope not. There's a player who's rep was always better than his England performances.

    Goalkeeper would seem to be a problem position. We have 3/4 decent keepers but none are outstanding. I suppose if I had to make a choice it would probably be James who is marginally the best all round, with Green second. Foster seems a little unsure at the moment but will probably emerge as No.1 in a couple of years.

    So let's not get carried away. FC has done a great job thus far and we have to hope it will continue. However, he still has the same problem as other managers, in that he still fixates on a player and continues with him when he has proved to all others that he's not up to the job.


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