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Can Capello end England's hurt?

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Phil McNulty | 22:16 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Rustenburg

Four words from Fabio Capello revealed the ruthless and driven personality that will direct England's attempt to end 44 barren years and reclaim the World Cup.

While an entire nation fixed its gaze on South Africa's opening draw with Mexico, Capello was allowing a rare glimpse of the man behind the mask as England prepare to start their campaign against the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday.

In a sentence that left no room for argument about what Capello demands and expects from England in their quest to lift the World Cup, he announced: "I exist to win."

It is a simple philosophy but one that is easier said than done, especially when you are charged with the responsibility of winning the game's biggest prize.

Capello-watching has been quite a sport since England's arrival in South Africa, from his very public discontent with their performance against the Platinum Stars on Monday to his run-in with a photographer he believed was intruding on his squad's privacy at their training headquarters.

And Capello was equally uncompromising as he spoke outside the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, where England play Bob Bradley's confident and talented United States side.

Such is the scale of interest in the World Cup, prime minister David Cameron was happy to stand aside and admit Capello is currently "the most important man in England."

He declined the honour, claiming the importance lay with the job rather than the personality. Capello knows he carries the hopes of all England over this next month - a pressure he has not only become accustomed to, but has relished.

Capello said: "It is, for me, fantastic. It's exciting. It's a tough job. I understand perfectly that it's a tough job - not only for me but for all managers, because you can feel that you have a whole country behind you.

"When you arrive here in South Africa it's completely different. You have to live one month with policemen, press conferences every day, TV, everything at every moment. You switch on the television and it's all about the World Cup. Really strong pressure from the media and everything.

"We have to live with this pressure. It's not easy. But I try. We try."

And Capello laid out a map of his illustrious management career to almost create the impression that everything has been building towards this.

This is why so many, when seeking reasons why England might end the long era of under-achievement, spend as much time outlining the importance of the coach as his players.

To be in close proximity to Capello is to see the awe - in this case the right word - in which he is held by his squad, the minute attention to detail that will underpin England's World Cup and his lust for success.

As England warmed up in readiness for training in Rustenburg on Friday, Capello paced along the touchline checking every piece of preparation for his players, ensuring everything was in its proper place.

Capello said: "I'm focused always to win. To always look ahead. In my career as a manager, I've built teams, worked with teams, worked with players, and always I've been focused to win. That's all that matters to me - to win and get to the final. In my mind, we play to win. That is all. I exist to win."

And Capello's whole existence will centre on the next month, his optimism undaunted by England's undistinguished warm-up performances.

He has habitually collected the games major prizes at giants such as AC Milan and Real Madrid to make him one of football's most decorated figures, but Capello's appointment as England coach affords him the opportunity to achieve the crowning glory of his career.

Capello would regard winning the World Cup as his biggest achievement, and his contempt for bold claims means that when he says it can be achieved, you know it is a statement made with iron self-belief.

"It's a dream," he said. "But it was a dream to be England manager. I hope the next dream will be OK too. Why not?"

Capello may complain about the altitude and the new World Cup balls - "terrible, terrible" - but these are minor distractions in the Italian's wider context.

England's arrival in the competition may be after the Lord Mayor's Show and the opening ceremony that allowed South Africa to demonstrate the colour and passion that will illuminate the World Cup.

Even two hours from Johannesburg in Rustenburg, the scene was decorated with Bafana Bafana colours on every corner and in every street. This was a day of national celebration - and now the focus here switches to England.

England supporters were hard to find as we made our way along the roads around Rustenburg towards the impressive, sweeping stadium that will play host to their first game. No doubt the travelling army will arrive in its usual force by kick-off time, with around 10,000 expected.

Capello was able to enjoy the luxury of seeing his whole squad training on Friday night, in the cooler temperatures that will suit players who have admitted they have struggled occasionally with the altitude.

The men who last won the World Cup for England are rightly allowed to bask and reflect in their glory every four years - and when comparisons are made with their great leader Sir Alf Ramsey, they are almost inevitably unfavourable.

And yet George Cohen, right-back in 1966, suggested he detected something of the Ramsey steel in Capello when the pair met, a rare accolade from that vintage band of men.

If Capello can repeat Ramsey's feats and bring the World Cup back to England next month, then the man who exists only to win will have achieved his ultimate triumph.

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  • Comment number 1.

    i gotta feeling , this is englands year . signor capello is the right man .

  • Comment number 2.

    England might not play with the flamboyance of brazil or spain , they might start off with a draw against USA but thats what the teams managed by italian coaches are known for , they know how to win . the style of play doesn't matter , their philosophy is to win and thats what capello's statement suggests .. i think this is england's best chance after '66 to win the worldcup and if they dont get to the final then they should look back at the Wcup as a failure .

  • Comment number 3.

    Great blog, and very good to see an article on England's World Cup without hyperbole and assumptions.

    In Fabio Capello, England have the best man for the job, but of course international football is completely different to club football, you have to take what is available with little influence on long-term development. Even so, he has done as good a job as can be expected after that miserable qualification campaign for Euro 2008.

    It's also very important to remember that "Will England win the World Cup?" and "Can England win the World Cup?" are entirely different questions. As far as I'm concerned, even if I am now going to be a hypocrite and spout some hyperbole and assumptions, regarding the former question I'd say "Probably not". The gulf in class between England's star players and the other players is quite large at the moment, especially when you look at the Spain squad which is, on paper at least, about as perfect as an international side can get in this day and age.

    Regarding the latter question, well in my extremely humble opinion, of course they can! With a little luck regarding injuries, fitness and other results, England stand a very good chance indeed. Stranger things have happened, that's for sure.

  • Comment number 4.

    i truly believe england will make it to the final this year, and with a little bit of luck and if we stay free of injuries and no one gets booked for the final, we have a good shot. Capello is called "Don Fabio" for a reason in italy, he truly has a winning mentality in him and demanded the best out of his teams and players over the years, and will settle for nothing more than glory. he said it himself "I exist to win"... true true true.

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    England must be calm, collected and quietly confident. No more cocky statements from the lads, and please no more "overconfidence attitude" ! All the teams are pretty well balanced this time round. There will be no walkovers or woodenspoons in this competition. Please do not forget that all teams are professionals now, and many players are playing in top leagues all over the globe. If England is to win the tournament, the English players will have to play like crazy, attack like crazy and defend like crazy. Like what Capello said, please "exist only to win." Substance is much better than style. Common England, show us what u are made off ! And, Capello you are the man !

  • Comment number 7.

    Capello is one of the best in the business but, unfortunately for England, he doesn't have enough truly top drawer players. Too much will be expected of Rooney and Lampard.

    England do have a decent draw and should make the last four, particularly if they come up against the French in the quarter-finals. It's difficult though, to see them overcoming Brazil and Spain to lift the trophy.

  • Comment number 8.

    You can't argue with Capello's record. He's done it with Milan, Roma and Real Madrid twice. And he didn't become a manager in his own right until his mid 40s, which shows you don't need instant deification of recently retired superstars, do you?

    One thing that is clear is that he's played a blinder with the media. Which is good after a few managers feeling uncomfortable in that arena.

    And it's also clear that he's relishing this moment, which is exactly what you want from a manager. I sense strongly that he can put 100% into each decision he must take, but is human enough to accept he can't get absolutely all of them right. Which means he isn't bogged down by guilt of failure. Which has been England's greatest cross to bear since 1966.

    So I reckon he's the right man at the right time for England.

    And I hope also that he can rekindle the 1994 Champions League final spirit of Milan in England this time around.

    They went in as underdogs and came out as immortals. And rightly so. As they played their finest game when it mattered most.

    How he did it, only Mr Capello knows. But hopefully he bottled it, trademarked it and is about to let the England players drink from his magic potion..........

  • Comment number 9.

    Good blog!

    We really have nothing to fear in this tournament. We CAN beat anyone, be it Brazil, Spain or USA. We must believe.

    Come on England

  • Comment number 10.

    I disagree about England not having enough top class players. Four of them would get in any squad, club or national, in the world - Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard and Ashley Cole - and that's more than a third of the starting XI.
    There are other very good and (crucially) experienced players a level below them (King, Terry, Carragher, Barry, Crouch, Joe Cole) and some top youngsters who are improving all the time (Lennon, Milner, G Johnson).
    I think the squad is good enough to make the last four, and then the manager's ability comes into play. He's one of the world's best managers of the last 20 years - nobody can deny that.
    The one worry is the goalkeeping position - and unoriginal statement, but a worry all the same.
    Phil - I'm loving your Tweets. Keep up the great work.

  • Comment number 11.

    The waiting is over. After nine days in South Africa we can at least see England in World Cup action.

    Let's hear all your thoughts on the game right here.

    Who should be in goal? James for me if fit, but if not Robert Green.

    And what about the hints out here that James Milner is in line to play on the left rather than Joe Cole? Is that the right decision? Talk at the stadium last night was that Michael Carrick might start if Milner is not ready, leaving Steven Gerrard to move into a wider position.

    What do you make of that?

    As for my question about Capello and can he end these years of pain. He was in very brisk mood last night. In the nicest possible way you sensed he wanted to be with his players and his backroom staff rather than with the media discussing his plans. It was a serious business.

    He is a very impressive character and England's qualifying campaign was impressive - but now the real stuff starts in Rustenburg tonight.

    It is a huge day, so let's talk about it here. The floor, as ever, is yours.

  • Comment number 12.

    In goal - Hart for me. Rather see Cole on the left and would rather see Gerrard behind Rooney. Make no mistake, the Yanks are a decent team and we need to be careful. Capello is a great Manager and if he can get our players to play like a team for 90 minutes, to keep their shape and not panic then we should win quite comfortably tonight.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good work Mr Mcnulty, you're earning your keep at the moment, a blog a day! I have been negative about our chances in the build up to the tournament but looking at our group and possible run to the semi's coupled with the fact that there are only 2 teams that are better than us on paper means that we do realistically have a chance. Come on England!

  • Comment number 14.

    I think every England fan wants to see the 4-4-1-1 formation with gerrard tucked behind rooney, milner on the left and a fit gareth barry partnering lamps in centre mid.

    What will actually happen is Emile Heskey will play alongside rooney, and gerrard will play a lopsided left position. Carrick will probably take barry's place. He's had an awful season as well.

    Then all the England fans will start complaining and saying "capello's lost it" etc.

    Then Heskey will get the Golden Boot...

  • Comment number 15.

    I hope the following team gets played;

    Johnson King Terry Cole
    Lennon Carrick Lampard Cole

    I hope Hart starts in goal, though the squad number 23 leads us to believe he's last choice with Fabio prefering the more experienced gk.

    Perhaps having to restrict the fullbacks due a offensive team setup, as Carrick was pretty poor this season for Utd (especially defensively)I'd expect Barry to come into this role as soon as he is considered fit.

    Gerrard behind Rooney provides us with imo a world class striking pair, but it also allows us to change to a 4-5-1 formation to pack the midfield.

    Would expect to see Lennon and Cole be subbed for Crouch and Milner.

  • Comment number 16.

    Capello's record is truly exceptional but, and it's a BIG but, that record was won with world class players, something we DONT have.
    Just look at our squad without the rose-tinted glasses on.
    Rooney - doesn't score nearly enough goals to be considered anywhere near world class and more than likely to be sent off (a la Beckham).
    Gerrard - probably past his best now.
    Lampard - never consistently comes up to expectations in internationals.
    Heskey - Championship class at best.
    Crouch - Useful, but not world class.
    Terry - see Gerrard
    King - too injury prone to be considered.
    Cole A - at times got near to it but now past it.
    Johnson - too soon to tell.
    Barry - solid but NOT world class.
    Milner - as Barry.
    Defoe & SWP - Knowhere near yet.

    In the Premiership they may look like quality, to some, but that is due, mostly, to their truly world class team-mates who now will be on the opposing teams.

    Put this squad up against the '66 one and it's pretty obvious that, comparatively speaking, the current one is vastly inferior, not least in their commitment. Players no longer play for the pride of their country, as they did then, now it's just about money.

    My prediction?
    IF we make it out of the group (and I dont think that is a gimme!) knocked out in the next round.

    Dont get me wrong, I would love us to do it, but I just dont think we are anywhere good enough.

  • Comment number 17.

    for me joe hart and joe cole should start .

  • Comment number 18.

    let's get Carrick involved and free up Gerrard for a more attacking role that will give him the freedom to ghost in, lay off balls for Rooney and Lampard and strike the odd rocket from either foot in to the top corner. We've seen how deadly he can be in years gone by, admittedly it hasn't been the best season in the domestic league for Gerrard but this is the type of competition where we see him man-up. And as captain marvel, we could even go all the way.
    Capello is the right man for the job there's no doubt, let's hope the squad can keep calm, listen to what he has to say, and show the world the passion, skill, strength, goal-scoring ability, and speed of the English game.
    Come on ENGLAND!

  • Comment number 19.

    Post 16:

    We may not have a team of 'World Class' players but neither did we in '66. Maybe 2 world class players in Charlton and Greavsey and he didn't play in the final. It's getting 11 players to play to their strengths as a team, that's what happened in '66. Home advantage will have helped but our support out in SA will make up for that. After watching France last night I hope we get them later on, they were awful. Hope I'm not tempting fate in saying we couldn't play worse than that!!!

    Capello's the man to get the best out of what he has. The players respect him and want to do well for him. That will do for me, for now.

    C'mon England!

  • Comment number 20.

    For me, Rooney has to absolutely fire, that's it. As star man he has to step up to the plate this time around, anything less and we have no chance.

  • Comment number 21.

    Heskey is a carthorse.


    But didnt he play behind Rooney in most of the qualifying games? And didnt England win their group in style?

    If so, why change?

  • Comment number 22.

    I'd go with Hart in goal, and as red_jacket says, most fans want to see Gerrard in behind Rooney. I think that's a pretty leathal partnership!


    PS. Not sure what kenk is on about when he says Rooney doesn't score enough goals!! What has he got to do to please some people?

  • Comment number 23.

    As an objective viewer I do not believe England will win the world cup. There Are too many ordinary players and too much hype surrounding the campaign. England are hailing capello as the great saviour but hes never really overseen a hard fought victory yet. The qualifying group was a joke, with no quality opposition to play. When england did play a quality team in a friendly (Spain) they were given a lesson in how to play the game. Yes England can progress to the later stages of the tournament but only because the path is a relatively easy one. When they face a quality side they will struggle. If rooney gets frustrated hes going to end up getting sent off. I would say quarter or semi finals but again only because they will not meet quality opposition to this point.

    And again despite what gerrard said after the last major tournament about not letting the hype affect the players its happening again and it will not help.

  • Comment number 24.

    A vicotry over the Americans tonight would be sweet. But while it's to early to talk about knockout rounds, if you peer over to Group D, you'll find Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana. If we slip up tonight we could find ourselves up against the Germans in the last 16 (Providing we make it, which we should and vice-versa!). But, you never know in football and in the world cup. It comes down to 50% skill and 50% luck.

  • Comment number 25.

    your glass isn't even a 1/4 full is it?
    How good are you, by the way?
    I bet you "had trials, could have made it" didn't you?
    Funny game football. a game played by 22 stupid carthorses and watched by millions of gifted experts.
    So, all our players are rubbish, only foreigners can play and we luckily beat Croatia 9-2 on aggregate to get through.
    "They're awful but they're ours."
    I don't swallow that tosh. We've got a chance, like about 6 others, there is no stand out team at this World cup, so why not us?

  • Comment number 26.

    England 1 - USA 1

    A dull game with both teams playing defensively. Terry's lack of pace will let the USA in.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tonight's game is all important. I think it will represent England's toughest test until (hopefully) the QFs. Play and win well tonight and I think we have a good chance of the semis and after then who knows?

    An unconvincing performance tonight and I doubt we'll get past the last 16.

  • Comment number 28.

    Am very worried about our squad balance.

    Johnson is a liability at right back, especially if we put a forward thinking right midfielder in front of him. I can see even the weakest teams getting joy down this side of the pitch, especially on the counter-attack.

    Would start Joe Cole on the left. The warm up and friendly games showed the one aspect of his game none of the right mids have - a decent cross. The way he played with Rooney was good and makes you see why Fergie would like him at UTD.

    As for goal, find a 3 sided coin and flip it, chances are you'll be as correct as any pundit.

  • Comment number 29.

    One thing that I hope Mr Capello has taught England is how to win a penalty shoot-out! Maybe it's the Italian passion, flamboyance and confidence that makes them so good from 12 yards.

  • Comment number 30.

    The United States are very confident. Lots of loose talk that England had been a bit dismissive by not saying much about them.

    Forget that. Capello was extremely respectful about them in front of the media last night and it is clear he feels they have great strengths at set pieces.

    He made the point a couple of times, which seems to suggest the choice of goalkeeper is the crucial decision. Tough one. I do not say this with complete confidence but if he was fit I would go for James. If he was fit.

    What do you think?

  • Comment number 31.

    In a word, No.

  • Comment number 32.

    If you stop and think sensibly for a second you will all realise that with the exception of Spain there isn't a side in this tournament who are superior to England. Don't agree with the nay-sayers who think Brazil are better than us. Here's why.

    Other than Kaka and Julio Cesar in goal there isn't a player they have which we can't match or better in each position. We have 2 attacking full backs that are as good as Maicon and Dani Alves if not better (Ashley Coloe best LB in the world I think everyone agrees). Lucio and Luisao no better than Terry or King. Barry, Gerrard, Lampard, Lennon no worse than Robinho, Kaka, Gilberto Silva et al. And remember Kaka has had an indifferent season at Real Madrid, beset by injury, and also Robinho has been plain awful. Rooney is a far better all round player than Luis Fabiano though I agree Fabiano is the better goalscorer. Our GK is our weakness and that is where we rank lowly against the other big sides.

    Now Spain are head and shoulders above every other side. Their strength in depth is frightening. When you consider Cesc Fabregas can't even get in the starting 11 then you know you've got a special team. They are the ones to beat for sure.

    France looking awful. Italy aged. Germany weak without Ballack. The Dutch could be SF candidates but need consistency and Robben and Van Persie fit and firing. Argentina have a squad blessed by God, particularly their strikers, Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Diego Milito, Aguero. It's mouth-watering indeed, but with Maradona at the helm it's a tragedy for possibly the most gifted squad in the tournament. They are doomed to failure you feel.

    England vs Spain final. It's the true prediction. :-)

  • Comment number 33.

    team to start against the USA:
    Johnson King Terry Cole
    Lennon Carrick Lampard Cole

    Bring Crouch on at half time for carrick and push Gerrard back into the midfield along side lampard.

    we could possibly play a 4-3-3 formation with a midfield trio of gerrard carrick and lampard and play lennon rooney and cole upfront.

    As soon as gareth barry is fit it is vital he comes back in to replace carrick.

    for me there is no doubt about it that james should be in goal as he has experiance and is capable of pulling off world class saves.

    however i think capello will go with gerrard and lampard in central midfield with rooney and heskey upfront. this may work against the USA but against better oppersition heskey will struggle and his lack of pace will do england no favours.

  • Comment number 34.

    I really dont see this been a boring game, as some are labeling it. Are you joking, both ENG and USA are hyped up to bits about this game. There is no way its going to be boring stalemate !
    Get Milner on instead of Cole, get him running and crossing, Rooney up himself with a few players playing off him/behind him .. Cant wait !

  • Comment number 35.

    "Reclaim the world cup", "end the years of pain", "44 barren years"... I don't see any difference from the previous hyped up world- and european championships. Trying to stay down to earth but in the end there's just no stopping the media. It's a tournament and the chances of England winning are about as big (or slim) as Greece's were in winning Euro 2004.

    Wayne Rooney is the only world class player and he'll probably either injure himself or get himself redcarded before the group stages are over. Then what have you got, players that aren't even regular starters in their own foreigner-stocked teams.
    Yes England have one of the strongest leagues in the world but unfortunately for you that doesn't have a positive effect on the quality of english footballers. Au contraire mon ami! Arsenal one of your top teams supplies NO players for the England team... They are more than 50% French.
    What is you opinion about that Phil?

  • Comment number 36.

    Playing Carrick in a high tempo game against fast and fit opposition would be an EPIC fail. Carrick isn't that kind of player. He's slow, deliberate and utterly useless. How he got in ahead of Huddlestone will be a mystery for years to come.
    Hart must play in goal. The other 2 may have great moments but are prone to major gaffs and general shakiness. And that filters throughout the team. hart is solid as a rock.

  • Comment number 37.

    I would go with James in goal, purely and simply because he's got the experience on the big stages.

    He's a world class shot stopper and if he doesn't make any silly errors, he'll be perfect.

    Big if, though.

  • Comment number 38.

    This is the first time in a long time i've been very excited about the world cup. Tonight should be a good night.

    On another note, here's my offering for the England world cup ANTHEM!

  • Comment number 39.

    A few things i want to adress. Firstly what is with all the negativity? We have a serious case of 'tall poppy syndrome' atm always trying to bring our team down. It almost seems like its just an excuse if England dont do so well so ppl can say "oh i said they were rubbish from the start".
    Secondly why do people keep saying we have no "world class" players? Terry, Gerrard, Rooney, A. Cole and Lampard (and so was Ferdinand) all world class. Each of them has played in a champ leaugue final with Rooney and Gerrard playing in two, Rooney and Gerrard have won the champs leaugue with Gerrad scoring in a final. Apart from Gerrard all have won multiple Premierships, F.A. Cups and Leaugue Cups. What more do you have to do to become world class? England have more world class players than Argentina for example. Sure they have Messi but who else has won titles? Aguero hasnt, and Tevez didnt even play Champions leaugue football this yearand most if thier players play in the subpar South American leaugues. So i think you can clearly see we have "world class" talent.
    My final problem is it seems that most fans have some sort of selective memory. Does no one remember our qualifying campagin? Clinical, efficient football consistently when it mattered. I see no reason why that can't be repeated in the group stages. Just because we had some poor MEANINGLESS WARM UP games doesnt mean that when it counts we are going to be poor. Only in England fans rip on their teams for winning games 3-1 in warm ups. I dont see anyone talking down Portugal after thay had some poor warm up matches? Even Argentina managed to get people to think their favourites even though they have an appalling manager and had a dreadful qualifing campagin.Why cant England get behind their boys? To be perfectly honest i think we our well ahead of the vast majority of teams and will be backing them wholeheartedly come kick-off.

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm afraid the FIFA ranking says it all and does reflect what the final result will look like: Brazil, Spain, Portugal and Holland in the semi's, England will end number 8...

  • Comment number 41.

    England face a very tough test tonight. This United States team have great self-belief under Bob Bradley, but England surely have nothing to fear.

    Despite not being a champion of his (first big understatement of this day) I hope Emile Heskey scores if he plays. He needs a real injection of confidence. He looked frightened in front of goal against Platinum Stars.

    If he doesn't, I can see Peter Crouch getting the chance to continue his outstanding goal record for England against Algeria and Slovenia.

    I know I'm banging the same old drum, but I do wish Capello would try playing Gerrard just behind Rooney. I'm sort of giving up on that one now.

    On another note...let me add my congratulations to the BBC's chief football correspondent Mike Ingham on his MBE. He has been part of our happy group here at our base in Rustenburg and everyone was delighted for him.

    A man not only of great football acumen but (and some might say even more importantly) a man of impeccable musical taste.

    Now...come on. You're all a bit quiet out there. Let's get the England debates going.

  • Comment number 42.

    Fabio capello is a winner- there is No doubt about it and I fully back him as manager of England.
    We have a good chance to win the world cup- Spain have a better chance a do brazil whilst other countries can also stake a claim to having a decent chance of winning it.
    The facts are every team is more likely not to win it than win it. I reckon there is around a 90% chance we won't win it (Spain and brazil both have around 80% of not winning it) the common opinion is we are likely to meet brazil in the semi final and Spain will be in the final. However Spain could easily go out in the quarters- or the semis. Likewise with we might face Portugal (again) in the semis. Nothing is certain- no one can predict everything and if some results tip slightly in our favour we have a really really realistic possiblity of winning the world cup

  • Comment number 43.

    No he cant i'm afraid :-(

  • Comment number 44.

    Those who make too much of the subjective quality of the players forget that this is a team sport where the manager is the most important factor in creating a good team and there is none better than Capello. Italy has won the WC repeatedly without having the best individual players and so even of you might believe that Spanish or Brazilian players are better the team effect is more important. Anyone who has seen the poor season that players like Kaka, Iniesta or Xavi have had would not be running as scared as some are of other teams.

  • Comment number 45.

    England is not going to pass the first stage. 2-0 for the USA and a red card for Rooney who will be suspended for the next two matches for violent conduct. Thats my prediction.

  • Comment number 46.

    Yes Phil! A positive post!

    I do hope Capello brings the world cup home with us. We'll need a bit of luck, and we'll need a lot of performances from everyone, but with a manager of Capello's calibre we should be ever so close to getting our hands on the trophy.

  • Comment number 47.

    Perspective for Heaven's sake. Every time the World Cup comes along people who have little interest or knowledge of the game jump up and proclaim their allegiance. And seem to believe or expect England to go and win the tournament.
    England have arguably the best manager in the tournament and some of the best (not the best) players. But they are weak at the back and have Rooney apart no forwards to speak of and also run the real risk of lapsing into a deadly slow paced midfield passing game which will kill any chance they have of winning
    Their best chance is to win by pure pragmatism and to spring the unexpected and that is by high tempo and quick passing and all those players can do that and they are so much more comfortable and equally opponents so much less so when they do play that way. I can only live and hope they do that but I fear the slow-paced drear which will be our funeral.
    So I refuse to build up hope and expectation. Winning will be a mixture of spirit, some skill and a lot of luck.

  • Comment number 48.

    James in goal Phil - no way. It's got to be Hart, he's young, confident and looks secure. James has always got the potential to do something daft. I just hope Capello isn't thinking of playing Gerrard on the left!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    I'm getting bored of people saying we are hyping ourselves up and assuming victory, that's just not happening. We just have a chance that's all. We have a solid squad and a decent shot. Favourites? no, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.

  • Comment number 50.

    41. At 11:37am on 12 Jun 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    Now...come on. You're all a bit quiet out there. Let's get the England debates going.


    Ok, so speed up the moderation, in fact why are we moderating at all, can we not retro mod?

    Anyhow, I can see Capello playing Rooney and Heskey up front. If he does, let's just hope Heskey plays a blinder. Carrick - oh dear, he's a worry. He really needs to get Gerrard into the game. We need to start off with a high tempo and try and keep it going for the full 90. We really should have no problems beating the Yanks.
    C'mon England.

    I'm off to prepare a big pan of curry for later. Vindaloo!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 51.

    Before reading this blog I thought that England should get to the quarter-finals, would do well to get to the semi-finals but would not get to the final. Now I realise that we are going to win the World Cup, it's definite, and anything less will be a national disgrace and Capello should be sacked. Such is the power of a blog!

  • Comment number 52.

    @39 Wilko: Rooney is a good player, but he is NOT world-class. Like Beckham: more marketing and make-believe than a real world-class player. Far, far removed from the real top players.

  • Comment number 53.

    From the reports I've read it seems that it's actually the Americans who are overconfident and I hope we can ram the nasty taste of reality down their throats tonight and give them a reality check.

    Lennon is going to tear their fullback to shreds. Their central defence are nowhere near the types of defences Rooney has played in the Premiership or Champions League - one plays in a Championship team (LOL) and the other has done nothing for seven months, not even one single league minute. And Americans think all of a sudden they'll stop Rooney, Lampard AND Gerrard? Hilarious.

    Everywhere you go Americans are the same. They keep banging on about 1776 for some stupid reason (noone else in the world really cares, especially not us, it was just one little colony, we got over it and never took their 'revolution' seriously otherwise USA wouldn't exist today). The Americans have the arrogance to think they 'saved' our bacon in WW2, undermining the efforts the British took especially in the Battle of Britain. The Americans have the audacity to commit friendly fire blunders on OUR troops and doing nothing about it - just a quick apology and hide it under the carpet - while wanting to extradite an ill man for hacking their computers instead of giving him a job as he singlehandedly showed up uncle sam. And don't get me started on their television and music - it's so bad that I stopped enjoying them a few years ago now. Their films are junk too.

    Americans are hyping this as some 'revolution' return and making us 'redcoats' (whatever this means) look bad, not being aware that the US in today's world (yes, I rather live in the now rather than in the past like most yanks do) is regarded as the worlds bully that bosses other countries about. I would love it, absolutely love it, when we give them a proper beatdown tonight.

    Come on England. Do what BP did to America - leave them in a mess!

  • Comment number 54.

    Credit where it's due, Capello is so tactically astute, that he can grind out a victory from a team that, quite often, is failing to fire on all cylinders.

    Many of the "better on paper" teams are not fortunate enough to have a coach with this rare and valuable ability.

    All the way? It's possible.


    A Scot.

  • Comment number 55.

    I agree with Phil, i'd love to see gerrard playing just off rooney, but it seems Capello is gonna stick with Heskey there. I don't think milner is that good a choice on the left, joe cole seemed like he was far more in tune with rooney, he's got much more world cup experience and I think he's probably more of a goal threat. I'd like to see Lampard given the freedom to get into those positions on the edge of the box where he is so dangerous for chelsea and let the JABU-JABU work its magic.
    All the nay-sayers need to calm down, we've got a pretty good chance. We all know the media hype up our chances but to be honest any country that was third/fourth favourites would be doing the same thing. If we win tonight we could have the easiest route to the semis of any team. C'mon boys...

  • Comment number 56.

    Phil, do you actually read the postings before you interject? The debate is in full swing in case you didn't notice.

    @ 32. At 10:50am on 12 Jun 2010, Facker wrote:

    "We have 2 attacking full backs that are as good as Maicon and Dani Alves if not better"

    Comparing Johnson to Maicon is like comparing a sapling to an oak tree. I had to stop reading at that point because that statement is pure delusional!

    Also, in terms of the opinions of the players in the PL Evra is better than Cole.....and I'd agree with that.

  • Comment number 57.

    Phil you sound very nervous today. Have you learnt something new about the USA? They were always capable of upsetting England. You don't blame them sounding confident. They have said they are not expected to win against England and so will play without fear. Fair enough. Why allow the ghosts of 60 years ago haunt you.

    I thought you reposed faith in the coach. If you trust Capello, let him do what he feels is best for this game. Win or lose England are going to make it to the next round.

  • Comment number 58.

    Am I the only person who thinks we are going to stuff USA? Theres at least twice as many players we havent taken to SA that could beat this team. Barring poor decisions from the ref or his assistants, we will canter to comfortable win,

  • Comment number 59.

    I actually have this really weird feeling this time around, im not saying England will win but they will definately go one step further. Capello has gotten the best out of the players and i feel in previous world cups and euro's we were unlucky to get knocked out only on penalties. I think other teams had better mentality and adrenaline to take the penalties. Were bound to win on penalties one day and it has to be soon.

    It is also strange because the last few world cups we really over hyped the team and we expected more from them but this time it seems 'very' different. This time its more like the fans are saying 'enjoy the cup' rather than 'we should win' and this will put less pressure on the team. This time were not expecting anything from them except to do us proud.

    Also people saying England are not as good as Spain etc. Spain are overall without a doubt better than us but we have improved and Spain have been shakey recently imo and Casillas has never been the best keeper in the world, he fumbles too much and punches. Same with Victor Valdes. Too many people bigging them up.

    Casillas made me laugh in the article saying England's goalkeepers aren't that good, James is past it but Green is in good form even if average, Hart on the other hand is one for the future and exudes confidence. Id take Hart and Green over Victor Valdes and Casillas anytime, ive seen them alot over the years and they seem dodgey at times. Reina is the only one who i feel is consistent for Spain in goal.

    anyway with that off my chest; I think we could possibly beat Brazil but if Spain played like they did in Euro 2006 then they could be the force to take the tournament again.

    Either way cant wait for the game tonight, time to prove our metal at the highest level.

  • Comment number 60.

    It has to be James in goal and heskey up front tonight - experienced heads are always needed in the big competitions

  • Comment number 61.

    Green's probably the best bet in goal witth Cole left mid.

    Terry and King cental defence. Here we go.

  • Comment number 62.

    Best of luck to the USA this evening! My prediction 2:1 USA with Rooney sent off early in the second half. :-)

  • Comment number 63.

    #11 Phil,
    Years of pain?
    Those years I spent raising a fantastic family and (on the side) enjoyed watching a bunch of talented people kicking a ball about!
    I hope that it is time to punch the sky again!

  • Comment number 64.


    I'd disagree about only Charlton (I assume you mean Bobby) and Greaves.
    There was a man named Moore in the side as well!
    At the time Jack Charlton, Geoff Hurst and, maybe, Alan Ball as well as the others above would, in my opinion, have been pushing for a place in a World XI.
    My point was that, today, I'd be hard pushed to name one of our squad that would even come that close.

    Herbi J
    "your glass isn't even a 1/4 full is it?
    How good are you, by the way?
    I bet you "had trials, could have made it" didn't you?
    I don't swallow that tosh. We've got a chance, like about 6 others, there is no stand out team at this World cup, so why not us?"

    The usual personal attack rubbish comment I'd expect from some on here instead of informed debate on the points I made.

    No, I didn't "have trials" and no I "couldn't have made it" but I did play at a reasonable standard for many years but I always knew that I didn't have that bit extra needed to make it.
    No stand out team?
    Get real and take a look at the Spanish team!

    If you could get away from the personal attacking for 5 minutes and look at creating a World XI, honestly how many of our squad would be in it


    Just looked on the Wikipedia entry for Rooneys goalscoring record for England - 25 out of 60 appearances! Less than 1 in 2!
    That, to me, doesnt shout world class.


    Appearing in the Champions League (misnomer there) even the final really doesnt prove anything.
    As I said in my original post, at CLUB level some of our players do look good, but only because of the quality players around them.
    I stand by what I said, in that, without them they are just not THAT good.

  • Comment number 65.

    Kenk - How can you possibly say Rooney and A. Cole aren't world class?

    I can agree with some of your other commentary (Lamps is getting on and Gerrard was pretty poor this season) but Rooney finished second highest scorer in the League only being pipped by Drogba on the last day of the season and was 1 goal away from being the highest scorer in the cup qualifiers. Not to mention his supply to team-mates. He was consistently rated #3 in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo on the castrol rating system. If he's not world class, who besides Messi and Ronboy are?

    Ashley would walk onto any team in the world as first left back and I'm including Capdevila in that assessment.

    Benjy wrote:

    "One thing that I hope Mr Capello has taught England is how to win a penalty shoot-out! Maybe it's the Italian passion, flamboyance and confidence that makes them so good from 12 yards."

    Which Italy are you talking about? Before 2006 Italy's Penalty shoot-out record in WCs was worse than Englands. Perhaps 2006 was your first world cup - or do you remember the flamboyance of Baggio in the US or the confidence of Donadoni who blew it on home turf and gutted an entire nation?

    It doesn't take a team of Prem League or La Liga superstars to get far in a WC - look at Germany. They consistently field a team of solid, but not dazzling, players who play primarily in the Bundesliga and they have been in more semi-finals than any other team including Brazil.

    Get the team to click Capello, just like the germans; and, perhaps we can go all the way. And if that means playing Heskey behind Rooney, so be it. Chemistry is a funny thing...

  • Comment number 66.

    Even if England win the World Cup, it will be an Italian victory - an Italian had to go to England to teach the English how to play football.

    That's a fact!

  • Comment number 67.

    Well said. I hope we stuff it up their lardy american butts!!!!

    They need taking down a peg or 2. Or a stone or 2 LOL.

  • Comment number 68.

    Capello has got the boys playing as a team and that is a big achievement as of now. I think he may play Gerrard/Lampard behind Rooney once the knock out phase begins to keep an element of surprise.

    If they grind out a victory today (shows toughness & organisation), a semis spot is likely. After that anything can happen.

    The lack of truly world class/special player who can change the game is a minor worry. Messi/Kaka/Xavi or someone unkown as of now can provide a moment of magic that can sweep the opponent off their feet.

  • Comment number 69.

    I love the world cup but the constant chat about 1966 is nauseating. It seems impossible to read any opinion piece in a newspaper or online, or watch a VT on the telly without copious references to it.

    Enough, already.

    If England win today's match they have a great chance to get to the semis, and then who knows. That's why today's match is so important. Whoever finishes top of Group C has a much easier route through the competition than the 2nd place team, so England's progress in this World Cup could all rest on what happens today. USA are a good team and could very easily beat England. I'm nervous.

  • Comment number 70.

    Can't believe the reports that the English fans will be actually outnumbered by the Americans..we've got so used to England filling over three quarters of the stadium in the cross of St.George. Any views from people on the ground?

  • Comment number 71.

    Is there anyway to have a vuvuzela filter on the commentary through the red button or something, it is driving me nuts! I know some people like it, but it is giving me a headache. It is not cultural because they come from China and were only introduced into SA in 2000. I love the atmos of a match but these horns are ruining it! I can't hear drumming or cheering or the commentators.

  • Comment number 72.

    On the subject of hype I would say there has been less hype surrounding England this time than in previous tournaments I have covered. Is this because England fans do not have high hopes for this team?

    Fabio Capello certainly understands the pressure he is under. The first game of any World Cup is so crucial. If England can win tonight, and play well, it will play an important part in setting the tone for the tournament.

    Let's have a few more thoughts on Milner v Joe Cole? And let me know where are the key areas where the match could be won and lost.

  • Comment number 73.

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

  • Comment number 74.

    looking forward to the England game BUT can we have the commentary WITHOUT that annoying incessant noise in the background. Maybe OK for the South African games but not for the others, spoils things as unable to hear the commentators clearly.

  • Comment number 75.

    ... ok I must admit rose-tinted glasses may have caused me to believe that A. Cole would take Phillip Lahm's job, and I find it hard being objective when it comes to Abidal and Zambrotta because I really don't like their respective teams, but I still thinks Ashley's world class...

    You're right about the '66 team, though. Charlton x2, Moore, Hurst, Greaves (44 goals in 57 games!), Nobby Stiles, Sir Alf - all class.

  • Comment number 76.

    67. At 12:48pm on 12 Jun 2010, FedupwithGovt

    wrote:They need taking down a peg or 2. Or a stone or 2 LOL.


    that's the pot calling the kettle black, I think you will find that if you do a quick pole of Europe and the home nations you will find that the English are recognized as being one of the most arrogant nations on the planet. !!! LOL.

  • Comment number 77.

    I agree with Kenk.

    This team relies on the tactical nous of Capello than any player's brilliance. That will be good enough against most teams but against teams like Spain, Brazil and Argentina it will not be sufficient.

    Rooney was brilliant, in the mould of Messi/Kaka, till about 5 years ago. Due to combination of factors he is no longer brilliant but a very good player.

  • Comment number 78.

    Team Capello is carrying out a massive disinformation campaign. They want to find and plug the remaining leaks in the England setup, and thus prevent the media and those with an axe to grind giving away their game plans.
    Todays team:
    Joe Hart
    Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher, John Terry, Ashley Cole
    James Milner, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole
    Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch
    Substitutes: Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Gareth Barry (otherwise Emile Heskey)

  • Comment number 79.

    Capello has proved to things to me. He prefers experience and is excellent at absorbing the pressure instead of the players. Now he has picked his squad I think he will back those he has picked, so Carrick in for Barry with Heskey upfront.

    Exactly the same as the qualifiers leaving different formations as plan B. I think James will start in goal, if fit, because again it is an experience thing. Bog standard 442 with Gerrard on the left.

  • Comment number 80.

    A team that includes Emile Heskey shouldn't win the world cup.
    I'm Northern Irish and I would hate for England to win the world cup, not because I have anything against England, or the majority of English people, or even for any political or cultural reasons.
    It's not an inferiority complex either, I fully accept that we don't have as many good players as England, although we did produce George Best, better than any player ever produced by England.
    I don't want England to win because of the English media and its constant tub-thumbing and jingoism, the whole 'England expects' nonsense and thinly-veiled racism and xenophobia that greets every world cup.
    This is the same media who castigated Ferguson for his 'typical Germans' comment while quite happily publish headlines with much more offensive connotations every time England are in an international tournament.
    The reasons above and the fact that I can't abide John Terry would be the reasons I hope England don't win.

  • Comment number 81.

    76. At 1:43pm on 12 Jun 2010, patchbruce wrote:
    67. At 12:48pm on 12 Jun 2010, FedupwithGovt

    wrote:They need taking down a peg or 2. Or a stone or 2 LOL.


    that's the pot calling the kettle black, I think you will find that if you do a quick pole of Europe and the home nations you will find that the English are recognized as being one of the most arrogant nations on the planet. !!! LOL.


    Delusional maybe - arrogant - No. LOL!

  • Comment number 82.

    It's been a long time since I had belief in an England manager but there's something I trust in Fabio. He commands the highest respect, trust and belief from his players which is essential to success. Sven and Steve had favorites in the squad but there's no crossing Capello. If any manager can lead us to something special, be it this year or in Euro 2012 it's him.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 83.

    Post 80:

    How can you possibly say that supporting your team is jingoism, xenophobia and racism? Are you telling me that if N. Ireland had qualified, the media in your country would have said: "We don't mind who wins, as long as it's a fair competition." No, they would have been supporting their country like us and any other. I think it is you displaying the thinly-veiled xenophobia, or rather Anglophobia (not 'racism', because a country is not a race), as you have decided to single out England when every other team displays the same level of support as we do.

  • Comment number 84.

    patchbruce wrote:

    that's the pot calling the kettle black, I think you will find that if you do a quick pole of Europe and the home nations you will find that the English are recognized as being one of the most arrogant nations on the planet. !!! LOL.

    You must be
    Arrogance, Ignorance and pure greed is the minds-set of ALL American's.
    Do a pole world wide and you will see exactly which nation is loathed

    2-0 England.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.

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

  • Comment number 87.

    Not long now until Fabio Capello will be telling his players the team. Short journey to the ground and then England's World Cup will finally begin.

    Argentina look impressive - what is the feeling among the England fans out there before this all-important first game?

  • Comment number 88.

    Argentina looked very comfortable on the ball, suprising it only finished 1-0 though. England can't and wont keep the ball anything like that, but there are more than one way to skin a cat and we shoudn't be looking to copy anyone.

  • Comment number 89.

    I just want to wish luck to the England World Cup greetings from Mostar come on england

  • Comment number 90.

    When I look at Alan Shearer on the tele I think back to an unnecessary shoulder barge on the Argentine goalkeeper that stopped Campbell's goal from being allowed.....

    I look rather than listen 'cause there really isn't anything interesting being said - accomplished footballer - average manager - and poor pundit.

  • Comment number 91.

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

  • Comment number 92.

    Argentina look very beatable. The game was only spoilt by the monotomy of Mr Mcarthy's inane stating of the obvious, apologies if his commentary was aimed at the visually impaired. I do hope he has a nice rest now, in his room for a month.

  • Comment number 93.

    I just hope England come out and look like they are interested(which it didn;t look like in 2006),and play a high tempo game,and put the USA on the back foot from the start.
    I,m not too worried if it,s Haskey,or gerrard.Or Cole or Milner.Just that they don,t look like they would rather be anywhere else.
    If they play to their potential,they should beat the USA,and take that confidence into the next game.

  • Comment number 94.

    No not really. Quaters and what ever happens after that. But I was wondering, in the four years since the last world cup, how have Spain come out of no where to being world cup favourites? They have players who majority of the people had never heard of 4 years ago who are world class yet for England within those 4 years, Wayne Rooney is the only player who seems to have developed to be world class. Where is England's improvement (manager aside) and also, who is the future for England?

  • Comment number 95.

    Fabio Capello has done methodical planning and has assembled a winning side. In skipper Steven Gerrard the side has one of the most influential midfielders in the game. Rooney, Crouch and Lampard are regular scorers. The build up has been fantastic. They will certainly start on the front foot. Best wishes.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 96.

    It always surprises me to see headlines along the lines of "England's Hurt" or "44 barren years".

    "Can Capello End England's Hurt?" seems to suggest that England have somehow *deserved* to win the World Cup lately, but didn't. To any neutral observer, they palpably haven't. Don't believe your own hype!

    As for the 44 barren years *since* 1966, what about all the barren years *before* 1966 as well?

  • Comment number 97.

    dear Phil McNulty; in reply to the question....NO ! Capello cannot end England's hurt. He's chosen the wrong squad.

  • Comment number 98.

    Chosen wrong squad??
    Maybe that has to do with USA, too?? Other??
    soit dit en passant.

    Argentina won and could have scored more goals... but nigeria too!!

  • Comment number 99.

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

  • Comment number 100.

    can Capello end Englands hurt

    NO NO NO NO NO NO is the answer to that one. cant even beat a team of championship players!!


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