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Capello allows his mask to slip

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Phil McNulty | 00:33 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009

Fabio Capello's iron mask slipped for just a moment in a rare public display of emotion that emphasised the importance of England's scrambled victory against Ukraine.

A defiant double-pump of the fists followed by a sharp burst of applause at Wembley's final whistle, it revealed a hitherto hidden side to the normally stone-faced Italian who is guiding England expertly towards next summer's World Cup.

John Terry's bundled winner five minutes from time was not a thing of beauty. England's performance was not easy on the eye either - but maximum points at the halfway point of the qualifying campaign carries greater weight than marks for artistic merit.

Capello's open show of delight was so out of character it drew a question at his post-match debriefing and was explained thus: "It was because I understand the players and I understand the moment, When the referee whistled time I was very happy."

And why not? The reality - although both Capello and England's players are wise enough to resist say it - is that it will take a collapse of epic proportions to stop them reaching South Africa after this latest win.

England have done the donkey work in the group and their next two fixtures against Kazakhstan and Andorra represent as close to a guarantee of maximum points as it gets.

Capello will soon be reaching the stage where checks will need to be put in place against the traditional rash of over-expectation, and this laboured performance against an unremarkable Ukraine side may help to do just that.

England will surely qualify on cruise control barring a catastrophe, the sort Capello's pragmatism will guard against, but they are still a work in progress when set against the majesty of Euro 2008 champions Spain - who they may have to overcome in South Africa.

They will get to South Africa. What they will do when they get there is still a matter for debate.

England were pedestrian, lacking pace and urgency, for long periods at Wembley. Too careless in possession and too generous at the back, effectively gifting a goal to Andriy Shevchenko that almost wrecked their flawless record in Group Six.

But it is also a tribute to the resilience injected into England by Capello that they dug out a vital victory from the mediocrity of much of this display - a sign that the team is starting to mirror the winning mentality of their coach.

England have come a long way since the night Steve McClaren stood under his infamous brolly and watched a nation's Euro 2008 hopes come crashing down on his head against Croatia, and the way Capello's players roused themselves from the shock of Ukraine drawing level to run out winners proved it.

Capello was satisfied in victory, playing the percentage game to brush off a rather partisan, not to mention ungenerous, assertion from a visiting Ukranian journalist that "you win because you are lucky."

Fabio Capello chats with Stuart Pearce while David Beckham prepares to appear

England were not lucky. They were not impressive either - so where do they stand midway through a qualifying campaign that is surely already destined to end in South Africa?

It is tough to pick holes in a team with a maximum 15 points on the board - but there are areas of concern to address.

Goalkeeper David James will be almost 40 by the time the World Cup's opening ceremony takes place. He is no closer to inspiring total confidence now than he has been at any time during his career and yet he remains unchallenged as first choice.

He made two crucial saves in the friendly against Slovakia, but his save from Anatoliy Tymoschuk was, at best, unorthodox although he will rightly say it got the job done.

James must be put under greater pressure for his place and it is to be hoped Ben Foster and Joe Hart can find regular football somewhere - or West Ham's Robert Green is finally put to the test once and for all.

Ashley Cole is suffering a serious crisis of confidence, one Capello will hope is temporary. He was poor in possession against Ukraine and looks a shadow of the player who has made the left-back position his own for so long.

Cole's place can no longer be taken for granted, so what price Manchester City's Wayne Bridge or Everton's improving Leighton Baines getting their chance?

Capello's central defence is well-catered for in the shape of Terry and Rio Ferdinand, although it is easy to see why Ledley King is so coveted by England's coach. He would add another dimension - but can he be a serious option for the short, intense combat that comes with a World Cup?

England's midfield did not work as slickly as it did against Slovakia - but has shown enough promise to suggest Capello's revamped formula has the makings of a success.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will never have the side built around him, so he is likely to stay in his current position on the left side with licence to wander - leaving the key central areas to Frank Lampard and either Gareth Barry or Michael Carrick.

One task that is sadly beyond Capello is combining the pace of Aaron Lennon with the product of David Beckham. The dilemma was on public view at Wembley, where Lennon's pace was in evidence as usual, but it needed the delivery of Beckham to help create the winning goal.

Beckham's role is now identified as an impact substitute, so Capello will be hoping Arsenal's Theo Walcott can avoid further accidents and fulfil the golden promise he has shown when the World Cup comes around.

And then there is Wayne Rooney. Indefatigable, inspirational and occasionally on the edge, as seen by his wild challenge on Oleksandr Aliiev which was not quite as "normal...perfect" as Capello described in the after-match exchanges.

Ukraine coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko provoked wry smiles with a Wengeresque "I didn't see it" but Rooney was sailing close to the wind and many officials may not have taken referee Claus Bo Larsen's lenient view.

England simply cannot afford to be without Rooney if they are to have any chance of winning the World Cup - his efforts against Slovakia and Ukraine only underline this fact.

Capello's meticulous approach means these crucial details about his developing team will not have escaped his attention, but the simple fact he can address them with maximum points secured in England's World Cup group will only add to his satisfaction.


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  • Comment number 1.


  • Comment number 2.

    At last we have a manager who commands respect from the players and is gettng the right results. Keep up the good work Fabio.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think last nights performance was very average. When England come up against a team with guile and know how they will come undone. James and "Cashley" Cole are real liabilites and Gerrard is paying the price for bieng the most gifted and versatile midfielder on the planet. Also can someone tell me how Heskey and Carlton Cole be ahead of Crouchy in the international set up. if Crouch is used properley by the team BALL TO FEET guys not just lump the ball up to flick on he brings the midfield into play and his goals to game ratio is the best of the three strikers. Although most of them againts weaker teams you can only do what you are good at and this is score.

    I feel England will go to S. Africa on another wave of euphoria and fail unless we can sort out the GK, LB and CF positions sooner rather than later.

  • Comment number 4.

    When will ashley young get his chance? He is much better than Lennon in every department (save pace), he can play on either wing and has the best delivery of any winger in england (obviously except Beckham and possibly Bentley on his day)

  • Comment number 5.

    "a rather partisan, not to mention ungenerous, assertion from a visiting Ukranian journalist that "you win because you are lucky."

    And that's wrong is it? And you are not a partisan journo yourself you are quite objective are you? Did England create enough to merit something from the game? Says it all that towards the end it looked like the fans and players had given up, a goal was nowhere near coming. Is 3-4 half-chances, either from set pieces or from long range efforts, enough to deserve the win? Let me tell you, if you can't work it out. Not in a million years.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hmmm yes....

  • Comment number 7.

    Qualifying is a slog. It's 10 games - played over 15 months in between your top players having vital club matches and club careers distracting their focus.

    Sometimes you will still be able to play well - as we did in Croatia. Sometimes against, decent if not remarkable opposition (as Ukraine are), you will have to find a way to win ugly. Sven was a master of it - Capello seems even more expert in the art.

    Sven's failing was around being able to develop that and improve upon it when he had the time at a major championships to work with the players. His other failling was luck. Essentially - plan Bs in international football are pointless. What you need is your best players - fit and fresh to enact your game plan.

    Sven went to 2002 without Gerrard and with a half fit Beckham. He went to 2004 with a fit squad and just as we looked to be clicking (1-0 up in a quarter final) Rooney's foot snapped. He then went to Germany with a half fit Owen and with Rooney even less than half fit.

    If Capello can work in a more efficient way when he has that time with the squad in a tournament summer - and get a little more luck than Sven had - then who knows?

  • Comment number 8.

    "England have come a long way"

    In all honesty, England don't seem to have made any progress. Nothing has changed. Their performances are reminiscent, if not identical, to those against 2nd tier opponents in major tournaments, the likes of Ecuador, Paraguay, Trinidad, Sweden, Nigeria. Where everyone (manager, players and above all the media) were telling us that it doesn't matter if you don't play well, the important thing is getting through. And when the wheels come off against sterner opposition, they either look for scapegoats or try to find where it's all gone wrong.

  • Comment number 9.

    Why when Manchester United or Liverpool play badly and win is it described as what it takes to win the Premiership but when England do it is critised. Until England play a top side we will not really know how good they are and that will not really happen until South Africa 2010 anyway.
    It can only ever be about results and a couple of excellent 10 minute spells can be enough to get through rounds into the Semis of Final of a world cup, at present England have the players to do this.

  • Comment number 10.

    And what about all those match-deciding refereeing decisions that have gone in favour of England in recent games? Against Ukraine twice, Russia at home, Croatia home and away? In the past against Argentina, Brazil, Greece etc? In fact, apart from a borderline penalty in Russia, I cannot recall a single major call that has wrongly gone against England in recent history.

  • Comment number 11.

    England were very pedestrian last night. It seemed like the game was being played in slow motion and a lot of this was down to the fact the Crouch played.
    While he can hold the ball up well he cannot ru n in the channels and this was a major problem as we didn't stretch Ukraine.
    The fact that we got the win papers over the blindingly obvious cracks... James, Cole etc!

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good result out of a not so great performance. Perhaps against Andorra or Khazakstan Capello should try utilise Gerrard in the free role behind the main striker instead of stuck out on the left with a license to roam? Surely has got to be worth a look after the way he has played at Liverpool.

    Rooney must kerb that hot head a little or we'll see a carbon copy of Beckham's infamous sending off.

    I think Lampard was largely ineffective last night, barely a mention of him on the tv.

    With Capello at the helm, perhaps we can look forward to 2010 in South Africa with more optimism than there has been for a long time....

  • Comment number 14.

    There is something wrong with you lot. 15 from 15 and you are unconvinced. Fine Give someone else your place in South Africa until you can play like Brazil and still not win the world cup.

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree with all of that.
    I was at the game last night and i'm afraid David James is a huge worry. I was sat directly behind that shot which he seemed to 'shoulder' away, and it didn't move in the air at all. There will come a point in a major game where he will cost us big time.
    Also, Rooney's tackle looked dreadful, you could see it coming the minute he didn't a free-kick for him just before..

    I agree that we've got a fair bit of work to do before we can seriously consider ourselves contenders next year, but if we continue to progress under Capello at the rate we have done already, then we should be in good shape.

    Also, Argentina lost 6-1. Happy days.

  • Comment number 16.

    bad performance, good result...simple as really.

    We will get to the world cup, we should get through the groups, we probably wont progress any further. But after missing out on Euro 2008 id settle for that.

    We have great players, but have many great weaknesses, praise to fabio for getting the results he has, but I hold no serious expectation we can compete with the likes of Spain etc....allthough maybe against Argentina after there 6-1 defeat!

  • Comment number 17.

    Am I the only bemused how Terry got MOTM award on the other channel (BLAH!!!).

    Obvioulsy he got the winner (SET UP ON A PLATE BY THE EVER INDUSTRIOUS GERRARD).

    Surely (AND I HATE SAYING THIS COS HE IS A MANC) Rooney should have got it. I know he dived in to one lunge (only once though) but he was still the most industrious player out there along with Gerrard and them two where head and shoulders above anyone last night (SEE BBC PLAYER RATER) voted for by proper fans.

    I think the guys over on ther other side must have been drinking or something.

    I also believe that with the uncertanty in the GK both Rio and JT are nervous at times. I hope Ben Foster (again this hurts another manc) gets some footy time cos I think he is going to be the England No1 for a long time. Flappy James is over the hill and never been v.good, R. Green far to inconsistent and that only leaves Foster.

    Also why can we not use W. Bridge at left back far more reliable than "Cashley".

    I am starting to like the look of G. Johnson at right back LFC should have bought him I think.

    Lennon needs work and I think when Theo is fit and well he will be mostly warming the bench along with Becks.

    Centre Mid looks to be improving and when Carrick plays instead of Barry I think we will be more solid and inventive. I like Barry but I think sometimes he tries to hard for England instead of playing his natural game like he does at Villa. ENGLAND ARE GOING THE RIGHT WAY AND FABIO IS PROVING HE CAN GET THE BEST OUT OF PLAYERS BUT LETS NOT GET CARRIED AWAY ONLY TO BE DISSAPOINTED.

  • Comment number 18.

    why does capello only use beckham as an impact sub when clearly he performs better than anyone else capello has tried in that position. it is all very well having pace, but you wouldn't put usain bolt in a football team just becuase he is fast. beckham never had speed but always had vision and produced quality balls, such as the one leading to the goal last night, or the through ball that rooney eventually wasted.

  • Comment number 19.

    To poster 4...very fair point made about Ashley Young. It is to be hoped Fabio Capello gives him a run to test out whether he has what it takes at full international level.

    Young's form has shaded, along with Aston Villa's in recent weeks, and I would take issue with manager Martin O'Neill's claim that he is "world class", as he stated earlier this season.

    He is, however, an outstanding young prospect and is certain to be on Capello's radar.

  • Comment number 20.

    The fact that England fail to dominate a side ranked 15th in the world, at home, confirms their position in that particular range of the rankings. 15th up to the fringes of the top 10, never good enough to come close to a major trophy on merit, but it's knockout football and "impossible is nothing".

  • Comment number 21.

    Why do people always wants results but ONLY if it was a great performance. Take the 3 points and stop whinging.

    If we play like last night in every game between now and winning the World Cup Final is anyone really going to care? Its results that matters. Period.

  • Comment number 22.

    The U-21's, after struggling on a 2-legged tie against an average Wales side, were also outplayed by France at home the other night, even though that didn't make it very high on the BBC news, so on that evidence the future of English football looks pretty bleak.

  • Comment number 23.

    England haven't come a long way. They are back to where they were with Sven.

    In other words, once again, they have a coach that is good enough to make sure that they qualify for the major tournaments. Beyond that, it is difficult to know, until they play in the latter stages of a world cup, whether the team has moved on. Lets hope they are going in the right direction.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think this is a good analagy of last nights game and the progress England are making... however can they win a major trophy with this side i very much doubt it.

    Lampard doesn't do enough in the middle of the park, he drifts in and out of games and at this level thats not good enough. As for Gerrard, as much as i like him i believe against decent opposition his "left midfield" role will be taken advantage of. He's a second striker now, the same mould of rooney and in a 442 you cant accomedate the pair of them.

    I think James's time is up also... he will NEVER inspire confidence. And Cashley Cole is poor so that needs to be addressed and im still under the opinion Terry should not be first choice !

  • Comment number 25.

    No doubt England deserved to win. They were the better side. I'm still unsure about some departments of the England side, but you couldn't expect much more from them in the qualifiers so far. I'm sure we'll be told how we'll struggle against teams like Argentina... oh wait on, they were thrashed 6-1 by Bolivia! Ouch!

  • Comment number 26.

    ‘NikosBg’ you have a fantastic ability to litter all football blogs with wholly inaccurate comments. You seem to think playing devils advocate to every BBC pundit and slamming the relevant team/teams as distinctly profound thinking.

    Take today’s comment for example. How can you suggest England haven’t come along way? Granted they still have a long LONG road ahead to warrant any true optimism about success in S.Africa, however they have undoubtedly developed from previous years. When you sit at home and watch them, I don’t expect Brazil like football, nor do I expect efficient German football, I expect an English performance i.e. good in patches, dire in patches and down right boring in some places. But suck it up because that is just how we play.

    The main point is that when I watch England under Capello and England aren’t playing that well and go on to concede, my head does not hit the floor nor do I feel the need to criticise their performance on websites. Instead I sit there in the knowledge that Capello knows what he’s doing and there is a good chance England will fight back and overcome their opposition.

    This team is developing (painfully slowly I admit) but developing none the less.

  • Comment number 27.

    After years of watching England teams fall apart when the going gets tough it's nice to see a new resolve amongst the players to dig deep and play for 90 minutes. Capello must take all the credit for this and long may it continue all the way to SA and at least a chance of progressing beyond the quarter finals - as long as we avoid Spain and the Dutch boys.

  • Comment number 28.

    Let us not forget that Mr Capello is Italian, he is happy to create three chances in a game and score one of them.

    The football being played across the back and through midfield is generally very good under this management and the team seem to be enjoying the system that they are being asked to play.

    It is also good to see Stuart Pierce in the dugout with Capello, could it be possible that he might move up to the full England job in the not too distant future.

  • Comment number 29.

    Nothing wrong with a win over one of your main rivals in qualifying. What was the stat from last night, something like England's group is the only one with three teams in the FIFA top 20? England have won all five of their matches, including an impressive win in Croatia. Not even Spain wins all their matches convincingly. It looked like England did just enough, and created enough chances, to merit scoring two goals and winning the match. Cashley did have a nice tackle on Voronin early on, but he's so casual with the ball. Probably too busy thinking up his latest apology to St. Cheryl.

    For what it's worth I'd stick Barry on the left when England have the ball, then ask him to drift into the middle when they don't, but all things considered Capello seems to be doing a generally fab job. And nice to see Crochie score and prove he can do so against more than just the minnows.

  • Comment number 30.

    What a surprise. England win again, and who comes on to snipe at the performance? Why, it's that annoying little anglo-phobe, NikosBG. Accept it mate, England are getting better. We know that we aren't there yet, but we're getting there. It's better to play like Germany and win, than play like Brazil and lose. Besides, how could anyone knock a team that has won all 5 of their qualifying matches? In the only group with 3 teams from the Top 20 in the FIFA rankings? Your logic, or rather lack of it, makes no sense.

  • Comment number 31.

    I was playing for my local side last night so i only saw the last 2 minutes of the game last night. I dont know how we played and i can only have my oppinions based on facts. Fact we won the game, Fact we let an unfit, over-rated, not in-form (substitute at that) player score. Fact most people on this blog including PM have said that we didnt play well.

    When the england fans gave the team a standing ovation after the win against the kazacks i was in bewilderment (to say the least) as to why. IMO we should be beating a team of part-time farmers 5-1, we even conceeded a goal against them! if we had beaten them 12 nill then i would have applauded them as they would have EXCEEDED expetation. I just dont see that happening often enough, if at all.

    Why does the Cappo insit on using beckham as an impact player? surely over this qualifying campaign he has been our difference. He should be starting and then the likes of lennon, young, SWP, Walcott can use their pace against the oppositions defence.

    However as a liverpool fan i have to back a manager who's strategic plans are different to what anyone would ever see possible. so in Cappo we trust.

    What do you guys think. PM is this our time this time round? (AGAIN)

  • Comment number 32.

    England have showed how good they are against a 'proper' side...Spain 2 England 0 - a scoreline that flattered the English!

  • Comment number 33.

    We could win the World Cup. But we probably won't. But it will be fun finding out: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 34.

    It looked as though a lot of players were below par last night.

    Cole initially looked nervous, although I thought he improved in the latter stages of the match.

    Lampard struggled for any real involvement in the game, although part of the reason for that was the Ukraine tactics in saturating the central midfield area with players.

    Gerrard started well but faded quite quickly.

    Terry was not great defensively.

    Yet despite the dissapointing performance there are three massive pluses:

    1. Capello still going for the win when he could have settled for the draw. Other managers may not have done that.

    2. England finding something extra and raising their game to come back from the equaliser. Recently, previous England team have not been able to do that.

    3. The result.

    But, we are still way over dependent on Rooney.

    Assuming we get to the World Cup finals, there is no way he will avoid suspension of at least one game in the tournament. Its amazing to think that in the past, players like Ian Wright could not hold down a starting place in the England team, he would walk in now, where have all the strikers gone?

  • Comment number 35.

    NikosBg you've got a serious chip on your shoulder about England. So what if we only just edged past the side ranked 15th in the world. Argentina lost 6-1 to Bolivia that's just plain awful and Spain weren't exactly convincing in either game against Turkey. These are end-of-season qualifiers when most of the players are extremely tired/injured/fatigued and are never at their best you can't expect them to play fantastically all the time. Sitting top of the group with maximum points is great no matter how you look at it.

  • Comment number 36.

    oh be quiet Nikos. we get your point, your anti-England.

  • Comment number 37.


    If you hate English football so much, which you clearly do, they why on earth do you feel the need to comment on it all the time!!

    Do us a favour and take your bitter little diatribes elsewhere!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Oh NikosBg, your satirical comment is biting! What are you trying to say? No seriously, what are you trying to say? Because your comments seem completely and utterly pointless to me.

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't understand the frequent assertion that England can't be without Rooney as a rationale for including him in the starting lineup. After all, if his frequent thuggish outbursts (or worse) get him red-carded, sometimes in very important games, then the team would be without him or a substitute. He must be taught the lesson anger management is essential, but if he's included in the team whenever he's fit, then he won't learn that lesson.

    I think Capello can try putting Gerrard in his slot. Then, when he's proven he's learned to control his temper, bring him back.

  • Comment number 40.

    A solid left back is needed if Gerrard is to be played on the left Leighton Baines fits this bill he is consistent and has excellent delivery from the back and capable of putting in good crosses. Sqaure pegs in round holes still in midfield though. Lampard himself said he felt constricted in the role he was asked to play, why not then play Carrick who has shown at United and England(against Germany he was the best player on the park)that he has the ability to defend and supply the correct ball to the forwards not the punt up the field to Heskey/Crouch or whoever. Capello seems to like the target man with Rooney working off him but with the use of pacey wingers such as Wright Philips, Walcott or Lennon whose use of the ball is n ot as good as Beckham's but with the movement of wide men like that and Gerrard drifting in would it not be better to partner Rooney with the likes of Defoe Owen (if fit?
    The spanish showed that with that type of movement from the forwards and midfield you can take nayone apart. Excelelnt result last night which we wouldn't have got with Maclaren it would have been points dropped and excuses. Well done Capello but needs to do better to have a hope of winning the world cup.

  • Comment number 41. finished yet???

    So lets see...England were lucky (OK rooney probably should have gone - still 1-0 at that stage though), didn't deserve the win (well they did because they scored 2 and Ukraine scored 1! check the rule book that's how games are won, not by playing superbly - although it does help), have made no progress under capello (Under his predecessor we didn't qualify for the Euro's, under Capello we have 5 wins in the 5 matches that have mattered), can't beat a side ranked 15th in the world (well there 14th (and we beat them)- but hey croatia are 7th (2 places above England) and we beat them 4-1 away), have had only 1 (Russia penalty) bad decision against them in recent history (legitimate disallowed goals against Portugal ('04) and Argentina('98) chalked off in extra time of games in tournaments - lost on penalties in each - come to think of it that's quite unlucky!), under 21's are poor.

    Let me see global warming is going to have destroyed the earth by 2020 and the recession will never end!

  • Comment number 42.

    Capello is looking top drawer and has instilled a winning mentality into the team, even when they don't play well like against the Ukraine. It didn't half look like we missed Heskey to me. Judging by Wednesday night Crouch tends to grab a goal but change the whole way we play for the worse. Future friendlies definitely need to be used into looking at other options when Heskey is out. But that seems to be another of Capello's strengths trying different players in different positions and formations in friendlies and not getting sucked in to trying to win every single friendly no matter what.

    As for Gerrard on the left from now on I'm not sure about that. He is our first choice centre midfielder no question, but you don't really get the best out of him on the left. Long term Joe Cole is ahead of him on the left and if Shaun Wright-Philips had been fully fit I think he can do a good job down the left.

  • Comment number 43.

    In reply to NikosBg.

    You seem very bitter about something. You keep coming up with baseless statements and provide no evidence to support them.

    Post #8: "In all honesty, England don't seem to have made any progress. Nothing has changed."

    I'm sorry, but we didn't qualify for the last tournament so winning 5/5 so far in this one is certainly progress. We also have the best goals/games ratio of any team in Europe so far in qualifying. The performance last night didn't matter because we won. When Man Utd went 14 league games without conceding earlier in the season they won 8 of the games 1-0 and drew two 0-0. But, guess what? It doesn't matter because they ended up top of league!

    I'm not sure what major refereeing decisions you are referring to in regards Argentina, Brazil and Greece. I'm assuming you mean the penalty in 2002, Ronaldinho's sending off and Beckham's last minute free-kick - all of which were fair decisions.

    Also, in the 2004 q-final vs Portugal England had Sol Campbell's last-minute goal inexplicably ruled out and we lost on penalties. So there's a big one that went against us.

    In regards to the U21's, they may have lost the other night but that was only their second defeat in over 2 years. Didn't they qualify for the European Championships with a 100% record? That looks pretty good to me, not bleak at all.

    Why bother posting unless you actually know what you're on about and have something to contribute to the wider debate?

  • Comment number 44.


    We get it .... you don't like England and know little about football.

    As for last night, England beat what was in front of them, which wasn't particularly difficult.

    I agree with those that say we have progressed. This is a game we would have drawn a few years ago

  • Comment number 45.

    Let's take it as job done. All teams need to win when not on top form, as is often quote in the Premier League. If you need evidence in the international arena, just look at Spain's last two games against Turkey.

  • Comment number 46.

    A couple of more measured comments have been made of late "reaching the semi's" appears to be an ambition. I hope that remains the case but I doubt that it will. Once qualified the bookies (In Britain of course) will make England amongst the favourites, the tabloids will go all jingoistic and the TV pundits will say what people want them to say "England could easily win this" or some such tosh. Capello is no doubt a shrewd man but he can only work with the players available and too many of them are not up to scratch (at the very highest level.) European countries do not win the World Cup when it is played outside of our continent, the current crop look unlikely to change that stat. A semi-final place for England would be a good achievement.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think most who watched the game would accept there is a lot of work to be done before this team is any more succesful than those of Erikson, Keegan and Hoddle. The worrying area for me, other than goalkeeper as rightly stated in the article, is in the centre of midfield. Gareth Barry looks well below the standard for an international midfielder ref. David Batty 1998 and Lampard is the wrong type of player to dominate and orchestrate the game. Until we can find two world class players to dominate the game from central midfield the team will always struggle. The obvious choices are Carrick and Gerrard but as yet they are untested together.

  • Comment number 48.

    Why oh why oh why oh why oh why doesnt Robert Green get a run in the England side? he has been excellent for west ham all season (the last 3 seasons in fact) He has everything, he is a fantastic shot stopper, commands his area well, is faultless on crosses. People may think im biased as I am a west ham season ticket holder but i think that just makes me best qualified to have an opinion.

    James is a catastrophe waiting to happen, even yesterday against a very mediocre Ukraine side, he came tearing off his line a couple of times, causing panic stations for the defence.

    Nothing against Jamo as he has been a decent goalkeeper but I just cannot imagine him being first choice when the World Cup gets under way in Summer of 2010. If that is the case, why not give someone else some experience now?

    Foster - played once or twice all season.
    Hart - Not playing at the moment but do rate him.
    Robinson - Dont be silly
    Kirkland - always injured
    Carson - Awful goalkeeper

    Its has to be Green...

  • Comment number 49.

    NikosBg have you ever posted a constructive comment to any of these blogs? you've managed to post 7 or 8 to this thread and everyone makes you appear like a whiny little attention seeker...apologies if this isn't the case.
    On the game England weren't brilliant but won and in qualifying the win is all important.

  • Comment number 50.

    Can someone put Nikop out of his misery and give him some attention?

  • Comment number 51.

    NikosBg you bore me, you really do.

  • Comment number 52.

    I agree with all those who say we have returned to Sven-like efficiency. You can't expect England to start knocking the ball round like Brazilians just because they are selected for the national side. We need to be disciplined in qualifying and get a bit of luck in the finals. By that I mean have all our players stay fit and win a penalty shoot-out or two.

    Sven didn't have that luck, hopefully Fabio will. If we can find one or two more world-class players between now and SA, then that will increase our chances.

  • Comment number 53.

    I am concerned about England's base in midfield. Against the less ambitious sides (i.e. Ukraine at home) who will sit behind the ball, any two from Carrick, Barry, Hargreaves or Lampard are fine. But in a major tournament against, say, the likes of Xavi/Iniesta or Pierlo/Gattuso, they will show that being 'solid' in a multinational club side is not the same as being a world class internaional.

    Barry is limited. He does the basics well. Carrick passes nicely, but doesn't dominate or control games. To win a major tournament, always played in the energy-sapping height of summer, you need to control the football, not chase it. England's high tempo, kick-and-run game, will see them fail in world cups for decades to come.

  • Comment number 54.

    if we play like that against a top 10 team in the world, or one with a bit of ingenuity in attack, we will be found wanting.

    Cashley needs to take a serious look at himself as a player (the type on the pitch that is!) and rooney needs to somehow curb that streak in him that will inevitably get him sent off in a world cup finals, that will probably end in england's exit.

    capello is a master, so lets hope he can work his magic at the finals, which england must surely now be attending.

    wally with a brolly... who's that then?!

  • Comment number 55.

    I think last night's game proved that Barry really isn't the answer for England. The game seemed to pass him by at times, and he should have conceded a penalty (as well as a possible second yellow) in all fairness.

    It should, in my opinion, be Carrick and Lampard in the middle.

  • Comment number 56.

    Luck is terribly important in any walk of life, and you make your own luck by excelling and working hard at your trade. England worked hard last night, slightly below par second half, but it was 'job done'. Would it have been 'job done' two years ago under a different manager? I very much doubt it.

    Crouch had a great match and well done to the bloke. However, long term Rooney partner? Well everyone likes to see Gerrard have a license to play at his discretion, espescially through the middle, so why not Rooney and Gerrard up front? Free up the left for Joe Cole along with Walcott on the right.

    Ashley Cole, I counted pass the ball to the opposition six times, that is just not good enough. Not good at park football level let alone internationals. Perhaps a case for Wayne Bridge? I say Bridge over Baines purely through WB's experience, assuming we have no friendlies from now until June.

    Goalkeeper is also another area where we are very lightweight, in my opinion. I don't think 'Calamity' James gives confidence to his defence. But where are those pushing him for position? I would love to see the young Utd keeper, Ben Foster, play more regularly at club level as I am sure he has the qualities to take the no.1 shirt with England.

    I think Capello is getting a good shape and balance, plus the much needed confidence into this England side and right now my preferred England line-up would be;

    James (GK) - sadly no-one else with the experience currently

    Johnson (RB)
    Ferdinand (CB)
    Terry (CB)
    Bridge (LB)

    Walcott (RM)
    Lampard (CM)
    Barry (CM)
    J.Cole (LM) - obviously when fit again

    Gerrard (CF) - playing behind Rooney
    Rooney (CF)


  • Comment number 57.

    Why does everybody slate england?
    So what, they enevr put in a massive performance and won emphatically.
    At half time, we were 1-0 up to please this ever judgemental crowd.
    I feel we was lucky to win at the last, and maybe we should have defended better and kept possession without losing it with sloppy passing.
    However, results mean more than the performance at hand, as we have maximum points from the world cup qualifying campaign.
    Gerrard was brilliant all night and i'm glad to see all the top stars combining as well as they have been for the past few games of late.
    There are a few negatives from our performances, but im sure Don Capello will lead us to world cup glory!
    c'mon white army

  • Comment number 58.

    This game was a potentil banana skin, for which England and Capello should get a lot of credit for avoiding. We didn't do it with style, and there are several problems with last night's display, but there's time to address them. The important thing is that we won, and have made life as easy as possible to qualify. A much improved regime and return in comparison to the last Euro campaign.

    The main reasons why I say it's a banana skin avoided are:

    1) This game came at exactly the wrong time for most of the England players. It's squeeky bum time in both the Premiership and the CL.

    2) Ukraine are a better side than most people give them credit for. Often we don't give countries credit until they beat us. Not sure if people noticed, but the much maligned Slovaks beat the Czechs last night!

    3) Wembley has not been a happy hunting ground for us recently. Capello recognised this, with crowds growing increasingly concerned with performances pre-Capello. His decsion to opt for early fixtures away has proven to be a masterstroke. Confidence has improved. There is however still work to do before Wembley becomes the fortress it should be.

    4) As Capello has stated recently, the players are tired.

    All in all a great result. The performance wasn't our best, but the job is done and life is looking good.

  • Comment number 59.

    I hate this disease in English football where any player that is fast and has 'great pace' is lauded as good (and if a team is losing it is because they 'lack pace').

    What a complete load of nonsense. This leads to the country declaring Aaron Lennon international standard despite the fact he looks utterly brainless on a football pitch and his decision making again questions whether he has a brain between his ears.

    This is also why people call for the 'world class' Young to be in the squad as he ticks all the boxes: pace, power and no brain.

    The reason A.Cole is still seen as our best left-back is because he has great pace, power and can't never, ever deliver an assist from one of his blind crosses or passes from the flank.

    But any major, glaring defect in a players game is instantly overlooked if he can run fast and looks powerful. Just look at the two most successful European nations in recent and past history in International football: Germany and Italy. Their teams are littered with pacy players. Oh hold on...

  • Comment number 60.

    Well Mr NikosBg, what can i say about your posts.... As about as accurate as Baggio's penalty!!!!

    YOU SAY!!! "In fact, apart from a borderline penalty in Russia, I cannot recall a single major call that has wrongly gone against England in recent history." - How about the mysterious foul on the GK as campbell puts us into the semi's - did you not see that one!!!!

    YOU SAY!!! "The U-21's, after struggling on a 2-legged tie against an average Wales side, were also outplayed by France at home the other night, even though that didn't make it very high on the BBC news, so on that evidence the future of English football looks pretty bleak."

    Well, England U21's went 29 matches unbeaten and ok they lost to an inform french side, who aren't going to the UEFA U21's championship but England are!

    I agree with you that England were unconvincng last night, but was Man U's win vs Stoke convincing, winning ugly is just as important as playing well. The real test comes in SA and then we'll see but i'm sure in the mean time we'll here from you NikosBg the next time flowing football departs us!!!

    P.s Did brazil qualify well before they won the 2002 world cup, NAAAAAAA!

  • Comment number 61.

    26. At 12:31pm on 02 Apr 2009, beardo3 wrote:

    "Take today's comment for example. How can you suggest England haven't come along way?"

    Because their performances and quality on the pitch are a mirror image of the displays you got with SGE and McLaren. No invention, creativity, incisiveness. Boring, boring, boring, solid at the back is the priority. One could say that England are indeed more solid, but in their 5 matches against top 10 opposition (Spain, France, Germany, Croatia, Czech Rep) they did not keep a single clean sheet. I can imagine Capello if he doesn't deliver getting slated by the same reporters for his negative approach and also for playing Gerrard on the left. No domination, not enough chances created. Too much long ball play onto Crouch's head, too many passes gone astray. Only 2-3 players, Rooney Gerrard and maybe one defender, performing at the very top level and can be regarded as world class, all the rest are distinctively average on a constant basis. Remember, before the goal the players weren't short of getting booed. Nothing has changed. The fact that the reporters struggle in search of analyses and headlines and finally come up with something like "Capello allows his mask to slip" (wow) says it all. A late goal from a set play which in all honesty came out of the blue does not indicate 'resilience' or 'effectiveness' and does not conceal the above truths.

  • Comment number 62.

    Nice blog Phil.

    It was interesting to see a bit of emotion from Mr Capello at the final whistle (his lack of reaction to Terry's goal was hilarious, you almost wondered if he'd realised what happened!).

    Firstly, can we all ignore NikosBg or whatever his name is? The guy is clearly out to stir up argument and be negative about everything, I think the best thing we can do is just ignore his comments altogether.

    Secondly, on a footballing point. Totally agree with a few posts re Pan Hands James. He obviously can be a good goalkeeper but has two major flaws;

    1) Age - like its been said, he will be nearly 40 by the world cup

    2) Unreliability - he is very prone to making mistakes and I think you could see in the players yesterday - he doesn't inspire confidence in his defenders.

    I really think, and have said before that England friendlies should be used to look at new, young players more. Why play David James even for a half against Slovakia? I would have loved to see Foster/Green play against Slovakia, do a decent job and then play against Ukraine. James didn't do anything either of them is incapable of doing last night and we'd all be really positive if someone like Foster had played both those games and done well.

  • Comment number 63.

    Why is there this constant carping about Lennons poor delivery? He and Rooney were the only two players willing to run at people all night and he created two clear cut chances in the first half that any of his Tottenham strikers would have converted. As for DB, his sole contribution was a dead ball delivery (which Lennon is never given anyway) into a crowded box.
    Lennon put in one poor cross all evening and was promptly subbed for a less attacking option.
    Lennon is a different class to last season, and seems to be improving with every game, so lay off.
    As for Fabio I'll be convinced when he delivers something silver; so far he's just keeping up with the Svens.

  • Comment number 64.

    We are getting better, Fact! Its the first time that we havnt played well under Capello in a competitive fixture, yet we still won. In years gone by we would have drawn 1-1 but we didnt and that speaks volumes for how, as a team we are beginning to develop. Im excited about how well we can perform when Capello gets the whole squad together for a month in South Africa in 2010, rather than just a week like he has had so far. We maybe wont win the world cup, but if we show signs of progress it means we can build on this in the next 3 major competitions

  • Comment number 65.

    cole played so badly i thought fabio might take him off at half time - is bridge injured?!?!

    i'm still not convinced by the barry-lampard combination. lampard isn't naturally defensive enough, which means that barry has to take more strain than he wants to and so makes more mistakes, especially when cole keeps giving the ball away. barry-carrick should be tried

    the ukrane LB new that lennon can do little with his right foot and even less with his left so just made sure he couldn't go on the outside - theo we need you!

    too many long balls to crouch, who isn't on the same wave length as rooney, or can't direct his headers enough to be affective. either crouch mustn't go so deep or england need more movement and to keep the ball no the ground - rio/terry to bring the ball out of defense

    ukrane are a good team who 'parked the bus', but england need to get a whole lot better

  • Comment number 66.

    Well guys, please do stop complaining....if England gets the points,,,you are not happy...if they don't,,,,u are not happy either!! england has proved in the past that they can compete against the likes of argentina, germany,etc,,, Capello is doing a great job...the team is playing as a unit...perfection is unattainable in this world? Has anyone watched turkey V spain? bolivia V argentina? There are no perfect teams and England are quite capable of a big surprise in WC 2010...with a bit of luck,,so far we have had no luck whatsoever ( unlike Germany for instance) in major tournaments,,,hopefully this time round it will be a different story,,,finally , my full admiration goes to David a Liverpool supporter since 1979 , I must say that all credit goes to this hard working .ultra professional player,,,his pin point crossing, his commitment, his humility and his work rate is second to none...I do hope that he will be able to lift the world cup in july 2010,,,he deserves it after all! Go ENGLAND!!!!!

  • Comment number 67.

    I think you (and other people) are being a bit harsh on Aaron Lennon. Me and my friends watching the match commented on how his crossing had improved and also the range of his crossing. He had previously seemed to always hit the first defender but on last night he was getting the ball up and down quickly into the danger area. He also mixed it up with low crosses to the edge of the 6 yard box. His crosses just weren't capitalised on in the area.
    Admittedly in the second half he didn't do much before Beckham coming on. I think Beckham seems to be playing with a lot more confidence and freedom at the moment, all deft touches and flicks and short passes that are coming off. He also drifted into the middle a lot and I think he's great in there. I personally think he's more suited to that.
    With attacking full backs like we have i sometimes wonder whether we would suit a 5-3-2 or 5-3-1-1 meaning that we didnt have to put Gerrard on the Left or beckham (or another right winger) on the right, they could just go out there if they wanted.

  • Comment number 68.


    I dont agree with all your comments but to everyone else he is well in his rights to think what he does, it may well have been end of season and people tied, fatigued, bla bla bla, but you know they are proffesional in what they do. I played 90 mins + extra time last night, after playing 90 Mins sunday. as well as having a 6 week old daughter and a house to keep on top off and my demanding job of over 45 hours a week, when i play on sunday i am not going to use all of that as an excuse if i have a rubbish game on sunday. make it as you want but havent we all been hurt before by england? now dont get me wrong and please refer back to my last post, In cappo we trust, but lay off the nikobg bashing, in his own right to have a moan and a whinge.

  • Comment number 69.

    To poster 4...very fair point made about Ashley Young. It is to be hoped Fabio Capello gives him a run to test out whether he has what it takes at full international level.

    Young's form has shaded, along with Aston Villa's in recent weeks, and I would take issue with manager Martin O'Neill's claim that he is "world class", as he stated earlier this season.

    He is, however, an outstanding young prospect and is certain to be on Capello's radar.

    Hey, surely Young deserves more of a chance than he has had upto this point?? Capello seems to rate Downing and Lennon more although they never seem to consistently be able to produce the goods, but still get a decent run in the team/squad. And I would beg to differ on your opinion that Young is a "outstanding young prospect". I think that he has done enough over the past 3 seasons to prove that he has the qualities to be a consistent England squad member at least ?????

  • Comment number 70.

    Hi Phil,

    good article. As the chief football writer of BBC, please could you tell Tim Vickery to write a blog on the 6-1 trashing of Argentina by Bolivia last night. guess it would be an interesting one.

    Moderators please pass the message even thou you delete the comment.. :)

  • Comment number 71.

    This is a qualifying campaign. Surely in the context of the game it's the result that matters. If last nights game was the World Cup final it would be a total curmudgeon who would be spitting feathers anout the performance. If we got to the final I'd take a 90 minute battering with a last minute winner off Ashley Coles rear end and call it performance of the century. So come on, how bout being a bit realistic? (I know how this reads given the preceding sentence - the irony isn't lost on me!)

    However, being a qualifying campaign, I think whilst we have a serviceable and functional team, that's all we have. Squad depth is pitiful, even taking into account the injuries we've had this week. We're too reliant on a core of players and a set system of play. That wouldn't be so bad if we were consistently good at applying that system, but we're not, especially when faced with quality opposition. We also seem wedded to the idea that we have to shoe-horn the so called best players into the team. How about defining the job and then picking the best player for that job, regardless of status or media intrusion. A lefty should be doing a lefty's job, and if that means a central player of greater ability has to make way then so be it. I'd rather have an average left footer play averagely on the left wing than a great right footer playing averagely there.

  • Comment number 72.

    Phil, your article as usual was interesting and thought provoking. Various points following the thread are as follows.
    'Guiding England expertly towards the finals'. A safe comment given the remaining fixtures. Hope you don't change your tune should we be beaten even by 1 goal by either Kazhakstan or Andorra, rather than the 6 Bolivia put past Argentina....Bloggers will be watching!
    David James is too old and prone to astonishing gaffes which you can interpret as you like, lapses in concentration, panic attacks or just plain old bad decision making. It's not good for our tickers having him in nets. What about Rob Green, he's consistently done a fantastic job for West Ham. A goalie needs confidence and to know and trust his defenders and likewise they need to know the Goalkeeper. This takes time.
    Ashley Cole looked tired near the end bless, probably having to do the house work and gardening to earn back some brownie points at home.
    I think we could have played as well without Gerrard on the park. A commentator asked was there more than one Rooney out there. Well he was certainly doing a lot of Gerrards work.
    As for winning the world cup....please don't even think about it. Now I'm not suggesting you put dream inducing substances in your pipe, but come on, it's no more than a pipe dream and one that only the bookies will be interested in promoting.

  • Comment number 73.

    43. At 1:36pm on 02 Apr 2009, daljit87 wrote:

    "I'm assuming you mean the penalty in 2002, Ronaldinho's sending off and Beckham's last minute free-kick - all of which were FAIR decisions.

    Also, in the 2004 q-final vs Portugal England had Sol Campbell's last-minute goal INEXPLICABLY ruled out"

    I'm afraid you lost all credibility with these 2 comments alone.

  • Comment number 74.

    I should've done this before = begin to keep my eye on the young ones comming through the ranks.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what our nation can produce. I have been keeping an eye on the National Football centre! It certainly looks like it'll bring out the best in our boys and I'm hopefull our nation will be WC and/or European cup winners.

    Under Capello, we certainly seem to be getting the job done and it's nice to see an experienced manager guide us.

  • Comment number 75.

    I have not seen a lot of Robert Green this season, but West Ham fans are usually glowing in their references. Has he got what it takes to put serious pressure on David James?

    As for the question of whether England have made progress or the facts - a team that failed to reach Euro 2008 is top of its World Cup qualifying group with maximum points. I think that qualifies as progress under any criteria.

    There will be below-par performances such as last night, but the trick is to claim the points when that happens and Fabio Capello's influence cannot be under-estimated here.

    And yes, there will be question marks over some positions - goalkeeper is a genuine worry for me - but there is more than a year to go to the start of the World Cup and Capello will no doubt be fully aware of those potential problem areas.

    I could see Ben Foster challenging James if he gets regular games, but will he get them?

    Maybe that is a question for Manchester United fans. Is the time coming when he should succeed Edwin van der Sar or could it be he has to go out on loan to another Premier League club.

    Next season is crucial for Foster, and you can be sure the forthcoming World Cup will crystalise his thoughts about his future.

  • Comment number 76.

    England have showed how good they are against a 'proper' side...Spain 2 England 0 - a scoreline that flattered the English!
    Yes, the current European champions on their own ground. Presumably anything less is not a 'proper team'.

    What utter drivel..

  • Comment number 77.

    Criticism for Ashley Cole? Surprise surprise there. All you people claim to watch football, yet cannot see the game beyond where the ball is. Look at where Cole "gives the ball away" -- he looks down the line and sees no one there (good ol' Gerrard positioning for you) and therefore has to continually come back inside with the ball. It happened four or so times in the game, A. Cole picks the ball up looks down the line and doesn't see anyone there.

    Did someone criticise JT defensively? Rio misses the header and Johnson doesn't respond in time, but JT gets the blame?

    Gerrard in midfield!? Oh please. He's a liability there. Just look at him at Liverpool. He needs TWO holding players to look effective. TWO. If he is going to roam then J. Cole needs to be fit and playing out on the left hand side. Gerrard offers nothing as a wide player and nothing as a central midfielder because his positioning is utterly horrific. Why did Benitez continually shift him out wide? Oh... because he's a liability. Gerrard is a forward, a deep-lying forward, who cannot play with defensive responsibility like Carrick, Lampard and Barry (supposedly) can.

    Barry needs to be dropped. Needless free-kicks, awful passing, offers nothing.

    England's best formation would be to use a 4-2-3-1 --> James; Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry (C), A. Cole; Carrick, Lampard; J. Cole, Gerrard, Rooney; Heskey.

  • Comment number 78.

    Phil, by your definition, that is progress and I'm sure that every England fan (including me) is very happy for England's current position.

    But, is it progress under any criteria? Well, what about relative to Sven. After all, anything is progress relative to the wally with a brolly. The question is are they likely to go further than a quarter-final, something that they have not been able to achieve at a major tournament since 1996 (and not since 1990 outside of England). The answer is that no-one knows.

  • Comment number 79.

    NikosBg, you seem to be very angry about something, prey tell us what it is. There are no England fans on this blog who are bumping there chests in admiration of the team. What we saw last night was a gradually improving team have a bad night and still get away with the result, nothing more. Relax my friend.

  • Comment number 80.

    Certainly an unconvincing victory, but they have managed to put points on the board and will almost certainly qualify. I am still not sure I understand the effect of wayne rooney. I get it in theory, he is a work horse that terrorizes the opposition and occasionally scores, but is that enough? I am always surprised by his vision, he made some great switches to aaron lennon yesterday, but who will provide the magic in the final third that adds up to goals? I think the English team is similar to Manchester United at present. They are winning but things are not quite right.

  • Comment number 81.

    re Geomians (no56)

    in response to your suggestions about the team. I see what you are thinking and like the thought of walcott and cole on either flank but think we could end up with no-one really up front as Rooney does drift around and come deep and gerrard obviously isn't a natural striker. I would be more tempted to put gerrard in the middle (sacrificing lampard) and play heskey or crouch up there with rooney.

    although heskey and crouch aren't world beaters, they give an important dimension and add balance to the team. If we had a shearer-type player to put alongside rooney it would be perfect!

    what do you reckon?

  • Comment number 82.


    HERE IS ONE QUESTION THOUGH----- we have not kept clean sheets for england on a regular basis, when terry & rio are both fit they always play. Is it not about time a england manager was man enough to drop maybe one of the or maybe even both.

    I remember cappo advising the country he is picking players on performance at the moment, (i am a liverpool fan so realise what i am sayin here) then sure Jageilka needs to be playing, maybe even Lescott as well? what are your thoughts?

  • Comment number 83.

    Completely agree with this article.

    However I do feel that we can be too harsh after every england display.

    Lennon does not have the end product, and unless he proves that he does next season, he will be forced out by Walcott and SWP. Beckham really is a huge sting to the bow of the England team and definately deserves his place in the squad, providing he plays regularly with Milan next season.
    However, how exciting is it to have two quality ball players like Gerrard and Beckham battling it out with the skill of Joe Cole and Walcott for their wide positions? With Lampard, Carrick, Barry and Hargreaves all vying for the central midfield spot, I think we can safely say that we have one of the strongest midfields in world football, no that Capello has started to plainly lay out what he wants from each individual. We are no longer relying on quality in depth; England have realised that they must all contribute to the team by regidly sticking to their tactics.

    However we do have some areas for debate.

    I'd say our two problem positions are in goal and upfront. I'd love for Owen to come through next season with 20 goals under his belt and firing on all cylinders for the world cup. With him leading the line and Rooney tucked behind him, I think we pose a fantastic threat. But at the moment, Crouch/Heskey are the chosen two to play off Rooney. They do their job well - win the high ball and put pressure on the defence. However, personally I think this makes for a more scrappy style that doesn't allow us to truly take control of the game. Owen is becoming more of a shearer-esq centre forward with a stronger presence, not (as some don't realise) a shadow of his former speedy self. I think he would make the runs for our attacking players to feed the ball into him as well as do a job at holding up the ball.

    I think our goalkeeping situation is the most daunting of them all. If Foster and Hart don't get a season out on loan in a top division, we're relying on James, unproven Green or yet to be English Almunia to do the job. And even them going out on loan won't garuntee a strong season for the lads. Fingers crossed Capello keeps one eye fixed on their situations. Personally, I'd love Green to have a great season and get involved in all our friendies to stake a claim for the spot. Robbo could flourish for Big Sam next season too.

    So generally, we look strong for the next world cup. For us to gain any success however, we need to have a player in every position we are 100% confident in along with having a decent plan B in the tactics department.
    The build up to this world cup could be one of the most exciting in recent memory, good luck Mr Capello.

  • Comment number 84.

    Look at that! England win - no mention of Owen! lol

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm fed up of English fans moaning about everything. To win the world cup you have to be in the world cup and so far so good its completely obvious capello has built up a sound team spirit

    only one team can win the world cup to be in with a shout is the best you can do without a bit of luck etc

    Argentina got tanked last night Spain were also very lucky I don't think anybody seems to be qualifying as comfortably as England

  • Comment number 86.

    Post 31:
    "Why does the Cappo insit on using beckham as an impact player? surely over this qualifying campaign he has been our difference."

    Erm, isn't that what being an impact player is all about - making a difference?

    Last night Lennon showed exactly why Beckham is still in the squad. Beckham might not be able to last more than 45 minutes any more, but at least he can still deliver a ball. We know Lennon can't cross, we know SWP runs into people, so who IS going to be Theo's sub after Beckham retires? For the future of England, I think Capello should give Ashley Young a couple of starts on the right wing against Kazakh and Andorra.

  • Comment number 87.

    I was not and am still not convinced by Capello. For me as soon as he came in he has made two huge errors of judgement and I think that they are going to keep England at the level of "Wanabees".

    These errors both concern Englands most gifted footballer... Gerrard.

    Not only did Capello keep Terry as Captain (Something which he had already failed at) he had continued the trend of playing our best/most inspirational player in other positions than those (CM or behind the front man) and then numpties wonder why Gerrard only has "Sporadic" flashes of genius instead of his consistent form that he displays for Liverpool.

    I mean can anyone see the likes of Messi,Kaka or Ronaldo being played out of position for their National sides? No of course not, because the manager knows that when you have players that are that good you really do have to do what is neccessary to get the most from them.

    Also what Capello "Suggested" about Crouch being picked only because there was nobody else shows that he is not the "Genius" some are making him out to be" Anybody that has seen Crouch play knows that he is a v.good player and can do all that the likes of Heskey can with the added bonus of actually being able to score. For me at this point in time in terms of England, Crouch is only behind Rooney in the pecking order.

    Also in regards to this, if Capello has written off Owen he is a fool as Owen have injury problems but whilst he is on the pitch he is ALWAYS a goal threat as unlike many has done the business for England when it matters.

    Lastly we come to the Beckham/Lennon conundrum. I think the problme lies in the fact that we do not have "Wide" players that are anywhere close to being the "Complete" package. We have those with pace (Lennon,SWP etc) and one player that can cross a ball (Beckham) but we don't possess anyone that can do both we means that whoever we pick, we are going to be missing something.

    For us to do well in the World Cup (Assuming we get there) we need our best players to be fit (Gerrard,Rooney,Owen,J-Cole) and we need Capello to see what everyone else can in that Steven Gerrard needs to be played in his natural position and to let him influence what is going on. Simply shoving him out on the left not only restricts the impact he has but also causes our defence problems.

    Why is it that we seem to hire a succession of managers who have major blind spots when it comes to certain players,formations,tactics etc?

  • Comment number 88.

    I know David Pleat was banging the drum for Lennon and I kind of give myself away with the nickname, but I do think Aaron needs a little bit more time. He has blossomed at Spurs with a run of games and is a threat every time he has the ball. It is said he mad a mediocre game last night, but every time the ball was fed to him, he was making things happen. One early post said Ashley Young had everything Lennon has but pace, which - to my mind - says it all; his kind of pace can open up international defences.

    I actually think Lennon will play in South Africa as he did in Germany. There is no substitute for what he can do.

  • Comment number 89.


    You're a tragic case, you really are.

  • Comment number 90.

    I would never presume to tell the excellent Tim Vickery what to write - but you can bet he is on the case after that result in South America. Altitude or no altitude, that was some thrashing for Diego Maradona's Argentina against Bolivia.

    And thanks to geomians for giving us a timely reminder about Joe Cole. He is an outstanding talent and a really positive influence when he is with the England squad - an experienced international with all the boundless enthusiasm of a youngster.

    Capello will no doubt be taking a major interest in him when he returns to fitness.

  • Comment number 91.

    its funnny reading a comment by BrizzleGooner saying its better to win then play like Brazil and that why you support Arsenal?

  • Comment number 92.

    Hey, it's working, and we still have a year.
    An average team with awesome team spirit can beat a talented team with poor attitude. If Capello can instill the passion back into the England shirt we have a chance of winning the World Cup.

  • Comment number 93.

    Most on here seem to have forgotten all about Joe Cole and where he fits in on his return, as he surely must?

    An earlier poster suggested Rooney up front - a complete disaster, as he doesn't have the discipline to play the role of a lone striker. Gerrard can't be on the left with the return of Cole, so who is going to make way?

    On last night's evidence you'd have to think Lampard - he was totally anonymous during the game and, as Gerrard would have to go back into midfield to accomodate Cole and Rooney, it's got to be a CM pairing of Gerrard and Barry (or Carrick, or Hargreaves) as the Gerrard/Lampard pairing does not work (IT DOESN'T - STOP TRYING TO PRETEND IT EVER WILL, PUNDITS AND SUCCESSION OF MANAGERS!)

    Then we can have Rooney in a second striker role alongside the only choice as main striker, Michael Owen who, lest we forget, is the fourth highest-scoring England striker of all time and a must for the big occasion.

    ------Whichever keeper------

  • Comment number 94.

    TweedsCFC- Gerrard in midfield!? Oh please. He's a liability there. Just look at him at Liverpool. He needs TWO holding players to look effective. TWO. If he is going to roam then........Gerrard offers nothing as a wide player and nothing as a central midfielder because his positioning is utterly horrific. Why did Benitez continually shift him out wide? Oh... because he's a liability. Gerrard is a forward, a deep-lying forward, who cannot play with defensive responsibility like Carrick, Lampard and Barry (supposedly) can.

    So why have you included him the englands best team?

    You dont make sense mate,

  • Comment number 95.

    It was a good result from an ordinary performance and to have maximum points is not to be sniffed at. My main concern is that without Rooney, we lack the players who can make things happen in a big game. We've got a lot of potential match winning players such as Walcott and Young. We're just not quite there yet.

  • Comment number 96.

    32 ---- Spain 2 England reserves 0.

    Not as good as I was hoping however no doubt there were 5 or 6 momenst of superb football, and internationals that is not bad.

    Ukraine played 5 accross the middle and made us work to get through them I thought Barry was the cause of a lot of our problems last night. When a team play 5 accross the middle some one has to drop deep pick the ball up and carry it. Barry should have been that man. Ferdinand should have carried it as well every time we went out wide they closed us down but when we had it in th ecentre they were content to keep every player behind the ball.

    I sat watching it with a none English man, he said it was a good game between 2 very good teams.

    In international football you are not going to constantly be powering forward, and last night things in parts were very good, in parst average, and in parts poor.

    We need to stop launching it forward and start passing it and keeping the ball.

  • Comment number 97.

    4-0 to Slovakia = Euphoria unlimited. A laboured win against Ukraine = never mind, a win is a win, it closes us on qualification.

    Don't we see how helpless and clueless England looked in getting those priceless 3 points. If some pro-Ukraine journalists term it lucky, they are spot on; not ungenerous or spiked by bias.

    Crouch goal was good. Capello picking the giant from a below par assortment was justified on the Wembley pitch. But Terry's scrambled bundling in was definitely a piece of luck that fell England's way. Relief for the all too tensed up Capello who cannot wait for the final whistle. Show of uncontrolled emotion only highlights how close to heartbreak the situation went. Was England's would be saviour on the brink!

    Just because the slowish Beckham manages to put an odd cross on the platter leads us to the facile conclusion that Lennon is no good. The speed and flow Lennon brings to the game is a sight for the sore eyes. Ask any opposition what a threat he poses. And he can score on his own too. In criticising his display fans forget all too easily the recent 'reality check' England had at the hands of Spain. They are eons away from that masterclass in free flowing footie. Lennon along with Walcott is a step in the right direction.

    And I do not subscribe to the view James was inadequate under the bar. No goalkeeper may have managed to get a hand to the Shevchenko shoo in from a melee. The soon to be 40 keeper is there because he is the best England can lay their hands on. Never mind. Search for a younger replacement is valid but that one has to be better or equal in quality.

    Ashley was classy in the World Cup, but now his self-belief seems to have seeped away. Terry is England's classified work horse. Mostly justifies his keep.

  • Comment number 98.

    Interesting how someone here (no need to name names, the spam they post gives them enough "lime-light" on the intarwebz as it is) claims "nothing has changed" with England when looking on at a scenario (England winning 5/5 in a qualifying start) that has never happened before in history.

    An interesting assertion, that. One built purely out of some deep-seated and irrational hatred of another nation, one would think.

    The performance was not amazing. Who gives a toss? I've watched England play since 1886 and if there's one thing that's "never changed" has been our ability to do well with results and then fail at the next hurdle, repeatedly. If we qualify for anything, we tend to do it "just about" and often in the last game - if we manage to qualify at all.

    Under Capello this trend has yet to transpire (unless you count losing friendlies as a failure) - despite some of our performances not being breath-taking.

    No, we've managed to perform record-breaking feats so far - beating Croatia in Zagreb in a competitive match (never done before, by any team in the world) and winning 5 matches in a row in qualification. It's our best EVER start and, so far as results are concerned, it just got better last night.

    I don't give a monkey's whether we're playing Ukraine off the park or whether we have to score 25 own goals to qualify... 5/5 in qualification cannot, ever, be argued with.

    England supporters are NOT claiming they will win the world cup; in fact we're quite well grounded, after not winning the thing for over 50 years, that it's still quite unlikely that we will manage it next year. Indeed, most of us are very sure that England will need to improve to stand a chance of beating the likes of Spain, Holland, Brazil, Argentina or Germany when it matters most, in the finals. But we're damn right to be happy that it looks like, for once, that we'll maybe... just MAYBE qualify without actually breaking a sweat or leaving it until the last game of the group.

    That's something I've never seen England do. I'll be damned proud to see them achieve it.

    Nothing anyone can say will change that fact and, to be blunt, nothing else bloody matters.

  • Comment number 99.

    There is something wrong with you lot. 15 from 15 and you are unconvinced. Fine Give someone else your place in South Africa until you can play like Brazil and still not win the world cup.

    Let's face it there's noone quite as happy in this world as a moaning brit, ergo there's lot's of happy fans out there :-)

  • Comment number 100.

    Capello's open show of delight was so out of character it drew a question at his post-match debriefing and was explained thus: "It was because I understand the players and I understand the moment, When the referee whistled time I was very happy."

    Really? Phill, you are a football journalist and should know more about Mr. Capello's character, I suppose. I watched many, many Milan matches in the 90's and I'll tell you that Capello celebrates when his team wins. OK, he is no Martin O'neill who lives the match every minute, but I think that you are trying to create your own Capello here.. Not the Capello we all know.


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