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Walcott and Capello stun Croatia

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Phil McNulty | 23:36 UK time, Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Slaven Bilic ended his inquest into England's destruction of Croatia accompanied by the strains of "My Way" booming out of a sound system situated near his left ear - a suitably bizarre end to a surreal night in Zagreb.

Regrets? Well, Bilic had more than a few as he surveyed the wreckage inflicted by a superb England performance and a stunning statement of his talent from 19-year-old Theo Walcott.

Bilic, who it is almost impossible to dislike, even had a "what did the Romans ever do for us?" moment as he tried to unscramble his senses.

"Until the first goal Walcott was not so good" - so basically he was pretty hopeless until he had the audacity to score three goals and generally take Croatia to the cleaners. Fair enough.

It was difficult to work out who was more stunned - Bilic, or those of us who pitched up at The Maksimir Stadium claiming a point would be just cause for celebration and left barely believing the emphatic victory margin we had just seen.

England coach Fabio Capello does not do carried away, so we should not have been surprised that he sat in a tent pitched in The Maksimir car park and passed off the country's most stunning triumph in recent memory as "nothing."

And those of us who sat in wonder in Munich's Olympic Stadium as England thrashed Germany 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier seven years ago will know exactly where he is coming from. We've been here before.

There are similarities. A striker scored a hat-trick, as Michael Owen did back then, and Emile Heskey was the willing sidekick in both games.

So Capello is actually right. If there is to be euphoria, which he thinks there should not, then it should at least be tempered.

But natural caution should not detract from just how good this was - both from the coach and England's players. It was five-star stuff.

We have all been quick to criticise England and question Capello, so it would be churlish not to give them the credit they deserve when they deliver in such emphatic fashion.

Let's start with Capello and a bold team selection that flew in the face of suggestions that he is simply a hard-nosed pragmatist whose first instinct is always conservatism.

Capello took the attacking option by selecting Walcott ahead of David Beckham and playing Joe Cole on the left.

He has huge faith in Walcott, and to say that he repaid it is understatement gone mad.

A new international star was born in Zagreb, and in the same moment we may have seen the end of Beckham as a player who starts the big games for England.

There was something symbolic about the embrace between the pair when the older man replaced the youngster late on.

I expected Capello to play safe and pick Beckham, but he went with Walcott and showed what top coaches can do in big games. They can make the tough choices that make the difference.

Walcott scored three goals, showed pace to burn and courage in abundance after he was flattened by a shocking body-check from Josip Simunic that deserved a red card.

He will now be at the centre of huge national attention, but he is in safe hands with Arsene Wenger and he has shown remarkable self-assurance and maturity for a teenager during these last few days.

On the evidence of what I have seen from Walcott, I would be staggered if any of this went to his head.

And what about the other plus points?

England were brave, had a system that suited them and had top performers all over the pitch as a Croatian team that has been their nemesis was reduced to an ill-disciplined shambles in the closing stages.

The central midfield partnership of Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard worked well, and it will be a dilemma for Capello when Steven Gerrard is fit again, although I would still expect him to find a place for the Liverpool captain.

If Capello can be cold-eyed enough to overlook Beckham for Walcott, he will not shy away from picking Gerrard ahead of either Barry or (more intriguingly) Lampard if the occasion demands.

And finally, after a dormant period, we saw some flashes of the real Wayne Rooney, creating chances and scoring himself.

England needed big performances from Rooney and Lampard and they delivered. No complaints there.

I stated when Capello picked his squad that it was a mistake to exclude Michael Owen. I still believe he should at least have been in the squad, but the Italian's answer to the gripes is six points and that wins every time.

England were mature in dealing with a combustible atmosphere in Croatia.The Maksimir Stadium is an intoxicating venue and a test for any visiting team, but England coped in a manner that reflected the maturity and experience of their coach.

There was some disgraceful racist chanting aimed at Heskey from a small group of Croatia fans on one occasion after the break, but in the interests of balance it must also be stated that the majority of their supporters took defeat with great humour and good grace.

Capello may not be the cure-all for England's problems, but he does cut an imposing figure and it has been clear around the camp in recent days that he has total respect.

And in Walcott he sees a talent to nurture.

There will be huge attention thrown upon Walcott's young shoulders now, but he is a very impressive personality who has been relaxed and eloquent around the media and whose future can be guided by two of the game's statesmen in Arsene Wenger and Capello.

England will fly home with a job well done. Faith has been restored in the team (with that ever-present proviso of not getting carried away) and Capello has produced the sort of big result his reputation has been built around.

It is not the start of a brave new era. It is not a new dawn in English football. It is one outstanding victory against one of Europe's most formidable sides - and that is more than enough to be going on with.


Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    Yes Phil, I always feared that you would have to eat your words about the exclusion of Michael Owen. It was a scintillating performance by England and I believe that England have got their best manager in Capello in recent times.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great performance, Rooney played correctly showed how great he is, he had a hand in all 3 of Walcotts goals and scored one himself and this is what we expect of him, he's the player that will create more than he'll score and then now and then he'll add a goal of his own.

    It's sad to see what's happening to Walcott, he's having too much pressure put on him already, same happened with Rooney and now when England do not perform, the other 10 are excluded and Rooney gets the full wrath of the fans, the same WILL happen with Walcott, he'll do well to cope as well as Rooney did.

  • Comment number 3.

    i think its typical of the english public; always afraid of faliure. thats the reason why the exclusion of micheal owen generated a lot of tension. but i think capello has proved he is right by dropping him. he made a big decision which top managers will have to make. scolari did it by droping romario for 2002 world cup and aragones did it by droping raul for euro2008. to be honest, staticstics dont play football and we all know by picking the best 5 english strikers now micheal owen will not be there as he is not a force he used to be. the last 2 england managers did not have the bottle to drop players even when they are not performing and that is why erikson took owen and rooney to the last world cup despite the fact that they were not fit. Thanks to God we now have a manager that can take the tough decisions. COMMON ENGLAND!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    shame about rascist chanting, u just dont wanna see that kind of thing anywhere, especially in football

  • Comment number 5.

    Theo's performance was exceptional. He showed the sort of selfishness in front of goal that you need to succeed as a striker in the international game. Having said that, as an Arsenal fan who follows him with great hope, he's still learning his game. He's a player who needs time to find his game and needs more games under his belt to be a consistent performer. He has the potential, yes. I think anyone who saw today's performance will agree. But consistency will come with time and I truly hope that no-one truly sees this as a coming of age, but rather another step in a career that in two or three years time may be something to truly be proud of.
    Now let's hope a couple of the other young English men get the chance to show what the next generation can do. All in all our prospects aren't too bad!

  • Comment number 6.

    I love it! I have been getting sick and tired of the anti-English brigade, which is basically 90% of all English broadcasters and journalists, saying 'WE' are not good enough. Stand up, Waddle and McNulty! What do you all have to say for yourselves now?

    This shows that we have had the players all along; we just needed a half-decent manager/coach. This is what I have always said all along. So stop the whining!

    "Face it, we just aren't good enough any more, whine, whine! We don't have the players, whine, whine"!
    We just thrashed the so-called fifth best team in the world at their home stadium! What's your answer to that, whiners?

  • Comment number 7.

    On a side note - Lampard was excellent tonight. Rooney was also sensational. It's difficult to see how anyone can say we haven't got the players when these guys are key performers for some of the top clubs in the world. But, for me, it was a joy to watch those players performing as we know they can in a tough, tough fixture. I just hope that they both gain confidence from this game and go on to play the sort of role we need them to in the coming months.

  • Comment number 8.

    What a fantastic display by England. I waited up all night in Western Australia for that. I don't mind have bags under my eyes, or lacking basic conversational and motor skills for a day, to bare witness to a display such as the one in question.

    Walcott was brilliant, and i am pleased for him. As was Rooney, the Ox and thrust of everything we cost muster. and the great Emile. Still doing what he did those years ago against the Germans. Lampard was dare I say...good. As was Barry. Joe Cole was assaulted but before then a hero. Jenas made an impact, and can we take something from this game that we can replay onto the remaining qualifiers:


    Well done England, it truely was worth a sleepless night.

  • Comment number 9.

    wayne rooney and theo walcott stars of england for many more years to come.put in great performances tonight and a well deserved victory..those giving rooney the stick these past weeks can now eat their words..he will only get better.england with capello will finally be on their way..good job.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good stuff from England but let's not get carried away.

    They key today was the tactics and the formation - it worked. Heskey held the ball up brilliantly, Rooney looked comfortable, Walcott showed what a player he can be, Lampard played decent and Barry did exceptional where he played.

    All in all a great win and a massive 6 points from two crucial games. Seems like Capello has the balls to drop players, unlike Sven and McClaren who thinks he's Dutch these days.

    With that said, we have a tough encounter coming up with Kazakhstan. Might not be the best team in the world, but they are a tough small team that can hit you when you under estimate. Ask Switzerland how they feel about Louxembourg beating them tonight.

    Anyway, proud to be English again. Let's hope we ride into 2010 now and don't mess up against our next BIG test....Ukraine.

  • Comment number 11.

    I did think the referee (who's normally pretty good) was appalling. Simunic should not have been on the field --I think it was him who half-nelson'd Heskey and then poleaxed Walcott -- dreadfully cynical play deserving of two yellow cards. The Croatia goal should indeed have been disallowed (dangerous play) and would, I think, have been had it been an England goal. Unfortunately my video stream was a bit iffy for the disallowed Lampard goal, so I couldn't judge.

    Under different circumstances it could easily have been 7-0. Well done to all of them, especially Walcott, Rooney, Heskey (who has surely cemented his place in the side) and even Ashley Cole (who I would have dropped from this match). Sorry mate, I was wrong.

  • Comment number 12.

    Phil,feeling suitably embarrassed about your claims for beckham based on his "positional discipline" this morning?I think poo-pooing the energetic free-flowing attacking football we witnessed from a vibrant england last night in favour of david beckhams statuesque "positional discipline" is one of the most ludicrous things iver ever had to read on our national side.All will be forgiven sir if you come on this morning justifiably sheepish and agree never to write such nonsense ever again.Is it a deal?

  • Comment number 13.

    I think tonight has proved that England have got great strikers IF played with the right system. Walcott's willingness to run the right wing freed up Heskey to occupy both CBs and Joe Cole DID stick to the left flank, allowing Rooney to roam. I was pleased with the whole display apart from an edgy first 15mins where I think Modric was allowed to much time on the ball.
    The substitution of Cole for Jenas, albeit forced, worked well and I was pleased to see this as we almost played 4-3-3 and really went for it. I think the 4 most crucial players for England this campaign will be the front 3 of Rooney, Heskey and Walcott as they each bring so many different things to the party and Gareth Barry who frees up the other 2 midfielders.
    Also on another note I would like to criminalise some of the challenges from the Croatians last night. Could you imagine if we'd have done that at Wembley last year when we were losing? It would have caused outrage from the press. Kicking people just 'cause you're losing is a poor show.
    And Mr Bilic I've got one word for you... PAYBACK!!

  • Comment number 14.

    watched the match (second half) on german TV. The german commentator said that England were "Tactically Strong". When have we ever heard that about England. Pretty high praise when it comes from a German. On a lighter side he also mentioned David James has been known as "Calamity James". Shows the british reporting of previous poor England performances gets everywhere. Great "TEAM" performance - they didn't look like a bunch of individuals as has so often been the case in recent years

  • Comment number 15.

    hum phil, u suprise me and dont suprise me. some coments u have just said make me realise why u dont work in football and ur just a reporter... ill show u why.(dont take offence)

    u say about steven gerrard, that when he's back fit THAT CAPELLO WILL FIND A PLACE FOR HIM.. WHY? didnt we play great today?
    didnt we look un-stoppable?
    (im a chelsea fan and i believe gerrard is a much better player than lampard) BUT WHY CHANGE SOMETHING THAT WORKS?

    do me a favour... look at a blog that was done by "welsh something" BEFORE THE GAME!! ....look what i said....illl remind you,

    i predicted we would win by 2-0 or 3-0 i said WALCOTT HAS TO START NO MATTER WHAT and i said we needed to play 4-2-3-1. AND WHAT DID WE DO?...HHAHHA WE PLAYED 4-2-3-1....AMAZING (well done capello)

    MY ONLY TIP NOW IS... KEEP THE 4-2-3-1 (play wright-phillips insted of j.cole REMEMBER IM A CHESLEA SUPPORTER)

    i might agree with you..that the 2 in the middle may need to be changed..barry? lampard? gerrard? bullard? carrick? ill leave that one to capello... BUT I DO SAY AND WITH GREAT MIGHT...IS WHAT THEO CAN DO DOWN THE RIGHT....WRIGHT-PHILLPS CAN DO DOWN THE LEFT (pace,skill,vision) i say no more.

    and mate.. phil.. mr reporter.. GET OFF BECKHAM AND OWEN... THEIR GAME IS OVER.

    thankyou (would be really nice if u could say something back to me... or CHECK THE ARTICLE I WROTE BEFORE THE GAME AND SEE IM TELLNG THE TRUTH) i got it spot on.

  • Comment number 16.

    i am truly delighted for that england squad, they must be on top of the world! Can we now please back our guys unashamedly no matter what happens? We do it every season with club teams so lets get behind the boys, we owe them that much!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Phil, why the constant need to add Gerard to the discussion? He was not there (although very probably will be on Saturday), England were excellent, including the much maligned Lamaprd, so why should Capello feel the need to 'find a place for the Liverpool captain'?

    This has been the problem for the past five years or more, i.e. that certain players 'are too good' not to play, yet we constantly win nothing.

    If this team continues to perform, then Gerard, and Hargreaves for example, face a spell on the sidelines, and it is that level of competition that can only be good for the future.

  • Comment number 18.


    we were great today, and though we still got more hard work to do, we've won aurgably the hardest game in our qualifying.

    i do have one question though. with everyone knowing their roles in midfield, it seems that we will have real competition for places, which is great.

    but im not sure about the most attacking two, heskey and rooney were great, but who do you think could compete with them?

    i can see the likes of ashton, bent maybe for heskey, but what about rooney? who do you think could play that creative forward position?

  • Comment number 19.


    You are symptomatic of everything that was wrong with the England set up before Don Fabio was instated.

    Your comment about Gerrard coming back into the team, potentially in place of Barry, tells me that you completely fail to comprehend the reasons why we saw such a turn around last night.

    Last night our undesputed talent was allowed to perform for two clear reasons

    a) Capello picked players in the positions where they excel in domestic football

    b) He picked a unit of 11 that complemented each other tactically, free from the pressures to add people by name ala Mclaren

    Stick Gerrard back in there with Lampard and it will all be undone. I don't care if he's 'Stevie G', yes he is a fantastic player but it's about team England now. That's the best performance we've had in years- keep the balance going and just be happy about the strength in Depth we have in midfield.

    Luckily I think that Fabio understands how uninsightful and non-football orientated our 'sports' journalism. For that I already love him.

  • Comment number 20.

    Great performance from England, but lets not get carried away. The game hinged on one incident - the sending off of Kovac. Prior to that, England had scored against the run of play and Croatia looked dangerous. Once they went down to 10 men, Croatia began to self destruct and England gained in confidence and really made the difference count. The red count was the correct decision but the foul was unnecessary and had the incident not happened Croatia could well have come back for a draw or a win. England did play exceptionally well, but the red card incident was a stroke of fortune which had a dramatic effect on the game.

  • Comment number 21.

    ah well! looks like that victory will have people believing that England have already won the world cup, and if the dont hit 4-5 past Belarus then turning on Capello and the team.

    England played well and played to the gameplan their manager laid out which definatly helped them and everybody knew their place and what they had to do. Rooney was in exelent form with the 2 goals he set up and the 1 he scored. well done lad!

    one final point. did anyone notice Gareth Barry?

    if you said no, thats good as he did his job perfectly. holding in the midfield while Lampard went AWOL

  • Comment number 22.

    Great result, couldn't have asked for anything more from the night, except for the referee becoming a little lax in his decision making when we got to 3-0. His decision to disallow Lampard's excellent goal was dubious, and the decision to allow theirs was absurd. I just hope we finish above Croatia on points and that those two goals don't affect who qualifies in the end.
    Just a point to make to all the people lauding Rooney for being "sensational" again. Yes, he played well... once Croatia went down to ten men. He utilised the space left by the extra player brilliantly, but until then he was the same as he has been for the last four years. He didn't look like scoring and was completely ineffective. I'm sure I'll get plenty of people saying I'm wrong and that he was incredible all game but it just isn't true, he needed the space left by the sending off to be effective at all. That said he was very good when that space became available.
    Still, can't fault England last night, excellent performance

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm really pleased for Walcott. How many people were writing the kid off? I'm a fan of Wenger (although not an Arsenal fan) and he couldn't be in better hands. The Gunners have developed him slowly, not overplayed him and it's beginning to pay dividens. Please lets not put too much pressure on the kid. Cheers!

  • Comment number 24.

    England recipe for success:

    Lampard OR Gerrard in a 4-4-2.

    Barry OR Hargreaves in a 4-4-2.

    Big man, little man to play off him, up front.

    Add pace, and youthful exuberance, rather than bitter big club men that retire rather than experience being dropped.

    Accept that the majority of games will feature 11 men defending against us and we won't always break them down.

    Oh, and a manager that doesn't read English newspapers.

  • Comment number 25.

    The defining factor is that for both Walcott's goals, Beckham wouldn't have shot, but looked to cross!

  • Comment number 26.

    This performance again showed that Lampard and Gerrard need a Barry or Hargreaves to play along side. I don't think they can both play. Before last night I would have said Gerrard should get the nod. After last night I'm not so sure. Tough decisions ahead for Capello. Walcott and Rooney were so good because of the platform behind them. When Lampard and Gerrard play together that platform creaks and groans.

  • Comment number 27.

    Phil - bit disappointed you bigged up the performance instead of playing it down - the last thing we need is journalists recreating the feeling amongst fans that we are world-beaters. Good performance, yes, but let's face it, Croatia played nowhere near their standard against the likes of Germany in Euro 2008.

    And almost everyone above me is talking about the English tactics, but really, half the reason we won is the fact that there was no pressure on the players this time - Defoe came out and said a draw would be fine, Capello insisting there was no pressure on the players away from home, and a simple look at the FIFA rankings tell us we were the underdog going into that game.

    Last time we had low expectations going into a match with a relatively new manager, the scoreline ended up saying Deutschland 1, England 5.

    If I was in your position as a journalist Phil, I'd be making more of an effort in asking the fans to keep the pressure off the boys and not expect too much after that win.

  • Comment number 28.

    2 things:

    1) With the breakthrough of Walcott, we may well now see Rooney go from strength to strength. The pressure is no longer on Rooney to be Englands future. Englands main man. The pressure now switches to Walcott, which will hopefully free up Rooney to play his game without the constant scrutinisation

    2) What was evident in this game was the way the midfield worked. When Lampard went forward, barry sat, when Barry went forward, Lampard sat. What that showed to me is that the Gerrard and Lampard combination CAN work. It is not their talent or being similar players that is the problem, it is their EGOs. Both want to be the main man, therefore both are unwillling to sit when the other go's forward. I would still play the pair of them.

    And anyway, when you are playing the greats of Kazakstan and Belarus, do you really need a holding midfielder??? Then when we get drawn against a top side, you merely drop a striker, play a 3rd man in the middle, and push the wingers higher up the pitch to support rooney

    Get rid of the pairs egos and they can play together!

  • Comment number 29.

    PerthAlby,Beckham wouldnt have been anywhere near the oppositions box to receive the ball let alone the guy cant shoot from open play for toffee.Did Beckham ever score a hat-trick in an england shirt in 12 years?No.Did Beckham ever score 2 goals in a match for england?No.Beckham is and was the most farcically overhyped nomad in international football history and last night was thankfully one further nail in his superficial career of a coffin.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well a great performance, I was overjoyed in the pub last night. Long may it continue!

  • Comment number 31.

    I think Journalists like you is what's wrong with your national team not the players or the manager, only a couple of days ago you were saying its about time everyone realised England were a poor team, todays article includes the words "5 Star". You are more fickle than any fan.

    You were jumping on Capello who's team had not preformed in a few pointless friendlies and a nothing match against Andorra.

    Maybe you should try getting behind your team a bit more rather than being so quick to shoot down the manager and the players at every opportunity.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm pleased for Walcott. I agree he's by no means the finished article but I expect that last night's performance will permanently improve his confidence.

    To be honest the entire England team needed a heavy dose of confidence, and it was apparent that they got it in the shape of that second goal. At that point they seemed to realise the game was won and played the kind of football we've been desparate to see from England for years.

    A bug thumbs up to Rooney as well who had a terrific second half.

  • Comment number 33.

    Apart from the result the most refreshing thing about the performance was the fact that we have seen that Capello is an attack-minded coach. His system was not 442 but closer to the continental 4231 but with only one anchor man (Barry). Put Gerrard in the other midfield role and the offensive aspect of the team will be even further enhanced (not that Lampard had a bad game - who did?).

    It was also gratifying to see Capello urging his team forward when we had those long periods of possession in the second half. Sequences of 40 or 50 passes are nice, they wear down the opposition and get the crowd chanting "olé" but Capello would prefer to see a goal at the end of it. GD is going to be a factor in this campaign with Ukraine also starting well and Croatia certain to bounce back and so we must be ruthless. I thus expect a similar attitide against the minnows from Kazakhstan and Belarus next month.

    With the country back behind the team, we can expect a more positive attitude from the fans at Wembley on October 11th and that will only help the team.

  • Comment number 34.

    What a performance and a night to remember. So many positives,Theo Walcott is a fine young lad with his head in the right place, J.T with a captains performance and Rio taking the loss of captaincy on the chin with a great show. I think although Heskey did a fine job last night it will be Dean Ashton playing that role in the near future and Micky Owen going back to the supersub he once was. Wes Brown is a reliable squad player to have but surely the future at right back is Michal Richards. Was happy for Lamps and Barry preforming well together but in the long run i would go for Hargreeves and Gerrard in the same roles. Role on another 6 points and roll on the good times...oh and thanks Fabio

  • Comment number 35.


    Until last night there had been little or no evidence that England are a good team for many years. No wonder we were all thinking that England were overratted.

    However, last night's PERFORMANCE was 5-star. It doesn't mean England are suddenly favourites for the World Cup but can't you give credit where it's due?

  • Comment number 36.

    Thats what England can do when the manager picks a team, not individuals. The balance was there, we had pace, we were able to hold the ball up in dangerous areas - and with out most of the "superstars"

    My own nagging question is will Capello try and pick Lampard AND Gerrard when Gerrard is back fit?

  • Comment number 37.

    Why are people claiming that the Red card was the turning point. It wasn't, once Walcott got his goal we played with a lot more confidence and Pletikosa had to save well from him another ten minutes later. For those of us who actually watched the game I'm sure we will have been pleased that we were solid the whole game, save for a couple of DJ's special flaps and the fact Modric had the ball too much in the first 15mins.
    Plus knocking the ball around towards the end was so nice to watch, showing that we can hold onto leads. Also should have been 5-0 not 4-1.

  • Comment number 38.

    I didn't see the game. Got more English language and international channels than you can shake a stick at, but still couldn't find anyone showing it (billiethezwerg, which German channel?). Anyway, most of the reports on the bbc seem to tally with other sites, so I guess Phil is about right? But what makes me laugh is some of the posters on here who yesterday where firmly rooted in the doom-and-gloom camp, but today have dramatically jumped over the fence with 'I told you so' and 'Come ooooon...'. Please spare a thought for us Ex-Pats who rely on you guys for accurate and unbiased points of view...

  • Comment number 39.

    An excellent performance by England and well done. Winning in Zagreb has proven to be nigh on impossible in recent times.

    I still however have big question marks over the captaincy of John Terry.

    I may be the only one who notices in incapability to lead and/or motivate a team.

    Capello got the tactics right and the players finally listened to him and played accordingly (except Roony who continuenly dropped too deep).

  • Comment number 40.

    So we will start with the world beaters nonsense again.

    Why do we over hype everything in this country, from football transfer fees, to players wages, to the cost of the stadium?

    No wonder everyone wants to beat us, it is to shut us up.

  • Comment number 41.

    They say it's better to be a lucky manager than a good one, don't they? ... well, the truth of that was amply demonstrated last night. I'm not talking about playing against 10 men, I'm talking about Steven Gerrard.

    Capello had a massive slice of good fortune in being forced leave him out. That was undoubtedly the single biggest factor in the
    the improved performance ... did you see how the whole team clicked when Stevie wasn't cluttering things up in the midfield?

    Capello ought to be offering up a heartfelt prayer to the God of Groin Strains.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am in Holland and could catch the game live on the German station ZDF.
    ZDF always seem to show live matches so keep an eye on it.

  • Comment number 43.

    "We have all been quick to criticise England and question Capello."

    With respect Phil this statement just goes to show why you, and most other England fans, know nothing about football. After the first qualifier it was the end of the world because you's won 2-0. Job done, while not playing well - isn't that how Championships are won? So desperate are you for any sensation that you make this out to be a major problem when it was quite clearly a decent result against a team whose only ambition was to defend.

    And now another win and you are at the other end of the scale. Capello is one of the best managers in the world and has won everything. Why exactly did you question him? You know naff all.

  • Comment number 44.

    Well done Fabio a concise disciplined performance. Shame about the nasty stuff from Croatia. Rooney was awesome. Defence was a bit shaky at times but that was lack of concetratioon but all in all..........Job done

  • Comment number 45.

    Cheers eirebilly.

    We get that here in Belgium also, but I think I've moved it to to channel 899 (just before all the dodgy radio channels that no-one listens to). I wouldn't have imagined that the England game would be on a German station, but there you go... I'll keep it in mind for the future.

  • Comment number 46.

    Stop saying "we" and "england". The majority of us couldn't watch the game or even the highlights. It's not our team anymore. And if national football federations are making such a lot out of england games and denying the vast majority of the english the chance to see the game then it is time to pay the players one off fees comensurate with the television fees.
    Come on Mr Terry. If the FA and foreign FA's won't let the english watch england then why are you playing for next to nothing. If you guys demand most of the fee this will stop and england will be england again.

  • Comment number 47.

    It's great to see people reacting positively about England again (finally) and making decent, insightful comments about the game. We looked really good, and if this and the Andorra match can tell us anything, it's that smaller teams that defend stubbornly can be much harder to knock goals past than our equals that will attack us as much as we attack them. Please remember this when we play against Kazakhstan.

    And regarding the Gerrard/Lampard thing, I'd also agree with the majority of the comments here: we need to choose one or the other and it shouldn't automatically be Gerrard. But what a great position for England to be in - being able to choose between two outstanding players in one of the most important positions on the pitch. It's not a problem, it's a blessing.

  • Comment number 48.

    They took their share of critics now they are taking away the praise.
    I think everyone will sing good songs for the Manager and players,the same people will start praising those they once criticized,it is a very strage thing how a human brain and heart changes.
    But when one team performs well they also get a helping hand from an opposition.When a very good team like Croatia underperforms a team like England what the kind of players they have will take advantage greatly.
    England are not done yet,there is still some work to do.
    Welcott did a fantastic job and that is because he wants to establish himself in the football world and the first stap towards it is playing good for England and catch some eyes,once he found that he wil be just as other English players thinking about the Club and Money in the bank.
    Capello was perfect when he choose Welcott,he knew he wold perform really well and with all his heart(for his own sake)and he did it.
    Rooney was great as well and he wants to provehimself as well.
    See these are the things that the Manager should look,a player with hunger gets the chance that is why he left out some big names out and introdused some unknows ones.I say all English people should Thank this Italian guy,his brain works and please get behind him.

  • Comment number 49.

    Congratulations Fabio, at last we have seen an England team playing as a cohesive unit. What a pleasure to see good quality players operating in their natural positions. For the first time in a long time, England looked capable of competing at the highest level.

    Well done.

  • Comment number 50.

    No probs europaddy; I only found it out myself a few months ago. Thats one of the best things about living on the mainland, there always seems to be a free channel somewhere. I can live with the german commentators as they are actually very unbiased.

  • Comment number 51.

    Was there any doubt?

  • Comment number 52.

    Here we go again.... We can now win the world cup etc. etc.

    The problem with England is consistency, we have proved we can beat the big teams before but never done it offen enough to warrent the tag of one of the best teams in the world.

    I still think we are a team of individuals, its just that occasionally they turn up and play. The link play between Theo and Rooney was promising however.

    It would be worth mentioning that only one player won us that game and it wasn't Theo. Rooney was magnificent, and made like easy for the other England player. Theo did do well to put his chances away (something we have been lacking in previous games) but questions would have been asked if he'd missed.

    There is a long way to go in the group and Beckham will still have a part to play, our set-pieces were awful apart from one decent effort from Lampard and with Beckham, you can be assured he will get the majority in the right places... something Heskey is desperate for!

    I wouldn't like to be Capello during his next team pick (Gerard back etc.) but he may try and find someway of accomodating both Walcott and Beckham. Could Walcott play on the left? Joe Cole is often a hit and miss player, he scores some vital goals but is often lost on the pitch for long periods. I can't think of a time I heard his name in the first half, Downing needs to improve before he makes the step, I feel that sometimes the occasion gets the better of him because he performs so well consisently for Middlesbourgh.

    However, it was a great performance from the team and lets give them the praise they deserve without getting ahead of ourselves. Capello will keep them level headed but it will be hard keeping the blood hounds (the press) at bay, leave the lads to do it their way and I'm sure we'll qualify with ease.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think the key phrase in your article is don't get carried away.

    We were poor in Saturdays match, maybe they thought it would be an easy game, and we have won two away matches which most of the other teams in the group will find hard to do, but England is England.

    Every time we think we've turned a corner we manage to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We hail an emerging player as the saviour of the English game, only to give him a pasting when he struggles in the next match.

    Lets enjoy the position we are in, top of our group, but remember this is just the start, we've been here before and seen it all turn to ashes.

  • Comment number 54.

    I still believe that the Manager is not the only man to blame,if the players a stuborn how can you make them perform,this is the biggest problem that England are facing,now this is where the Manager is requaried,he only has to find out a hunger part of his team,finding someone who is willing to give it all,someone who actually wants to perform for the National team and i guess Capello did found some players..
    Just as i thought he used the same line up that i mentioned yesterday,i thought why wonder who to play,you have some fine players all over the pitch,give them their best positions and they will deliver for sure,dont use ugly formation just for the sake of the fact that you have alot of Big names and you must play them.
    This is the main reason sometimes that England loses,every manager wants to play all this big name players,this is just not working,play the combination of big and not so big names and you will see the results.
    I say stick with this formation and the players,change is if one of them isnt performing well..
    If Lamps isnt doing well,introduce Gerrard,and if Barry isnt doing well Introduce Owen,Carrick,or Janes not Gerrard,he and Lamps just cant do the job togather,just because they are one of the best midfielders in the world you play them is something i feel is wrong.
    Use the simple formation of 4 4 2 since it is working and dont complete the whole formation by forcing all the big names in the team.
    Capello hasn't seen anything yet,they are a bigger test ahead but the kind of brain for football he ownes England will be OKEY.(just players have to listen that is all)

  • Comment number 55.

    Here we go again. 45 minutes of international football ago, the same players were booed off the pitch in Andorra. They pitch up and beat Croatia, albeit in superb style, and all of the pundits, McNulty included, go into overload.

    No doubt, it was a great performance, but what England need is to kick on from here and put in three, four or five of those kind of performances and then they will be proper contenders to actually win something.

    A little bit of balance from the press would be nice. They were never as bad as the press made them out to be, and by contrast they are not as good now as they are being made out to be. the truth lies somewhere in between at the moment.

    I am from Norn Iron and I think I speak for all the home nations when I say that the reaction of the fans to England is something that we just do not understand. We enjoy it when the team win and we still support them when they lose. It is bizzare to wake up this morning to read about how England will when the world cup on the back of this win, having read about how Capello, Lampard, Gerrard and co should all have been sacked for not knowcking 8 past Andorra.

  • Comment number 56.

    Anyone agree that Walcott needs a move (if only a loan move) to ensure he remains at a high standard for the games to come? Rotting on the bench at Arsenal is not going to help the national team's cause.

  • Comment number 57.

    Can't really add much to what's been said about England's performance - top work all round, I feel that having the team together for a decent length of time has really paid dividends.

    What I would like to add is a point about the Croatian fans - (apart from the small minority of racist meatheads) they all cheered their team on throughout - even when 4-1 down they were jumping.

    True fans, proud of their country, team and manager whether they win or lose - a rarity in football these days. Then again, Croatia's manager and players earned the right for that support - for a small nation to get up to number 5 in the world is damn impressive.

    Let's hope this England performance isn't flash in the pan and they can earn similar support from us.

  • Comment number 58.

    I wonder what people like Harry Redknapp, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright have to say about England now!!!!!!!! Or tabloids like "The Sun" who immediately branded Capello as clueless after only 3 games?Maybe having one of the best foreign managers in world football as opposed to a loud-mouthed English manager isn't so bad after all eh???

  • Comment number 59.

    maybe sven goran eriksson saw something inn theo walcott we all could not see. the flak the man took for taking the teenager to gernamy two years back is still vivid in my mind.

    good for england they have such a talent. lets allow him to mature. please wenger and capello nurture this precious diamond.

  • Comment number 60.

    It was indeed an excellent performance last night. Simple reason was that everybody was playing in their correct positions! Well done Fabio.

    As I had to watch this on a German channel I didn't get the biased commentary either. That said how in the world can this not be on the BBC? No other Country would accept this. It is our national side and should be on the national broadcaster, forget the money FA!!

    Anyhow I really enjoyed the game and feel that the team now has a good balance which bodes well for the future. Lets not get too carried away though there is still a long way to go.

    Well done England!

  • Comment number 61.

    It was a great result for England,of that there can be no doubt. But lets calm down a little before people start thinking we are world beaters after one game. Rooney was described as 'exceptional' by the BBC and I find that to be true only if you compare his performance to his poor ones for England in the past. He played very well and that's all. Considering the hype around players such as Rooney it is only to be expected that they are capable of providing quality passes like the one for Walcott's second goal. Croatia didn't seem on top of their game and Walcott's clinical finishing was the main dfference,not to mention the sending off prevented any realistic Croatia comeback and made it much easier for England to 'stylishly' knock the ball around. Capello and his players should be congratulated on a great night for English football but it's far too early to talk about Capello being the best England manager in recent times and too early to think that England have a realistic chance of winning the World Cup. If England were to go on to win the group undefeated after more performances of similar quality then I might be persuaded to think otherwise.

  • Comment number 62.

    I'm sorry Phil, but to start the Gerrard debate so soon after what was clearly a very cohesive and convincing performance away from home is shameful, and one that detracts from those that were involved, eg Barry and Lampard.

    I thought that the game was excellent, although I'm not sure that the Croatians were at full tilt for the most of it, but a great result none the less...lovely to see Walcott shine and Rooney start to find his form on the national stage.

    Hopefully we'll be able to build on this, and take it forward and that the boo boys will keep their traps shut and get behind the team, who ever is on the pitch.

  • Comment number 63.

    #56....Walcott can survive international football only if he continues to be with arsenal! he has to train everyday with worldclass players to improve and def wenger knows how to nuture him. If he moves on loan with a club not in top 4 i dont think capello will be picking him

  • Comment number 64.


    As the chief fooball writer for the BBC are you a little embarrased your views and predictions are so wrong? Does your work not get monitored and reviewed?

    It must be a journalist thing where you are unable to remember what you have written previously and quickly brush it under the carpet once it has been proved irrelevent.

  • Comment number 65.

    What a fantastic result and a great performance. It's certainly exciting to see the true potential of this team and how Capello can get them to play.

    But lets not get too carried away and label it is a 'game to go down in history'. This win means three points towards World Cup qualification. When England reproduce a display like that in a tournament semi or final, then we can reminisce about the wonderful England performances. Capello knows that so lets not make too much of it.

    The same has to be said of Walcott, the talent and potential are there and we saw it in all of it's glory last night; but lets not read too much into it. Walcott had a fantastic display, do we expect him to reproduce that almost every game now? If we do we'll end with a scenario similar to 4 years ago when Rooney was injured for the Euro's, all of the hope was in one player pulling off great individual performances over and over again to get us through and when he was injured we felt as though we had nothing. Walcott was fantastic; but it's more about the display of the team, if Walcott gets injured or loses form we need to make sure we don't put ourselves in an individual dependant situation. We're dependant on the team being successful, not an individual player or two.

    Well done England!

  • Comment number 66.

    Great performace, Walcott shone, and lampard and Rooney both had huge games. I would say that it was teh tactics that allowed the big players to shine however. With Theo and joe cole sticking to their wings it gave Lampard, Rooney and Heskey much more time on the ball and more space in which to create something. Everything worked well and England finally looked like the team that we all know they could/should be.

    On the Gerrard issue, I much prefer Gerrard both as a player and a personality, but Lampard had a good game yesturday and his disallowed goal was quality. Think that he plays with Barry better, as Lampard is mre of an attacking centre mid, and Barry is more than hapy to drop off and play a defensive midfield role.
    From what i have seen of Capello i can't see Stevie G stepping straight back into the team.

    Let just hope that at last England can find some form and hold onto it...

  • Comment number 67.

    It's a disgrace there are no highlights packages on terestrial television! It's not just that England got a fantastic result, but this is one of the key fixtures which will decide the group (assuming England don't throw away too many "easy" three points!). Setanta deserve to be lambasted for declining to allow this. When will they realise the majority have no interest in stumping up their membership fees just for Engalnd games. In these economic times it is not feasable for many to pay for both Sky and Setanta. Sky win every time in my book, because they offer so much more football, not to mention other mainstream sports.

  • Comment number 68.

    Woodsy1977 says it all.

    We are all boom or bust.
    Everyone knows the gutter press speak hyperbole rubbish, so why do people read it? If people stopped buying it they would stop printing it.

    And when will we stop this obsession with claiming we have 'the best in the world'. From the army, to Police to midfielders! Just accept what we do have and get on with it, not build everything up.

  • Comment number 69.

    Fantastic night.

    In reference to a couple of points made in this Blog.

    The symbolism of Walcott and Beckham embracing was huge - It was the first time in several attempts (Wright-Phillips, Lennon, Bentley) that we can feel assured of a worthy replacement. They are obvioulsy very different players, but Walcott represents England going forward, tactically, and with a genuine attacking threat from open-play (provided he remains consistent) we will (touch-wood) no longer rely on set-plays. Very Important Night.

    The point about the age-old debate of Lampard or Gerrard. For me, Lampard was hopeless and non-existent last night UNTIL we started playing well, at which point, even Jenas came on and looked like a world beater.

    My point is, until we got our (admittedly) lucky opening goal, Lampard was unable to lift us and was making little effort.

    It should also be noted that, last night, David James was shocking. Poor distribution, hopeless (STILL) at coming for crosses, that mad-moment outside the box. We need Ben Foster to get fit and step up asap I think.

    Options from here -

    James out Foster in
    Lampard out Gerrard in
    Ashton as the eventual replacement for Emile Heskey (he's just slightly more dynamic but can still perform that role which Heskey has done so well.


  • Comment number 70.

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

  • Comment number 71.

    lol @ Arconat, first of all, Croatia are far from being the 5th best team in Europe, let alone the world lol secondly, you show sign of a typical England fan, all you remember is the last match, I am pretty sure the next time England plays and draws at home against a team like Macedonia, you will be the one booing from the stand.
    It was an awesome performance, but this is no reason to get carried away. This is ONE match, Capello isnt all of a sudden the best coach of England in recent times. Yeah, you should all rejoice, but knowing the fickle fans of England, you will all be baying for blood should England drop un-necessary points. Take one game at a time, stop bigging up every victory, try to look forward, you aren't there yet...

  • Comment number 72.

    Congratulations to the Capello for getting england to play as a team and long may it continue.

    Also, very satisfied in seeing the gutter belittling tabloids silenced.

  • Comment number 73.

    You'll excuse me if I type with my mouth full as I'm currently eating my hat. I did say yesterday that I expected a lead footed hapless display from England and in truth I was proved wrong, wrong on the same level as Michael Fish uttering there will be no storm.

    So a sound display from England but sadly in a game that as an Englishman I couldn't watch because I don't want to, or feel should have to pay £9.99 to watch my country play football. Since when has watching England become pay-per-view?

    My comment on the Gerrard v Lampard debate which seems to rage on is that Gerrard is the most complete midfielder in the World and would walk into any team. As Sir Alex Ferguson said " The best result I could leave Anfield with would be Steven Gerrards signature". Lampard is a fantastic attacking player when he's playing well but at the same time he lacks Gerrards passing range and crossing ability, thats not to say his passing his awful it's just not Gerrard standard, also as we've seen many times Lampard couldn't tackle a traffic cone. This is why when he injures players ( ala Xabi Alonso and an ankle ) he offers the excuse that he's not a tackler.

    Lampard is a great attacking midfielder but the fact remains that Gerrard is better, hence Mourinho trying in vain to sign him...twice.

  • Comment number 74.

    Michael who ?????????????????????

  • Comment number 75.

    post 31

    spot on.

  • Comment number 76.

    2 years ago Sven-Goran Eriksson took a largely unknown young talent to the World Cup to give him experience of the big stage with the view that he would be the future of English football.
    I don't think anyone would disagree that picking a squad so short of strikers (1 of which was never going to play) was still a diabolical decision (especially after Owen got injured).
    However, are we reaping the rewards now?

  • Comment number 77.

    22. At 07:33am on 11 Sep 2008, bigsteviee wrote:

    .......Just a point to make to all the people lauding Rooney for being "sensational" again. Yes, he played well... once Croatia went down to ten men. He utilised the space left by the extra player brilliantly, but until then he was the same as he has been for the last four years. He didn't look like scoring and was completely ineffective. I'm sure I'll get plenty of people saying I'm wrong and that he was incredible all game but it just isn't true, he needed the space left by the sending off to be effective at all. That said he was very good when that space became available.............

    Before touching on your comment mate i want to firstly congratulate all the lads for a Splendid job.
    Back to your analysis bigsteviee...,i'm getting a bit sick and tired of these constant Rooney bashings.Who then is your option to that Rooney position,since you seem to have seen nothing from him for 4 years prior to that sending off. I don't know which games i have been watching because the Rooney I have watching for the past 4 years has been having a great impact to the team's play(even if it wasn't more aligned to scoring goals). Previous managers, like you, have failed to fully understand Rooney's capabilities .He is not an out and out striker type of lad. Please try to observe that. Ferguson Knows that.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think that Capello should probably stick with this side. By maximising possession they will always be in any game. I think if Capello were to include Gerrard as well as Lampard and Barry then it would be a return to the confusion in midfield we've seen time and again that leads to us giving the ball away too much. You havce to admit whether you like the guy or not, Gerrard gives the ball away far too much. But if this side that won last night needed to chase a win or equalise then Gerrard would be ideal to come on and help change the pace of the game in a way I dont think Lampard can. Hopefully Capello realises this.

    One change he could possibly make to the side would be changing Ashley Cole at LB for Joleon Lescott. I think Lescott would add more to an attacking England side than Cole does. I think Cole has suffered from a lack of competition for his place so it might do him some good.

  • Comment number 79.

    When will the powers that be realise that allowing live coverage of a game such as last night's in so few places will ultimately be self defeating.

    Congratulations England. One of many lessons to be learnt from the game is that there is no substitute for pace in attack. Every time I have seen Walcott play it is his speed that dazzles. Just ask fans of 1980s Liverpool what a truly fast centre forward can do for you: Rush by name, rush by nature. I hope Walcott's time has begun and endures for many years.

  • Comment number 80.

    Great result for numerous reasons here,

    This will be a massive boost for the squad and gives them something to build on for the rest of the qualifiers, definately given confidence back that was desperately needed.

    In Walcott Capello seems to have sorted the old right wing problem, albeit after one match it will be interesting to see how walcott can build on this.

    And finally....ROONEY SCORES!

    As a Man Utd fan I was delighted by this as it will almost certainly give him the extra confidence ahead of the Liverpool game this weekend,

    so all in all a good day for me! haha

  • Comment number 81.

    I do speak German as i live in the very north of Holland (close to the border).

    Can anyone please give me a reason as to why John Terry is still captain of England?? A good player but a terrible leader.

  • Comment number 82.

    Just on a side note, were there many people here that didn't know that Setanta showed the highlights late last night for free? I was driving home from work last night and it happened to be mentioned (thanks 5live), so was I one of the lucky ones or did everyone manage to catch it?

  • Comment number 83.

    Good game, the team functioned well. So why all this talk of bringing in guys who didn't take part because of who they are? I'm referring specifically to some comments on here about replacing Lampard and Barry. They complemented each other very well, so why mess it up by bringing in players who haven't done the job in the past or have been out injured? Makes no sense to me. Having said that, though, I wouldn't mind seeing Ashley Young and, possibly, Agbonlahor.

  • Comment number 84.

    77. I don't agree with Rooney not being an out and out striker, he is strong and relatively quick, good with both feet. He played striker at Everton and did very well, he bashes up defenders and they hate that. SAF bought him and plays him as a link up forward because thats how he can accomodate him in the MU side, and he plays the position very well. SAF likes to play him in the hole because it draws the attentions of the defenders away from the striker and Rooney is great at holding the ball up.

    MOYESYSIDE my boy, I don't think we are ever going to agree! I don't think Gerrard gives the ball away a lot, but hey Im a red and your a blue so thats to be expected! Lescott is a great defender, but like Carra I can see him becoming more and more a central defender as opposed to a left back. I think that were Ashley Cole lacks Lescotts strength, Lescott although quite quick isnt as fast as Cole and isnt as good a passer of the ball.

  • Comment number 85.

    6. At 02:57am on 11 Sep 2008, arconat wrote:

    ""Face it, we just aren't good enough any more, whine, whine! We don't have the players, whine, whine"!
    We just thrashed the so-called fifth best team in the world at their home stadium! What's your answer to that, whiners?"

    As a part time whiner... Croatia had 10 men... and I'm sorry we didn't play that well, we we're exceptional in parts only....

    It is true that in Capello we now have a world class coach whose in game decisions are coming off, as opposed to that twerp McClaren who isn't fit to manage a sunday league side and Sven who just got it wrong in game too often, BUT we still have basically the same overpaid egos out on the don't get too excited yet.

  • Comment number 86.

    Find it very entertaining how many people are posting comments about how brilliant England were etc etc. Yes they played well, yes it was the first half decent performance for a long time but I don't think it was the great perfromance some are claiming. Before we took the lead Croatia had plenty of possesion and our midfield was shown to lack the defensive power to cope with players like Modric as they had far too long on the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch. James flapped at at least two crosses that I remember and a defender had to clear a goal bound chance after it had beaten James. But lets forget all about those moments and focus on the fact that after they were reduced to ten men we found plenty of space to knock the ball around.
    Granted the sending off was just because the challenge was horrible, and Simunic should have already been warming the bath water up having been booked for his horrible check on Walcott and then bringing Rooney down quite intentionally on the edge of the area. All in all though it was a professional performance with Rooney, Walcott and Hesky all having a good game. But please can people stop going on about people need to eat their words this, and accept that Owen is history that. Michael Owen is still our best and most feared striker, he's not fit enough yet to make the squad and Capello kows that, but surely when the chips are down its wen over Defoe everytime because how many more chances does Defoe need in an England shirt before its accpeted he can't deliver at that stage.

  • Comment number 87.

    I had a suspicion that the media would start to hail England's victory as the 'greatest in recent memory' when it was anything but. The scoreline was emphatic and deservedly so as England tore through Croatia in the 2nd half but only after the loss of Kovac. In the first half England were slow, being run off the ball too easily, being closed down too quickly, misplacing sloppy passes and generally not really sure where they were going once the ball moved out of defence. If we want to compete then this has to be sorted and we need to play with the freedom we demonstrated in the second half.

    Considering that Capello made a big deal to the media about how he'd had a go at Cole and Rooney after Andorra for playing too deep did anyone else notice how deep Rooney was sitting?

    The second half was a great performance punctuated by positive forward passing football and a desire to work the ball rather than shoot from outside the area and this is what makes it so frustrating when I watch the previous England incarnations knowing the squad is capable of this. Work to be done yet.

  • Comment number 88.

    give me a break.
    what do you expect? england got the rub of the green, has a manager on £6.8 million a year and has a starting 11 which fielded 7 champions leage finalists.
    all in all, its the very least england fans should expect and a 2% payback for all the rubbish we've seen in the last 2years.

    don't go hailing this as something we should be grateful for. it's expected.

  • Comment number 89.

    A word for Emile Heskey, who I have always considered a great, great pro. No histrionics, no moaning when things didn't go well for him in the past.
    Here he was, proving yet again that he is a massive force when used by a coach who knows what he is doing.

    His presence and performance were immense - he wasn't the only one of course, but he is the one likely to be overlooked!

  • Comment number 90.

    Thanks for that comment about free access to highlights, stripeless. I did not know and was infuriated that there were no late night highlights when I arrived home at 10.45pm after a business meeting hoping to enjoy coverage.

  • Comment number 91.

    On the red card, I've seen Shearer and Rooney go up for balls like that week in, week out and take players out in the process. He won teh ball first then Cole caught him in a tragic mishap.
    If you played football, you would know how frankly impossible it is to go up for balls like that without raising yr arms to an extent.
    Ask Keown, Colin Hendry, Steve Bruce.. all these players famously go for headers and elevate themselves in exactly the same manner.
    Happens every saturday in the premiership.
    Only after the red, did the floodgates open.
    So that's one good performance in 2 years.
    Well done.

  • Comment number 92.

    Could it be that the dressing down Capello gave to Rooney and Cole set the tone for this game?
    "I'm the manager, do it my way and we've got a chance, do it your way and you're on your own"
    Nothing like a bit of managerial discipline to keep the lads in line and get them to perform to their abilities.
    At Real Madrid he dropped Beckham when he felt it correct, and will drop anyone who he feels will not perform 100% for him, for him being the operative thought.
    As long as players believe that he can get the best performance from them as a team, and are not side tracked by sports journalists trying to out think him, then we can expect many more wins than losses over the next few years.

  • Comment number 93.

    Re - 73. anfield81

    So what? It doesn't matter one bit whether Gerard is better than Lampard (or Greaves is better than Hurst - there have always been similar debates) all that is important is how best the team functions and last night England played the best they have for a long time, whilst Gerard was not there.

    If everyone is fit, I predict that Gerard will watch the next England match from the bench.

  • Comment number 94.

    McNulty calm down-England have only won a game and stop going on about Owen -Additionally Gerrard has not produced his best form in a white shirt for England-he can stay where he is for now-hunger might buck him up!!
    Wenger should direct Walcott and hopefully Rooney maybecome selfish again and get on the score sheet more often -Let us see if we get to the final.

  • Comment number 95.

    I am very, very worried this morning. I have yet to read a single headline or listen to a reporter say England are now favourites to win the World Cup.
    I mean, it surely has to be a certainty, doesn't it? One good win - England are world-beaters again. Everything that went before was like a series of Dallas - just a bad dream.
    Theo Walcott is s shoe-in for World Player of the Year, Fabio Capello the greatest manager in the history of the game and thank God England were so far-sighted as to welcome a foreign manager with open arms.

  • Comment number 96.

    Hi Phil,

    just wondered if you had any thoughts on some aspects of the defence?

    James seemed to be flapping around everytime it came anywhere near him.

    That aside, thought it was a decent performance.

  • Comment number 97.

    wenger doesnt play walcott properly as he's english.

    and on this result, give me a break.
    what do you expect? england got the rub of the green big time, croatia were poor on the night, missing eduardo and krankjar, england has a manager on 6.8 million a year and has a starting 11 which fielded 7 champions leage finalists.
    all in all, its the very least england fans should expect and a 2% payback for all the rubbish we've seen in the last 2years.

    don't go hailing this as something we should be grateful for. it's expected.

    On the red card, I've seen Shearer and Rooney go up for balls like that week in, week out and take players out in the process. He won teh ball first then Cole caught him in a tragic mishap.
    If you played football, you would know how frankly impossible it is to go up for balls like that without raising yr arms to an extent.
    Ask Keown, Colin Hendry, Steve Bruce.. all these players famously go for headers and elevate themselves in exactly the same manner.
    Happens every saturday in the premiership.
    Only after the red, did the floodgates open.
    So that's one good performance in 2 years.
    Well done.

  • Comment number 98.

    Excellent result, good performance once we'd scored. I will be happy once we play with that level of confidence in every match, not just when we're 3-0 up. To be fair, Croatia did crumble once the sending off happened but nevertheless, good to see us being ruthless. Disappointing to concede a goal too as we never looked in real danger - except the odd David James flap.

    Good to see Heskey play well; he's been quite underrated throughout his career, albeit he doesn't score enough for a striker. Still think the strikers should be Owen, Rooney, Crouch and probably Heskey - would give us lots of options.

    Walcott did well after the first 15 mins when his first touch let him down. Still think he's a bit lightweight and easiest muscled off the ball but to his credit he's lightning quick and provides options and creates chances which is exactly what we've been lacking.

    Still think this is a tough group, Ukraine are always a tough opponent and the Belarus (and Kazahkstan) is a bit of an unknown. But, two game

  • Comment number 99.


    No, surely that distinction must go to Wales.

  • Comment number 100.

    oops - meant to say.... But, two games, two wins, 6 goals. Can't really ask for more...


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