Capello - The verdict

Early promise for new England era

By Rob Parrish   Last updated: 7th February 2008  

Capello - The verdict

Capello: Encouraging start

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Fabio Capello's first 90 minutes at the helm provided just as many questions as answers for an expectant nation of England supporters.

In truth, it is utterly impossible to establish England's potential to become world-beaters from a 2-1 victory over a second-rate Switzerland side, but that appears to be what some fans demand.

The smattering of booing which broke out around Wembley just 35 minutes into Capello's reign proved how instant gratification would be the only way to please some of the more fickle followers of the Three Lions.

England had looked completely out of sorts for the vast majority of the opening period, but it must be remembered that a much-changed line-up were playing a new system in their first match under a new coach, who had spent a matter of hours with them on the training field.

And how a half-fit David Beckham, whose chosen career path to a third-rate league has taken him further away from the standards required to perform at international level than ever before, would have improved the performance is unclear.

The one obvious sign from Capello's first game is that he selects his squad on form, not reputation.

With Beckham nowhere to be seen and Michael Owen left kicking his heels on the bench for 90 minutes, two established stalwarts of the national side for the past decade, the message was clear.


Instead, the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Wes Brown, Matthew Upson and David Bentley were given the opportunity to transfer their club form onto the international stage.

Jenas blossomed after his goal, prior to which he had been largely anonymous, while Brown and Upson looked nervy but deserve a second look. And the shaven-headed Bentley provided dangerous crossing ability in the No.7 shirt. Sound familiar?

In goal, the returning David James came within seconds of a faultless 90 minute performance, before producing his obligatory flap at a late cross in added time, a hallmark of his previous international outings. Fortunately, Switzerland could not capitalise.

At 37, James is not one for the future and his previous displays at this level do not inspire confidence. But this is clean slate time, and the other options are no more appealing.

Capello also proved that his team talks can be effective, even if his grasp of the English language is not up to demanded standard of some of the xenophobic In-ger-lund brigade.

After the tepid first half, where only Joe Cole's flash of inspiration for Jenas' goal raised the volume sufficiently to muffle the shouts of the players on the field, a different England emerged.

The patient approach remained, but the passing was crisper and with more purpose and a number of chances were created, only for Switzerland to threaten to spoil the party by equalising.

A swift response was required, and arrived with substitutes Peter Crouch and Shaun Wright-Phillips both involved, the Chelsea winger applying the finishing touch to Steven Gerrard's cross after the Liverpool striker's initial flick-on.


Wayne Rooney and Joe Cole - probably England's most consistent performer over the last two years - were comfortably the best players on the field and their combined talents will provide the attacking impetus for years to come.

The gifted duo can always create something from nothing, with their flashes of genius an essential component alongside the more traditional English traits of their team-mates, something a manager with the experience of Capello will already have noted.

The captaincy issue remains outstanding, with Gerrard handed the armband on the night and Capello insisting a full-time skipper will not be appointed until the World Cup qualification campaign comes around in September.

But the skipper's role is now surely the Liverpool midfielder's to lose, despite his continued protestations that he is merely minding it in John Terry's enforced absence through injury.

England are clearly capable of performing to a much higher standard then they displayed against a determined but limited Switzerland side, and it is up to Capello to bring the best out of a group of players who, despite their superstar status and Premier League plaudits, failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals.

The early signs are encouraging, but the real tests are still to come.

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Comments (6)

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Yenchong Yap (Manchester United fan) says...

England home fans are so desperate to see the revival of the English team at the shortest possible time that at many a time are less rational when the team under-perform. Please do not hope for a miracle but to give enough time to Mr. Capello in his selection of the best players for the positions, bond them, create unision, and the nuture them into a team greater than the 1966's.

Posted 03:27 10th February 2008

Jamie Walsh (Torquay fan) says...

well apart from a handlful of comments, the rest of you are the exact problem with the country's public! you all expect miracles to happen over night! yes it may only have been switzerland, but you have to beat the team put in front of you. did we? yes. was it our strongest team? no. he uses players based on form, and used the opportunity to test out some players that are borderline to see if they could step up. in some cases they didnt, i.e jenas, but others they definately did, i.e bentley. im not saying he had a perfect game, but he is young and therefore not the finished article yet! overall, good job done Capello, keep it up!

Posted 10:19 8th February 2008

Simon Cross (Liverpool fan) says...

England only started playing better when Crouch came on and we went 4-4-2 he's a very underated footballer,I think the best thing the FA could do was impose a minimum requirement of 3 English players in any Starting 11 and then we would have more choice and experience.(Wenger are you listening!)

Posted 08:48 8th February 2008

Antony Bax (Liverpool fan) says...

England were awful and showed why they did not qualify for Euro 2008... Switzerland will get anihilated at home by a decent team!! I totally disagree with virtually every word of this article!! Wes Brown does NOT warrant another look!! Everyone outside of Manchester has known for years of his limited ability... the first 25 minutes England could have been 2 down cos of his inability to clear his lines! Secondly, to say that Jenas ¨Blossomed¨after his goal is laughable!! Thirdly, that Rooney and Cole will be our attacking impetus says to me that Rob Parrish has not seen Liverpool play for the last 5 years!! And last, but not least, Capello should get his begging bowl out and go and ask the best defender and midfielder in the Prem to come out of retirement and install Carragher and Scholes in the team!! Plus don´t rule out Beckham... Bentley provided huff and puff but no real end result!! Rob.... what were these alledged ¨dangerous crosses¨?!? Plus he has no more pace than Becks!!! Leave out the culp`rit of England´s midfield (Lampard) and bring back the King!!

Posted 03:28 8th February 2008

Andy Sutton (Sunderland fan) says...

While nobody can say that England's performance was the most inspiring 90 minutes they have ever seen we must all admit that there were positives to take from the game. Clearly Capello is asserting some discipline over these players and I'm sure that anyone who steps out of line will be made an example of, only right too. It was good to see a change from the 'star' midfielders coming to the back four to get the ball and very few long, wasteful balls. Once Capello and his people have seen more of the players and had time to work with them Im hopeful that we will see much better football from England and far more awareness of the jobs everyone needs to do. I'm not expecting miracles but I cant see how a man with Capello's knowledge and experience can fail to improve us as a footballing nation.

Posted 11:57 7th February 2008

Sedge Rubrik (Arsenal fan) says...

Decent job done. The main thing that will have hit Capello is how poor English players' technique is: poor first touch, misplaced passes, unable to get the ball to feet etc. Clearly the man knows what he is doing, but you can only play properly if your players have the technique to do it. It is going to be tough to do well. The players are simply not that good. BTW, does anyone else think that Ashley Cole has lost a yard of pace?

Posted 11:57 7th February 2008

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