Capello relishes night to remember
Fabio Capello insists he only needs a slim vocabulary of 100 English words to communicate with his players - and he summed up their draw against Ghana with 99 to spare.
"Fantastic" was Capello's considered and entirely correct verdict on a night when Ghana's supporters illuminated Wembley and the Black Stars combined with England to deliver one of the finest friendlies the stadium has seen in recent times.
Asamoah Gyan's injury-time equaliser, and the celebrations that followed among 21,000 visiting fans, was a reminder of the magic Ghana brought to the South African summer when they fell just short of reaching the World Cup semi-finals.
Gyan's goal cancelled out Andy Carroll's first international goal and deprived England of victory, but even Capello could not stop himself breaking out into a broad smile at the final whistle after another rewarding night.
The passion of Ghana's players and fans shone through at Wembley. Picture: Getty Images
The harsh claims that Capello was somehow cheating supporters by fielding a shadow side after beating Wales in the Euro 2012 qualifier in Cardiff were made to look nonsensical as the carnival of African colour splashed across one end of Wembley was matched by the vibrant, end-to-end, action offered up by Ghana and England.
If this was the paying public being cheated, or Ghana supposedly being shown a lack of respect by England, then you suspect every one of the 80,102 inside Wembley will settle for it every time. Wembley has seen a few devalued friendlies in its time - this was not one of them.
It was, in almost every respect bar its status as a friendly, a more compelling and competitive fixture than the comparative walkover in Wales.
Capello said: "This was not a friendly game. Every tackle was a fight. It was a really exciting game for the fans as well as being an important game for the players.
"It was a really, really good physical game. We played to win and Ghana played every moment going forward. It is never easy to call a game like that a friendly."
England made a major contribution to the spectacle, but so much credit must go to Ghana and their fans. If the celebrations that followed Gyan's goal, a slick piece of sleight of foot that left the unimpressive Joleon Lescott floundering, are an accurate measure of reaction, the mind boggles at how they might have celebrated further winners at the World Cup.
Every piece of their participation was a pleasure, from the exuberance of their attacking play and the fervour of their support through to their splendid press officer, resplendent in bow tie, who concluded affairs by thanking all for their involvement and light-heartedly looking forward to the return leg in Accra.
If there is a guarantee it would be anything like this, then the Football Association should take up our flamboyant friend on his offer and confirm the arrangements today.
And it brought a joyous end to an England get-together that has often become mired in the sideshow of the captaincy debate, the quality of Capello's English, the motives behind his team selection and his advice to Liverpool's £35m striker Carroll to watch his alcohol intake.
This was intoxicating enough to be going on with and Ghana's determination to show what they are made of, and that their excellent World Cup was no fluke on African soil, meant this was an examination that allowed Capello to learn more about his squad.
Capello's welcome flexibility in using a fluid 4-3-3 system in Cardiff (or 4-1-4-1 depending on whether England have the ball or not) continued against Ghana and once again the signs were promising.
Aston Villa's Ashley Young flourished again, making up for hitting the bar with a simple chance by combining with Stewart Downing to create Carroll's goal just before the interval.
Downing was another plus for Capello in a formation that allows width to thrive and serve a striker in the Carroll mould, although Darren Bent leads the pecking order after these two internationals.
Carroll's display confirmed what we know about his current circumstances. He is short of match fitness, rough around the edges and this all showed in a mixed bag of a performance before he was taken off after an hour.
He is, however, the perfect raw material for Kenny Dalglish to work with at Anfield and Capello to profit from with England. If he stays fit he may be quite a handful for defences to cope with should England reach Poland and the Ukraine.
Gyan dedicated his goal to Ghana's fans
Jack Wilshere was given another hour of international action by Capello, proving again that he is a perfect fit for England. Capello, again, did not need to waste too many words of his maligned command of English to sum up the precocious Arsenal teenager.
"Wilshere is a player," said Capello. Short. Simple. And we knew exactly what he meant.
Everton's Leighton Baines showed why he is now the accepted deputy to Ashley Cole while goalkeeper Joe Hart was excellent, one bad kick apart, in the face in Ghana's constant menace.
Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill were fully tested by Gyan and company with mixed success, although the gifted striker reserved the real torment for poor Lescott, who may have sleepless nights before the pair meet again when Sunderland travel to Manchester City on Sunday.
There was even time for the introduction of new England faces in the shape of Wolves winger Matt Jarvis and Danny Welbeck, currently on loan to Sunderland from Manchester United and the recipient of a rough ride from Ghana's fans for apparently preferring to pledge allegiance to England despite eligibility for the Black Stars.
Even that moment of rancour was forgotten amid the tumultuous reaction to Gyan's equaliser - and the joy of John Pantsil racing around Wembley at the final whistle brandishing the Ghanaian flag.
It was a sight that summed up a thoroughly memorable Wembley night. If this was an advert for a meaningless, devalued friendly designed to leave the public feeling short-changed, then let's have more of them.