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Capello at home in hostile Zagreb

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Phil McNulty | 18:24 UK time, Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Maksimir Stadium in ZagrebZagreb

Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium is 96 years old and looks its age - an unwelcoming hotch-potch of concrete, glass and rust that exudes hostility even when it is almost deserted.

A running track that has seen better days swerves its way around the pitch where Fabio Capello's England face Croatia in what could be a defining World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

The old place might look a bit run-down but it has just got something - you know it will be a wild and emotional ride when almost 40,000 Croatians cram in to see another meeting with England.

And yet England coach Fabio Capello believes his players may just find this undisguised bearpit more homely that their own lavishly-appointed £750m Wembley headquarters.

Not the greatest advert for the jewel in the Football Association's crown, but Capello backed his argument with footballing logic.

Wembley Stadium
Capello believes distance from a critical Wembley crowd, keen to pounce quickly on mistakes, may act in England's favour despite the ear-bashing they will receive in Zagreb.

Having been briefly acquainted with the old Maksimir I will just have to take his word for that, but it will not lack for atmosphere on Wednesday.

Wembley is a stylish, efficient and well-run stadium, but am I the only person who thinks it has yet to find its soul? England are still getting their feet under the table and it will come in time I am sure, but the x-factor is still missing.

Capello may also enjoy the weight of expectation and national fervour falling firmly on Croatia - a patriotic and confident football nation led by a patriotic and confident leader in the charismatic Slaven Bilic.

England went through a training session at the Maksimir in beautiful conditions after arriving on Tuesday, with Zagreb bathed in late summer sunlight and temperatures in the eighties.

And, despite Capello's confidence, they are sure to find it hot again in a stadium where they lost 2-0 in October 2006 and keeper Paul Robinson suffered the moment of misfortune from which his career has never recovered.

Croatia's repeat of that win at Wembley in November last year meant England stayed at home for Euro 2008 and gives Bilic's side an obvious psychological advantage.

But as Capello and captain John Terry gave off positive messages that this time things will be different, it became clear there will be one very crucial change.

England will not be tempted by the 3-5-2 formation that served them so badly on their last visit to Zagreb. The culprit behind that fiasco - Steve McClaren or Terry Venables? - has never quite been uncovered and Capello made it clear there will be no repeat.

Rio Ferdinand is fit barring any last-minute worries, so it will be the time-honoured back four - and I would play Wes Brown ahead of Glen Johnson at right-back.

Emile Heskey should get the nod ahead of Jermain Defoe to support Wayne Rooney, while conservatism suggests David Beckham will nudge out Theo Walcott - but I will cover myself by warning that second-guessing Capello is a futile and dangerous exercise.

The Italian was once more in confident form as he faced the media, while Terry made it clear Capello has the aura, confidence and arrogance of a coach who has been to the top of the game and enjoyed success there.

Now he just has to transmit that to a group of players who have not lived up to their billing on big occasions in recent times.

It is folly to claim he will instantly transform England's fortunes on the basis of his £6m-a-year wage packet, but this is a game where he can show he can make a difference.

He watched Croatia closely in Euro 2008 and now is the time he can put his plotting into practice. Capello has an agile tactical mind, so it will be fascinating to see how England combat a technically gifted style, especially playmaker Luka Modric.

He has total respect from England's players. Capello keeps his distance. There is none of the mateyness of the Steve McClaren era - he will not be joining a kickabout and having a laugh with the lads in training.

Capello's response to a question about his time with the players for these two qualifiers was telling.

It has been a good time for him to get to know his squad, it was suggested. It is a good time for them to get to know him, was the reply.

Capello was not suggesting he does not care about his players, but their relationship is strictly professional rather than personal.

And amen to that.

They will know more about him in the pressure of the Maksimir Stadium on Wednesday - and he may get to know a lot more about them.


Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    While much has been made of Capello's detached professional approach, in contrast to McClaren's over-familiar style. Personally i couldn't care less whether or not the players get to breakfast on time, can eat with a knife and fork or wear a tie.
    So far I've seen nothing in England's friendlies and match against the mighty Andorra to suggest that it is making any difference whatsoever.
    I do have doubts that Capello is the motivational and tactical genius that many believe him to be. Have we all forgotten that it was only when he was forced by public opinion to bring Beckham back into the team, that Real won the title?
    A defeat tomorrow night will be enough for me. Why did we ditch Sven?

  • Comment number 2.

    This one is going to be very interesting, and I agree that second guessing Capello will be futile. My gut is telling me he's going to go 4-2-3-1 with the most experienced defence and defensive midfield he can pick, and hit them on the break with unpredictability: James, Brown, Ferninand, Terry, A. Cole, with Barry and Lescott sweeping, then two inventive wingers in Bentley and J. Cole, the playmaking Bullard getting his first start, and Walcott as the inpredictable attack. Let the lad run at them with the ball and see if we can get a few good freekick positions. Bullard is more than capable of scoring or planting balls from deadballs. They'll play deep and counter tomorrow. That's my bet.

    Now while I know this is Auntie Beeb's website, it's a national disgrace that the transmission rights for our national team's games has gone to money. In what other country would this happen?

  • Comment number 3.

    Can someone please tell me why soccer gets so much coverage in the UK media? They have achieved next to nothing for the last 40 years or more, they consistently under achieve. They are perpetually on the brink of greatness - so they say, but having watched many of their matches during that time, the number of times they thrilled me, or at least gave me value for money, can be counted on one hand, maybe two! They deserve the coverage given to the womens disabled netball team - who incidentally are far more successful.

  • Comment number 4.

    Maksimir is unfortunately old and run down but next time England turn up in Zagreb they should be playing in a more fitting arena. The main stumbling block seems to be the 'Bad Blue Boys', Dinamo extreme fans, who are reluctant to move to an out-of-centre location. They occupy the North Stand at Maximir when Dinamo play and put on a choreographed display which is often more entertaining than the football, and the running track is solely there that the flares and fireworks that are thrown cannot reach the pitch.

  • Comment number 5.

    #3-swansea63 - because the only football played is by the national team?

    anyway, I can't bloody wait for tomorrow night - i'm fed up with all this conjecture and I haven't had any real football since August

    this should be a far better performance than last time, simply because we have a real manager, and we won't be trialling a ridiculous 3-5-2 formation - which people seem to forget was the major flaw 2 years ago, not to mention one of the goals was an unforced own goal - capello is sensible, so i'm positive that this will be a competitive game

  • Comment number 6.

    So Capello thinks his side will perform better away from Wembley. Why not go one better and play all our qualifiers behind closed doors - most of us can't watch the game anyway. Could the Beeb and ITV not have set aside their differences and put in a joint bid?
    Anyway, if none of us actually watched them, Capello might fool us into believing that we have a team capable of renewing our faith in them after two years of crushing disappointment.
    If they're afraid to face their own fans at Wembley, maybe we should all save ourselves the train fares, petrol and time off work and leave them and Setanta to it!

  • Comment number 7.

    It's going to be hostile, but England are going to cope with it and get on with the job they need to do and try to get all 3 points in Zagreb tomorrow.

  • Comment number 8.

    Playing Beckham isn't a positive message to the youth of today.

    I'd go Bentley for 60-70 minutes, and unleash Walcott for the last 20.

  • Comment number 9.

    And in reply to Swansea.

    It's the only sport we love. Regardless of whether we're good at it, we love it. So why not?

  • Comment number 10.

    Could anyone tell me objectively what they have seen in any of England's performances under Capello to suggest that anything has changed since McClaren?
    I've seen nothing so far which leads me to believe that they are capable of beating the side which lit up Euro '08 on their home turf.
    If we're lucky, we'll limp through qualification - thankfully it is easier to qualify for a World Cup than a european championship, and if we're not, Signor Capello will disappear in to the night telling everyone how he was unable to deliver the required perfomances with a squad of over-rated and technically inept players - cue Jose.

  • Comment number 11.

    capellos comments are stagering and defeatest to say the least, whoever chose such a idiot for the job to manage the national team hes not paul jewel in disguise is he.

    talk about rubbish!

    "When we play at home we don't play with a lot of confidence, so I prefer to play away from home,"

    read that and weep! what he obviously means or wants to say is;

    we cant play well anywhere, the reason is, we are good enough, and we are not as good as people think we are, we are in fact technicly inept and i must take responsibilty for that as i am technicaly lacking as well.

  • Comment number 12.

    jimi55 - Could anyone tell me objectively what they have seen in any of England's performances under Capello to suggest that anything has changed since McClaren?


    objectively, near impossible, but i'll try - capello showed with his bringing on of a non-superstar in heskey some guts in accepting what was needed to be done - i have not seen such an effective sub by an england manager in years (bar mac's bringing on crouchy when we were 2-0 down)

    likewise his criticism of cole and rooney to stop playing too deep and push up heartened me, as did his open rejection of long ball tactics, maybe sven did this in private (and it didn't work) - but it gives me some confidence in the man - bear in mind this is the first real game we will witness

    he also won't play 3-5-2..guaranteed, already an improvement

  • Comment number 13.

    Hey Swansea, we love our country and we love our national game. We know that we have not achieved anything for a while but we still have hope. Thats what a real supporter does, stick with his team through thick or thin. Come on ENGLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Wembley can have atmosphere, remember the Hull FC fans twelve days ago? Just need to get behind the team. On the other hand playing in Zagreb won't be easy, but with no Eduardo or Krancjar I don't see why Olic and Petric up-front should worry us, ordinarily.

  • Comment number 15.

    It is worth noting that Capello is as victory-minded as a manager comes. I'm not convinced he gave a whit about winning any of the friendlies.

    To my mind, he has three points out of three points thus far, and is in fine shape. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with the last post (PhilSandider).
    I am portuguese, but I think Capello is the best thing that could happen to England. He is immune to the pressure from the media and the big names. I was very happy to see him criticizing Rooney, for example, for not sticking to his position, as I think that it was one of the causes for England's success (rembember the WC when Rooney was sent off England played much better).
    He is a winner, but in the first months it may be not so exciting to watch (remember Real Madrid with the galacticos). But, as with Real Madrid, he will get rid of the "Ronaldos" there and build a strong team spirit, and tactically he is also very good.
    Good luck (except when you meet Portugal again!)

  • Comment number 17.

    Right boys (and girls?) - do it yourselves

  • Comment number 18.

    Yup, I really don't know why should England be in fear with Olic (scored second goal on Wembley) and Petric ( scored third goal on Wembley). But it's not about guys in front. I think that England haven't got such a bunch of quality players for at least 20 years, but they have a big problem. They just don't look as a team. Their confidence is on the low level and if they come tommorow behind Croatia it would be very difficult to bounce back. Capello looked very nervous with Andora and he knows that England tommorow lose much more than three points...

  • Comment number 19.

    No wonder people think Wembley has no soul - it hasn't! £100 for a ticket, £8 for a burger and drink. Ridiculously placed corporate seats.

    This is not a stadium for the people, this is an extremely over-priced lump with a pretty arch. Just think, if they spent a fraction of the £800m on it, they wouldn't need to rip off football supporters so much

    When you think of it this way, it is no wonder people at wembley get critical of the team, considering the amount of money it costs them to spend a couple of hours there

  • Comment number 20.

    What is all this stuff about England players feeling under pressure. John Terry was going on about it last week, Capello's having a moan about the pressure of playing at Wembley today.
    Thats why they are supposed to be there because they have learnt to cope with the pressure and get paid well to do it - be it at Wembley or not. Good players should thrive on the pressure.

    Give us all a break and get on with it.

  • Comment number 21.

    Have to feel a bit sorry for Fabio, despite his huge paypacket.
    Like a decent chef, forced to work with stale and raw ingredients, he's doomed to serving up a football dish that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
    He can change the player's fitness, technique, tactics, formations, shirt colours or hairstyles but not that grey stodge between their ears thats the cause of this tedious, repetitive, predictable failure.

    Maybe he could hire Doctor Frankenstein as team physio...

  • Comment number 22.

    Regardless of who plays and what formation it is, the media will find something to moan about if we win 4-0 they will still complain about selection or someone not been subbed on.

    No wonder capello has said they prefer playing away england fans are too quick to boo. I agree gerrard, lampard, rooney and the rest of the players that play in the "sky 4" aint half the players they aint for there clubs, but we should still show our support for them.

    If it were me id play


    johnson ferdinand terry cole





    Planty of pace and players not in on reputation but then again if that team were played and lost, then capello would no doubt get slated for not playing our "world class" players. But if rooney etc played and we lost he would be slated for not picking the in form players.

    England is a lose lose situation in my opinion, man utd play bad but still get a point and its called the sign of champions, england play bad and get a point and were rubbish and all the rest of it.

  • Comment number 23.

    kapnag my ticket cost 31 quid. where does the 100 come from?

  • Comment number 24.

    This whole page has been put in bold. Odd.

  • Comment number 25.

    The problem with England now is that we have accepted the Boo Boys. Now I fully appreciate that we are entitled to have a go if we do not think that the team are performing to a basic standard. To boo the team is counter productive. They will know when they are playing badly. Get behind the team and cheer on the three lions rather than booing and putting a wedge between the fans and the team.

  • Comment number 26.

    I must admit Capello's comments regarding Wembley surprised me.

    England fans have had their moments in the past, such as the nonsensical jeering of Frank Lampard and the booing of Peter Crouch at Old Trafford.

    But I actually think they have been pretty supportive in recent England games, given that they have not exactly been given the most thrilling entertainment.

    I personally cannot wait for this game, because having visited the stadium this evening, you know it will be a fantastic atmosphere.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tomorrow's football clashes with the new series on the BBC of The Restaurant.

    So I'm torn between watching a group of wannabe's playing at something they don't understand with no clue of what they're doing or The Restaurant.

    Tough one.

    In all seriousness though, I will be tuning into the game tomorrow in the hope of seeing a much improved performance from England. All I want to see is them passing well, good movement, gelling as a team!

    Surely it's got to happen some time? Maybe tomorrow's the day.......

  • Comment number 28.

    Now I think everyone needs to calm down a little, before football turns into sports entertainment Vince McMahon would be proud of...Stone Cold Steve Gerrard? The Rooney?...Although they're pros and earn too much money and all that, I'm sure all this pressure we heap on them with the relentless story making isn't particularly conducive to playing games.

    If you want my opinion, which I'm sure you don't, I think Capello should give the old guys a rest before they suffer serious psychological damage and put some little quick buggers - Walcott, J Cole, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor, maybe Gerrard as he's probably the best player we've got - and a big ugly tackle and passer, like (wish I could find a better example) Phil Neville, maybe Hargreaves if he stops getting injured.

  • Comment number 29.

    Good point about Vinnie Mac there. Seeems like it's more sports entertainment than sports itself.

    With that said, I would love for the England young guns to play against minor teams like Kazakhstan and Andorra at Wembley, and see how those games go. Players like Agbonlahor, Young, Joe Cole etc are good young players that are being held out of the team because of losers like Lampard and oldies like Beckham.

    I say Capello brings a bit of pace back to the wings of England. Get players in there who can beat defenders and whip some balls in for the likes of Owen, Crouch and even Heskey to head in to the net.

    We're sick of the long ball, we want exciting talent, and we have plenty of it. Let's get this game out of the way, and see how we go on from there.

  • Comment number 30.

    England fans get what they deserve. By the way, I am one. We have sold our game, walk blindly into Direct Debits. We pay any price we are asked to watch something that ultimately disappoints, unless you're a Manchester United fan. Even then, we're all being chumped. Unless you are daft/ardent enough to pay whatever Setanta (Irish company, correct me if I'm wrong) are asking, you won't see ANY of the action in England qualifiers. We let this happen. The games, or at the very least the highlights, should be available for we fans to watch. We get no support from the Government, who at a stroke could make it happen. They don't, we do nothing but pay Setanta. Or Sky. The BBC should not have to pay whatever Setanta ask, the license fee is for true public service broadcasting; they should have a much higher calling. I don't want to hear it any more. We let this go on. Don't pay, don't watch, don't go to Wembley. Just blank England. They'll soon come running. It should be about the fans. Without the fans, they don't exist. Rise up brothers and sisters.....

  • Comment number 31.


    I also wonder about Wembley.

    Was it built from greed to line the pockets of a few ? I doubt its real intention being the national stadium when the obvious place for national fan access, space, logisitical connections rail, air, road etc is NEC Birmingham area. I lived in London for many years and let me tell you Wembley stadium has always been a pain the A for normal punters like me to get to. I cna only imagine what it's like for people from other areas.

    And here's a symptomatic corker - how many days a year does it rain in UK? so for all the overbudget money Wembley cost they could have at least put a roof on it - that it doesn't is a disgrace.

    (Millenium Stadium atmosphere is great anyway but with the roof closed is unbelievable.)

    If the pitch gets ruined by other sports 1 week ahead of THE most important game England have then here's an idea....relay it - another discraceful episode.

    I was at new Wembley for first time for the 3 win v Russia for Euro 08 qualifier and found the place barren, bland, lifeless and unintimidating for visiting teams.

    Spectators generally seem a long way from the pitch and difficult to feel or create atmosphere. Perhaps someone can tell me otherwise.

    Fans that day seemed to be cynical, not behind the team and only woke up when England scored - is this the London effect? No wonder the players said they liked playing around the country in familiar stadia and traditionally passionate fans.

    It seems players are intimidated to pull on the England shirt through fear of personal failure. Come on guys just go out and do your best - I would rather we play like Holland at Euro 08 and lose at some point which may happen anyway.

    As for Capello - he is an expert at his craft - give him a chance.

    No one man wave a magic wand - the talent and grit in players has to be there.

    My suggestions (for what it's worth)

    - Do not pay any player for playing for England. They should do it for love. (but pay them the world if they actually win something)

    - Do not allow distractions like WAGS to be present around major games/events

    - Ban players from arriving/departing in Ferraris, Bentley's et al from any England get together.

    - Play the games around the country not just Wembley

    - Pay the coach incentives for results(McClaren got a huge pay off for failing - nice one Steve) - this would not be tolerated in the business world

    - Allow the players to vote for their own Captain.

    - Allow Coach time to prepare the players and tactics.

    - Replace the FA set up with proven known competent administative professionals.

    - Dampen people's expectations of winning the World Cup ever again to "happy if we qualify and go do your best boys" , let me enjoy the games.


  • Comment number 32.

    Phil, you've found a fine vein of productivity of late! Keep the articles coming please.

    I'm very excited for this match. Capello makes a difference, he certainly isn't going to pick players by reputation, and there is the sense that the players realize this.

    Mark me down now for the prediction that Rooney has his best national performance since Euro 04. That, or a red card within 15 minutes!

    Totally agree with comments of the lads from Villa deserving a look.

    Here's to hoping Walcott and J Cole start and England prove the critics wrong.

  • Comment number 33.

    "The BBC should not have to pay whatever Setanta ask, the license fee is for true public service broadcasting; they should have a much higher calling. I don't want to hear it any more. We let this go on. Don't pay, don't watch, don't go to Wembley. Just blank England. They'll soon come running. It should be about the fans. Without the fans, they don't exist. Rise up brothers and sisters....."

    I blame Thatcher...

  • Comment number 34.

    Phil, do you not think Capello is just trying to boost confidence and shake off the players' fears of playing what should be their toughest game by saying that they have less pressure there than on home turf?

    it's positive thinking

  • Comment number 35.

    couple of points to peteblog3102

    - do the england players no longer donate their international pay to charity? - as far as i'm aware they haven't stopped

    and as for failure not being rewarded in business - in a situation where the management failed and lost their job, they almost always get a payoff, ala maclaren - see: northern rock

  • Comment number 36.

    Playing Beckham isn't a positive message to the youth of today.


    i partially disagree, if only because he works his socks off more than any other player in the team. his attitude will always serve as a positive message, certainly moreso than certain other so-called stars strutting about as though more concerned about image than actually playing well.

    that said, i'm still inclined to favour walcott 'cause i'd like to see him really come through and hopefully set a trend for manager's picking gifted youngsters ahead of off-form veterans. beckham would be a sub ideally, not dropped from the squad altogether.

    if capello doesn't pick joe cole i'll be flabbergasted btw, consistently england's best attacking player in the last couple of years, and that's coming from a man u fan who's forced himself to watch just about every england game during that period.

  • Comment number 37.

    I can't believe how much negativity there is about the England team. Yes, they've historically underperformed, pretty consistently over the last 42 years. Yes, on paper, we should be performing better - we've got some of the top players in the best football league in the world.

    But it's England! It's our country! It's our team! I read one article about 'it's time to accept that England are rubbish at football'. I personally accepted that when I was a kid. That doesn't mean I'll ever stop supporting them, and it doesn't mean I won't be disappointed if we don't qualify.

    People are criticising Capello, criticising the long ball game, criticising the players etc. For a start, Capello is arguably the most successful manager in club football history. He's the best man to be taking England at the moment. Name me anyone else who's as qualified to do the job as him.

    As far as tactics go, I couldn't care less if we played a long ball game the whole time, as long as we win. It's the ends, not the means, that's important.

    Criticising the players is difficult to avoid when they play like they did against Andorra, especially when we all know they can do better. English (and British ;-)) attitude towards sport is changing - mediocrity is no longer sufficient. They're starting to realise this, but there's no sense in writing them off before they've played. Criticise them for what they have done, not for what they're about to do.

    I have faith in Capello to turn the team's fortunes around. I have faith in the players he chooses to make that happen. I have faith in whatever style or tactics they use, as long as they produce results. And I hope beyond hope that one day, I will see an Englishman lift the Jules Remet trophy.

  • Comment number 38.

    The most noticable difference you'll see with Capello is in the bigger games. Croatia will be a good guide to how England will do.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm not sure about this "anything but 3-5-2" mantra. If he plays the congested 4-3-2-1 that he used against the Czechs (not that any of us recognised it as such until he explained it in his press conference), God help us!

  • Comment number 40.

    Wembley is an ugly pointless waste of money. Why build a stadium like that when there are already many fine football stadia in England? The so-called fans are just there because there is nothing good on at the theatre - they aren't football fans, just stuck-up southerners with no concept of what it means to be a fan of football. Most of them probably don't even know who Bobby Moore is.

    It is utterly souless, lifeless and pointless.

  • Comment number 41.

    Wembley's been a disaster since they dropped the running track from the original design, I mean it wasn't like London was actually going to win its bid for the Olympics right, so who needed it? And yes for the money it should have had a roof and a pitch that doesn't disintegrate if you give it so much as a dirty look.
    I understand that people love football but as with so many love affairs there comes a time when you have to accept it just isn't working and move on.

  • Comment number 42.


    capello has as good as said he'll have two up front, so don't be too worried

  • Comment number 43.

    @ jdennis_99

    Well said!

  • Comment number 44.

    Firstly, Capello does not need to prove himself to England fans - the man has achieved more as a Manager than any previous 5 England Managers. So what if he has his rules etc his record speaks for itself and you can't argue with that.

    However, and i'll slightly contradict myself on this but, Capello is working with pretty much the same players as the McLaren and Sven and England are still not achieving the a level the England fans are happy with, right? So, maybe it has something to do with the players and their mentality?

    Fundamentally football is a team game and England are just not gelling as a team and despite Capello's attempts he has been unable so far to bring the individuals together as a team.

    There is of course the ludicrous pressure put on the players and managers from fans and more so the press to perform which is just not helping.

    Expectations need to be lowered.

  • Comment number 45.

    capello will definitely change england's fortunes around given time..tomorrow's match against croatia is a test which has come too soon for the team and i dont see them getting anything more than a draw from this one.
    i think england should go on attack mode with a rooney and heskey experienced beckham may come in handy..make no mistake croatia are a very good team,playing in zagreb will be a very big challenge which i hope will not end on a disastroous note.

  • Comment number 46.

    Come on lets at least get behind the team instead of bashing them all the time.

  • Comment number 47.

    You're not wrong to think that Wembley hasn't found it's soul, at least as far as football is concerned. But am I the only person to think that it's an ugly soulless looking piece of architecture in the first place? It seems to be a shopping mall/office complex with a football pitch somewhere in the middle, and the most pathetic afterthought of an 'iconic' arch - 'I suppose we ought to put something in to pacify the folks who complained about the Twin Towers going....'
    Why can't we learn from others? Look at the gorgeous Stade de France, for example, built at a fraction of the cost of our "national stadium'. The game deserves something special, something towards which we might extend the kind of affection the old stadium, with it's genuinely iconic Twin Towers, did for generations.
    The new Wembley is ugly. And soulless.

  • Comment number 48.

    i'm with 'rob_rude'

    i dont see why people are constantly having a go at Capello, when it is obvious that since the likes of Beckham, Owen and Campbell getting old, and the likes of Scholes, G Nevillle etc not playing any more, England are a very very very average side.

    The last time England had a decent major tournament was when Scholes was playing, and i think England's best tournament was the 2002 world cup- take a look at the squad:

    no gerrard, terry or lampard- the beginning of egotistical england football

    None of that judas carragher either.

    so, easy solution to the problem: axe lampard, gerrard, terry- get some heart in the team. make rio or becks captain

    and BANG, england are a passionate team. Then maybe bring Lamps and JT back (as squad players- JT is just too slow)- but gerrards not fit to wear the shirt

  • Comment number 49.

    i'm not far off agreeing, gerrard was arguably worse than lampard in the world cup, a lot of people conveniently ignored that. every single pass was wayward, it was abysmal. he occasionally plays well in friendlies but competitively? hardly ever. personally i'm sick of the sight of both of them in england shirts.

    i definitely wouldn't have rio as captain though, without vidic mopping up behind him utd's defense always looks a shambles (again speaking as a utd fan who's seen this happen numerous times). i mean i'd possibly still play him in the england first team but he really isn't half as great as some like to suggest.

  • Comment number 50.

    looking forward to the game.
    can somebody please tell me who is injured or suspended from the england team for the match?
    cheer cheer!

  • Comment number 51.


    Wes Brown

    Joe Cole - Scores and is more active

    Heskey - More power than Defeo

  • Comment number 52.

    Its hard to make Wembley a cauldron of fury when half the ground doesn't turn up because midweek games get in the way of pesky business meetings!

    The club Wembley idea was ridiculous, during the play off final Derby against West Brom I tried so hard to get my girlfriend a ticket, she had family who worked for the club both on and off the pitch and still couldn't get one, I was fuming when I saw a whole level of Wembley empty! That was only something like the 5th match at the club, if those people couldn't be bothered to turn up then.

    As for England, if he plays Beckham he may as well pack it in now. He's a dinosaur, I wasn't able to watch Saturdays match due to coming back off hols and I certainly haven't been able to watch any highlights but during the last friendly the only time Beckham got in a position to put in a decent ball was to take a corner the rest of the time he looked knackered!

    Go for the 4-2-3-1 Fabio, concentrate on getting the point first and not losing!

    I do think the most interesting thing about this whole thing is when the press will turn on Capello, because surely even they realise that if he cant do it probably no one will

  • Comment number 53.

    Few mixed feelings about Wembley there - but there is no doubting the importance of tonight's game.

    Maybe Capello was using his criticism of Wembley as a confidence trick to try and make his players feel better.

    After watching Capello at close quarters yesterday, he showed no fear about this game and why should he with his experience?

    Now he will hope England feel exactly the same tonight.

    It was clear from listening to John Terry that the players did not enjoy the 3-5-2 system employed when they were last here.

    It is likely to be a lot more familiar tonight, so there can be no excuses.

  • Comment number 54.

    My first point will no doubt annoy the chelski brigade but what the hell.
    Terry is far too slow. He throws himself about and hopes to endear himself to the neanderthal element of the support - something he can count on at Stamford Bridge!
    Look at the Spanish and Italian defences and you see mobile and intelligent players who not only defend but actually create forward play. Terry would not last 2 minutes in La Liga or SerieA.
    As for Wescott, he seems like a very nice lad who can certainly run fast - however, the same could be said of my paperboy. The problem with him is that he simply cannot cross the ball and without that ability he as much use on the wing as Ashley Cole would be if he was asked to make a donation to charity.
    Becks may be slower than he was but at least he can cross/pass the ball to his colleagues and that will be invaluable especially if Heskey plays.
    Finally, other than slouch around trying desperately to look Mediterranean in order to help his move to Barca, what does Frank Lampard actually do?

  • Comment number 55.

    It is hard to Manage somone who doesnt listen.
    As a kid when you child doesnt listen,you have him your HOT part and he calms down and listens to whatever you say this is mainly because he is scared of you.
    This is the thing that is missing at Enland team,non of the players are scared of the Manager or scared of loosing the job,they are just not worried if they are thrown out,it is like England needs player more than PLayers need England team,now this is a what makes it hard to make him listen to what you are saying.
    Capello will do all he can but i dont think he will even make these players do what he says if they dont really want to.
    Bron Rio Terry Cole
    Beck Berry Lamps Cole
    Roney Heskey

  • Comment number 56.

    thelovelyswissboy im no Chelsea fan but if Terry is so poor and wouldn't last a minute in La Liga or Serie A why had he done such a good job in the Champions League over time.

    Yes you need a player who can bring the ball out of defence but you also need that bit of grit in there.

    To rely on Beckham's crossing for Heskey a player that is scores a massive amount is folly. Instead its far better to rely on players like Walcott that can take a ball past a player even if he only passes to feet.

  • Comment number 57.

    I dont think we should overestimate the Croats. They are a decent, hard working team, with a few gifted players (modric, krankjar, eduardo) but are they as good as we are making out?

    Yes, they beat us twice, the first time it was due to horroundes goalkeeping errors. and the 2nd time, well that was just stupidity! We played at our best for about 20 minutes and scored 2 goals.

    Croatia are the international equivalent of Everton. Hard working, then rely on Arteta, Cahill and Yakubu to to snatch the win.

    If we play postively, get at there slow defence, and just take modric out the game (he has been rubbish in the premiership so far!); we will win 2/3-0.

    on a side note, our best line up would be:

    Richards Terry Ferdinand Cole
    Walcott Gerrard J Cole Young

    Anyone scratching their head wondering how it will work out, go watch Roma play. They lack a natural striker, and play totti upfron on his own. Get the ball to his feet, and get the midfield 4 running past him. That formation will give us pace and creativity. Also, with every member of that 4 being comfortable on the wing and in the middle, it will give us a fluidity and make us harder to mark!

  • Comment number 58.

    Am I the only one still unconvinced about Walcott, who thinks if he played outside the top four he wouldn't be near the england setup?

    If you want pace on the wing, isn't Ashley Young a better option who has been more consistent?

    Also once SWP has games under his belt at Abu Dhabi United, a prolonged run and proper minutes, won't he become the player he was? Again not a better option than Walcott?

    Everyone says Capello doesn't pick on reputation, I think Walcott's pick is.

  • Comment number 59.

    The reputation of playing for Arsenal and the fact your a Wenger youngster.

  • Comment number 60.


    whilst i agree with your opinion, and i am a biased arsenal fan! i do think who else is there?

    Bentley - useless and overrated
    SWP - not played much this season, although, as you say, once he has a few games under his belt, i expect him to compete with walcott
    Lennon - done nothing this season!

    The only other viable option is Young. And the reason he is not in the squad (along with agbonlahor) is simple.

    The final qualification for the 2009 Euro u21 tournamant was Friday. IMO, the England management decided to keep Young and Agbonlahor in the u21 side to england side to ensure they finish strong. i have seen this numerous times, players good enough to make the full squad being held back so thatthey can complete their 'journey' with the u21's.

    but yes, young should be in the england squad, especcially as downing is useless!

  • Comment number 61.

    Post #31

    Pay the coach incentives for results(McClaren got a huge pay off for failing - nice one Steve) - this would not be tolerated in the business world

    Yes it fact it happens all the time...where do you think football got the idea from?

  • Comment number 62.

    Sorry for another Setanta whinge but I'm finding it pretty difficult to get too worked up about a team playing in games that I won't be able to watch.

    Being able to sit in my own home and watch our national team play our national sport is obviously not a reasonable expectation.

  • Comment number 63.

    What! No live international football on BBC or ITV!!
    Sold your soul there, people.
    The new Wembley replaces the famous roar with a muted squeek.
    Another tradition rubbed away.
    I blame the very first game against Brazil at the "New Wembley"......
    England winning one-nil and then 6 subs are made letting Diego do a dance round the defence. The word "Fortress" could have been etched into the walls of the stadium that night, but no, let the players have a run about.
    English international football is doomed.

    As for the players.....
    There is now a fear when putting on the England shirt.
    They dont need tactics, they need psychologists.

    Prove me wrong tonight, England.

  • Comment number 64.

    I'm Irish, I'm not en England supporter but I live in England and like to see England doing all right - I earn my living here.
    What I'm going to say might sound a bit strange.
    Playing the trumpet is all right at a cricket ground but not at a football match. It's not condusive to a proper football atmosphere. When England lost 3-2 to Croatia in Wembley, the Croatian fans were all dancing and chanting together, very noisy and intimidating almost. The clown on the trumpet on the other hand was playing the "Great escape".
    It's a small thing, but the bloke in the trumpet must be got rid ofas the first step to get your team going.

  • Comment number 65.

    Just been reading some of the other comments and see that some of you are saying that Wembley isn't intimidating enough, it's too bland. I know how to sort tthat out:
    He's the one leading the fans (you always hear it on the tele) with the same bunch of crap, bland, boring, mickey mouse tunes that you'd hear on a Nuts advert.
    Get rid of him or ban his trumpet and let the fans start the singing etc and it'll turn Wembley into something more akin to a football ground.

  • Comment number 66.

    I seriously can't believe Capello's managerial ability is being questioned still. This man has had success at practically every level. It was quite clear against Andorra that his influence was key to England's better period's of play in that match. You only had to look at how Capello spent most of the match roaring instructions to people to see how he is also frustrated with England 'reverting to type' and relying on long diagonal balls upfield when they run out of ideas.

    People need to understand the gulf between international teams is not the same now as it once was, and results are results.

  • Comment number 67.

    Per-lease! It's bricks and mortar (and a big pile of scrap metal) how can it have a soul? Sentimental clap-trap is what you are spoutig out there Phil me old son!

    Visiting teams played ok there!

    Our lads lack spirit, imagination and tenacity, they're overpaid, over-cossetted, over-rated and the media have a large part of the blame for that. They are just men, mere mortals, they have bad days (too many for my liking) and they are more interested in their popularity and pay packet than they are in winning, or for the team, or going the extra yard.

    Their wages are as obscene a thing as I can thnk of, grotesque who on the planet is actually WORTH in excess of £100,000 per week?

    We'd get more spirit from a load of pub team players, picked on merit and coached wisely we'd probably even score more and win more.

    England my backside!

  • Comment number 68.

    Capello delivered one or two nice asides yesterday that suggested England might just play on Croatia's nerves and emotion if they get the chance tonight.

    Croatia are a fine side, but there have been doubts expressed about their temperament, although not about their talent.

    A lasting image of Euro 2008 was the exuberant - and horribly premature - goal celebration when they scored against Turkey in the quarter-final.

    Slaven Bilic even joined in the celebrations and was made to look a bit presumptious when Turkey then equalised with virtually the last kick of the game before winning on penalties.

    England fans invariably expect their team to win, but there is no doubt they go into this game as underdogs.

    What do you think England must do get a result tonight?

    How much will Croatia miss Eduardo and Niko Kranjcar?

    I think a draw will constitute a job well done.

  • Comment number 69.

    My opinion on this is that Croatia ar an incredibly strong team. They have good young players who are hungry and that ends up with the team being stronger than the sum of it's parts.

    They play attacking football in a 4-3-3 formation and close down space quickly.

    The key has got to be counter attack. Their strikers are good but our defense can hold them and then break. Put Rooney in Attacking midfield that way he can get back and win possession whilst still pushing forward to get involved with attacks. Stick Beckham and JC on the wings with Heskey and Walcott up front. Beckham playing through balls behind the defense that Walcott can run on to with JC and Rooney in support. and Heskey can stay up front to hold the ball up while they runa round him creating space.

    Remember Heskey is no slouch either. There was a time when Eriksson would deploy him as a winger!

    The system suits our players and it should work against how the Croats like to play.

    Someone said earlier that this will Be Rooney's game. I think that if he starts up front then it will be Walcott's!

  • Comment number 70.

    A friend just sent me a mail with the England first choice 11
    in 1990. It was as follows:

    Peter Shilton, Gary Stevens, Stuart Pearce, Des Walker, Terry Butcher,
    Bryan Robson (Captain), Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, John Barnes, Peter
    Beardsley Gary Lineker

    Today's England team is a shadow of that great side and that side was not regarded
    as being a particularly awesome at the time (although they came within a whisker of a World Cup final). Irelands probably greatest ever team struggled with them in 88 and 90 and the eventual world champions only came through against them on penalties. Only a fit Gary Neville and possibly Gerrard would get into that team. Perhaps this shows better than anything that maybe the media and some of the public should have some perspective on what this group of players (and manager) can achieve.

  • Comment number 71.

    Why did we ditch Sven? - Quite simply you guys jeered him out of the job and then you sat there blaming the F.A. for forcing him out.

    England fans need to realise that they are the problem and they need to sort it out before England as a team will start to play and gain more convincing wins such as the win in Andorra - maybe a spell behind closed doors would do the trick, it would certainly releave some of the pressure on the players.

  • Comment number 72.

    Spain won the European Championships in 1964

    England won the World Cup in 1966

    Spain won the European Championships in 2008

    So it stands to reason that England will win the World Cup in 2010

    You heard it here first!

  • Comment number 73.

    Capello was dismissive yesterday when asked if this was his judgement day.

    "If you want", he said with a wave of his hand and an expression that was either a grimace or a smile - it was hard to tell.

    No-one believes defeat tonight will finish off England's World Cup qualifying campaign before it starts, but the result will no doubt shape how people feel about Capello.

    If he wins it will be the brave new world, although we had one of them when Sven's England won 5-1 in Germany.

    If he loses there will be accusations that England are getting more of the same.

    What I will say about Capello is that he looked to be thriving on the idea of getting a result here - and I suspect he is a man who is impervious to what people think about him.

    Let's hear all your thoughts on Capello and tonight's game. It will go a little way to defining this new England era.

    And keep it coming on the new Wembley as well.

    I'm interested to hear from England fans who have attended recent games.

    I think they have been pretty fair with the players. You could hardly expect fans to be dancing in the aisles during England's game against the Czech Republic.

  • Comment number 74.

    Regardless of what stadium England are playing in, they inevitably under-achieve. I wouldn't be suprised if this is, once again, the case.

    Even if they win most of the 'fans' will find something to moan about...they always do. Never happy. Maybe they should be playing instead!!!!

  • Comment number 75.

    I've not seen anyone else on any forum or in the media ever bring up this point about an issue about England's national side that has got me thinking for a while.

    Some players have a guaranteeed place in the national team...


    Walk into any major sports chain shop/warehouse and head for the replica football kits. You will find England kits, home and away with the following names already printed on the shirts.

    Beckham, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard, Owen and Rooney.

    Why does this bother me?. Is Capellos hands tied by sponsorship. In a nutshell these players can not be dropped from the team , baring injury, as the sponorsers would lose millions as they have 1000's and 1000's of shirts already printed up with names and squad numbers. How much is the shirt deal with the FA worth?. Not qualify for the European Championships must of had the sponsors fuming. Shirt sales were down. Not only does this upset the sponsors,it affects other business.

    The major supermarkets must of been fuming, as their sale of beers was down...(quite apt really that they have built on sports fields for their own greed) . One of the first things we heard the day after losing at home to Croatia was how much money the FA will lose for not going to the European Championships.

    I think most England fans would agree that Beckham is past it, hes only in the team because of sponsorship, and his PR team making him cry in public. Remember Capello dropped him at Real Madrid, it was the clubs greed of money that got him back into the team and how they tried to stop him leaving for LA.

    Lampard...Mark Lawrenson made a good point on Football Focus...time to put Gerrard in the role he plays best in at Liverpool and say to Lampard...thanks but no thanks. He is an added luxury we dont need.

    Owen is not what he was, Rooney does not seem interested, Terry, will always give his all, too much sometimes.

    Maybe its time for a revolution at the FA.. it should be run by ex players mixed with a right mix of business excutives with an strong intrest and pride in the beautiful game. it needs to start with grass roots football. Kids need to know how to be comfortable on the ball. We lack the skills and knowledge required to be successful. We are years behind the Academys like in France and Holland. Our clubs are restricted with English kids, yet bring in 16 years olds from all over the world.

    So where is all this sponorship money going to?

    Its a fact...England have gone backwards since they employed Graham Taylor as England Manager, we had hope in 96 with Venables, but since then the FA, England's national side and Premiership is only about money, not about the pride and the passion.

    I still believe, but how many more years of hurt since 66 will it be?..i fear it will be a long long time.

  • Comment number 76.

    All the criticism of Fabio Capello is deeply unjustified.

    Until people can accept that SOMETIMES in football, you have to grind results out, England will NEVER EVER win the World Cup. Italy in 2006, never even played well, and won the WC, and now Lippi has been immortalised, to the extent that they've brought him back.

    So what if England beat Andorra by ONLY 2-0? A win is a win, so what?

    It was a disgrace that Sven was sacked, despite the fact that he actually had some decent ideas of how to get England playing.

    Everyone wants to a pretend as if they know tactics, when in actual fact they know jack.

    I also think that club rivalries go too far in this country, so to an extent when the England squad meet up they find it hard to relate to each other properly, like "Oh - he plays for Chelsea so I'll just mingle with Ferdinand - blah blah" - well that what it
    seems anyway.

    If you look at a training session of the Italians, you can genuinely see a link between all of the players and the manager (another reason is probably because VERY few Italian players move out of the country to play football, so they'll meet other players from previous clubs elsewhere in Italy).

    England however, the fact that many clubs are made up of a higher proportion of foreign players (Arsenal - and probably Chelsea very soon) means fellow England players meet each other mainly in league matches, where the situation is very different. [Off the field is a different matter, :)]. I've often seen Rooney and Terry bad-mouthing each other during their encounters in the league - and is that a good thing?

    During Capello's time at Real Madrid, everyone criticised him for playing "Italian" - that is once they go a goal up - they'll just sit back and defend. But didn't he win the title for them in 1995 and 2006?

    Only when you are comfortable playing under pressure, that is when you can express yourself on the ball. That's why (bar 2006) Brazil often make their play seem effortless even in a World Cup Final.

    When England can learn to grind results out, it will soon before second nature to them and then you'll see the slick quick play that everyone wants.

  • Comment number 77.

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

  • Comment number 78.

    I think I may well be going against the grain here but I have been reasonably satisfied by Capello's start.

    Granted our performances have not been terrific but then England have always played in fits and starts. I feel that a draw would be a good result to take away from tonight (provided we do not play defensively as we just do not know how to sit back and be patient).

    Re; Wembley - A soulless corporate environment fit only for business.

  • Comment number 79.

    Joe Cole made reference to the fact the other day that no-one is guaranteed a place any more and I believe that will be the case under Capello.

    Let me assure you he will not pick an England team based on sponsorship. It just won't be happening.

    As for Sven, he did not do a bad job with England, but their World Cup campaign in 2006 was awful and sometimes a manager has a shelf life in a job.

    I suspect Eriksson's probably thought his had expired along with the FA.

    How big a night is this for Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard?

    This is a great opportunity to make a statement to their critics about how influential they can be in the really big games.

  • Comment number 80.

    I think England will win, but sadly I always do - it is invariably diffficult to make an impartial assessment when fervent support and desire get in the way.

    What I do believe is, whatever tonight's result, that England remain a long way from playing the type of football Capello is aiming to instill: clearly the manager favours a more continental style approach of secure ball possession, followed by rapid, incisive movement when close to the box. Such an approach contiunes to look alien to the national team ,which in may ways is strange as this is exactly the style that our leading club sides have adopted in the Champions League, and as a result seen far greater success in recent times.

    Conclusion: this is very much a work in progress whatever tonight's result - sneak into the finals any way we can, by which time, just possibly, the players will have had time to appreciate and adapt to Capello's style, after which who knows?!

    Plus a reliable goalscorer would also help!!

  • Comment number 81.

    Im gonna laugh so much if Lampard scores tonight as all the people who have been critising him will be up and out of thier chairs celebrating and then the next morning be on here chastising himself - i ahve not lost faith with the team but with the fans

  • Comment number 82.

    to post #57
    typical english arrogance

    croatia 5th
    england 15th

    last 2 meetings

    cro - eng 2-0
    eng - cro 2-3

    and if croatia is everton, than england is some championship side, not better

  • Comment number 83.


    'Lampard...Mark Lawrenson made a good point on Football Focus...time to put Gerrard in the role he plays best in at Liverpool and say to Lampard...thanks but no thanks. He is an added luxury we dont need.'
    Martin Samuel in The Times the other day was pointing out that despite what Gerrard had said, he has played where he wants to play alot more than he had realised, so let's debunk that one to start with.

    Also, why is it that Gerrard can says these things (despite not even bothering to turn up) and not being accused of making the tail wag the dog?

    We have a manager as does Liverpool. They are employed to manage and Gerrard is there to do what the manager says.

    Perhaps it is precisely because he tries to do what he wants rather than what is asked of him that he disappears.

  • Comment number 84.

    "A defining World Cup qualifier?"

    A laughable comment and found it very hard to take the rest of the artice seriously.

    It will be only defining if the media portray it as such. We didn't fail to qualify for the Euro's because we lost here last time we failed becuase he lost in the LAST game of the qualifiers.

    This is the 2ND game of the qualifers and as such is NOT defining in any shape or form.

    Didn't Spain lose in their qualifying group for the Euro's? Erm yes.

    Did they win the Competition? Erm YES.

    As usual this is being built up beyond its true significance. I fear even a draw will be pounced upon with true over exubarence leading to a chorus of "Sack Capello".

  • Comment number 85.

    - i ahve not lost faith with the team but with the fans


    spot on comment. A big night for Rooney?? He did the business away to Russia, that was a big game, but he still got the blame for the way that ended up.

  • Comment number 86.

    Swansea 63 - why even talk about football when you call it soccer?... go back to USA or wherever you come from.

    You dont have the right to comment about the pride of english football and the sport we love if you call it soccer!

  • Comment number 87.

    Who says it's our national game? Is it written in our constitution. OK, I know we havn't actually got one, but the point I make is that it is only so important because we make it. There are lots of other sports out there that aren't full of arrogant under achievers who are far too often bad role models for all of us let alone our children. Witness the Olympics and the present disabled Olympics. surely they provide better entertainment with more success and definitely set better examples to us all. Wake up you dinosaurs who slavishly follow football, you are being sidelined and left behind.

  • Comment number 88.

    #84 Waaaart

    Hear hear to that. This is game two out of ten. This is a league, not a cup. Also, this is, on paper at least, the hardest game of those ten.

    Why do the media insist on building it up so, only to call for heads to roll the following morning.

    Ah yes, who makes more money on the back of a higher profile for the England football team?

    The media. More papers sold, more hits to websites, more people adding to the viewing figures.

    Anything to say Phil, as you probably remember previous comments I have made about those sitting comfortably on the gravy train?

  • Comment number 89.


    Um - technically Swansea 63 is correct Football is a generic term admittedly im English and i always call the game Football but the game is actually known as Soccer to differentiate it from Ausie rules, Rugby, American football etc. please do not have a go at people when technically they are correct.

  • Comment number 90.

    Personally I couldn’t care less if England beat Croatia or if we even qualify for the WC2010, the players clearly don't. I enjoyed Euro 2008 much more with England not there and backed Spain al the way. I watched a fantastic atmosphere at every game, saw rival fans mixing together, sharing a drink. Our traveling supporters are an embarrassment, with our loutish behavior and lack of any respect for the host nation and other fans we are more like an invading army than a united group of supporters. If England were involved in Euro 2008 I can say with some certainty that the shops, bistros and bars in and around the stadium we were due to play in would have been closed, we are seen as thugs and drunkards by our European compatriots with little to no regard for the people of the host country.

    Quite honestly I don't think that the England players care that much about whether they win or lose and to be frank I don't think the majority of my fellow countrymen do either. I went to a local Pub with a friend to watch the Andorra game and left after 30 minutes. We were devoid of any creativity, passion or determination and I found not for the first time I preferred to have a pint in a quieter bar than watch hapless England trudge through another match.

    England games used to unite the country, especially at the time of WC's or the Euros. We were a passionate determined side when the likes of Shearer, Owen, Gascoigne and Seaman were around. Now it seems that the players look as though they would rather be on a golf course than stepping out for England, more of a time consuming annoyance than an honour. The last player to show any guile in an England shirt was Beckham and he is now past his prime. England are a joke, a team comprised of multi-millionaires who are there because they have to be not because they want to be.

  • Comment number 91.

    Why do English people talk of 42 years of hurt since the World Cup win in 66. Surely it should be 38 as it was only in 1970 you lost the title. Or was it because you already knew what was to come. Not a very optimistic or happy bunch are you. Maybe you should take up sport.

  • Comment number 92.

    Yes, having been there twice, Wembley is soulless - there is not the claustrophobia and 'togetherness' that creates an enveloping aura for the pitch.

    And Swansea - football is the most popular sport in the UK, played, watched and loved by at least 40% of the population. I experienced similar levels of feverish anticipation in Canada with the Stanley Cup.

    As for tonight, any team that includes Beckham is a disgrace in my view. He's done nothing for England for years and is not worthy of a place. He's declining and will have declined further by the actual World Cup tournament. If we want players in their prime form, we should not pick him. I'd go with Walcott only because Croatia will be less sure of how to deal with him. Beckham is predictable and increasingly, away from the set pieces, is a passenger.

  • Comment number 93.

    post #64

    counldn't agree with you more, i will happily strangle the bloke with the trumpet. As you say it doesn't create the right sort of atmosphere and they seem to think that the crowd need them to play for 90% of the game or they won't sing - they copied the idea from the dutch anyway.

    Aside from that i am just going to post my opinion one last time before tonight.

    I really think england will get the win tonight.

    I have faith in capello, i think he is exactly the sort of manager we need. He is strong in character, he is confident in his ability to manage, he has the respect of the england team.

    i will admit that i was worried after the czech game, we didn't play well and gerrard on the left is not where anyone wants to see him play. However i think capello redeemed himself with the team for andorra. Not that it was a great result of course but playing walcott on the right and johnson at the right back was exactly the sort of fresh thinking that england has been crying out for.

    I hope he gets it right tonight, I think croatia are missing key players (compared to our last meeting) and the england team will be out to prove a point.

    We DO have the players, i predict a big game from rooney and heskey up front. lampard is under pressure to perform but i think frank will rise to the occasion this time- he is still one of the top midfielders in europe afterall. The back four will need to play well but rio is back so that reassuring. The only worry is that beckham plays and goes a wandering. With wes brown at right back it will effectively neutralise our right side. If he plays then becks better have a vintage performance in store, i would rather see him come as a sub personally.

    As phil says, it might be that capello has surprise in store, but thats a good thing. I like the fact that we don't know exactly who is going to play, its very refreshing.

    Finally, to all the naysayers, you may all be vindicated in your opinions that england are rubbish etc etc by the end of tonight. But i wonder if you are truely england fans how much satisfaction will you take from being proved right?

  • Comment number 94.

    England will be the paying a heavy price for the misguided decision to rebuild Wembley for decades to come. Outdated London-centric metropolitanism dictated that the FA shoehorned new into old at vast cost. Indifferent and impatient crowds have been a feature of Wembley for years contrasting with the enthusiastic and passionate support enjoyed by England on their travels 2001-2006. Is it just coincidence that England last qualified for a tournament with a last gasp winner at Old Trafford ? The England team belongs to the whole country but has been sold off to a apathetic minority. If England do qualify for 2010 then I suspect the performances that acheieve it will come away from home and it seems the coach has already realised that...

  • Comment number 95.

    I hope we give them a good beating - just to shut that bighead Bilic up for a while. Then, during the post-match press conference, i would like Capello to proclaim "How do you-a like-a that!"

  • Comment number 96.

    Oh - and to all the Sven lovers - he deserved what happened if only because of the way he marginalised Paul Scholes, widely accepted as the most talented English player of his generation. Lampard, Beckham, Gerrard et al aren't fit to wipe his boots.

    And no, I'm not a Man Utd fan - Bristol City, in fact.

  • Comment number 97.

    what a disgrace national sport national team plays .and if your not willing to fork more money out on setanta sports you wont see a thing not even highlights .what a joke.

  • Comment number 98.

    I am sick of hearing England fans moan that they are not being given exciting football. England have never, perhaps with the exception of euro 96, played exciting football. The premiership has made us think we can play like this due to it's wealth of foreign talent. We also have no right to think we are a great footballing nation and it frustrates me that we raise ourselves so high and then criticise ourselves so violently when we fail to live up to our unrealistic expectations. It is not the footballer's fault they are paid so much that is to do with tv rights and commercialisation. Any sports person who has succeeded enough to play for their country certainly would not treat this with the ambivalence some claim. Football is about supporting your team, just as many do in the football league and conference each week regardless of results. People look to football to do something else for them in their lives which it cannot. Don't blame England and shout at them, a GCSE in psychology shows that doesn;t help.

  • Comment number 99.

    With respect to "soccer" - I give in to those who call it "football". As 89 said, I am technically correct, but it is normally known as football and most of the time that is what I call it. Put it down to the stress of writing a blog!

  • Comment number 100.

    Post no. 94 - middleagedred - bang on, give that man a column with the Beeb.


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