Tag Archives: South Africa

Capello continues to cling to the wrong experienced players


It was only last year that I was championing Fabio Capello as an intelligent and adaptable manager capable of improving considerably on England’s tournament record. Then disastrous preparation for the World Cup in South Africa and the handling of the captaincy fiasco transformed him from hero to zero for the whole nation. Yesterday’s draw with Switzerland, in a game England should have won at Wembley, was further evidence that Capello should have gone after the failure of the World Cup.

Capello’s main failing at the moment, above his poor communication skills and shoddy organisation, is his refusal to move on from ageing stars. Frank Lampard started as part of a three man midfield yesterday but England improved dramatically after the break when Capello brought on Young in his place, who should have started the game. Young scored a smart goal.

England have real pace and youthful pentration available on the flanks. The likes of Young, Downing, Johnson, Lennon and Walcott ought to be utilised more often. It’s taken Capello too long to give them international playing experience. The best teams at the big tournaments are units of quality players that have played together for a number of years, since the promise of their youth. Look at the German and Spanish sides.

In the centre of midfield, Jack Wilshere is the future. Capello has finally decided to give him a key role. But he continually plays alongside Parker and Lampard. Lampard is past his best and should be a squad member, not an integral part of the team for the long term. Parker was exposed yesterday; he is not the solution to England’s midfield woes. Capello needs to look to younger options for a holding midfield partner for Wilshere. Tom Huddlestone perhaps?

On the other hand, Capello consistently neglects experienced international players that could still play a vital role in his squad. His new found fetish for Darren Bent as a lone striker has alienated Peter Crouch, with rumours swirling today that he’s ruled himself out of international duty whilst Capello remains in charge. Michael Owen would have scored the chance Bent had to win the game, undeservedly, for England against Switzerland. Michael Carrick has been superb for Manchester United and would compliment Wilshere well. His passing ability is well suited to internationals.

A year ago I thought one of Capello’s key attributes was decisiveness. He dealt excellently with the John Terry crisis at first, only to divide the dressing room with his terribly handled reinstatement. However the defining aspect of his tenure looks set to be indecision. Extraordinarily Capello didn’t know his best eleven before the 2010 World Cup. He still won’t know his best eleven before Euro 2012, if England get there. He appears torn between entrusting the team’s hopes to youth or tried and tested experience. And when he tries to balance the two, he picks the wrong ingredients.

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Things can only get better…


Am I the only one that’s disappointed? Now I know everyone would have been gutted with England’s opening result but the tournament itself has yet to ignite into the vivid festival of football, of entertainment, that we have been promised. I write following Germany’s demolition of Australia, the only game with goals galore so far. I am yet to see an entertaining contest that gripped me for ninety minutes.

It is not only disappointment either; some aspects of this World Cup are simply irritating. The opening match was no classic but I forced myself to sit through out of a sense of occasion, only to be repulsed by that blaring soundtrack of horns that has accompanied every game since. The only game in which the ceaseless drone has not spoiled my viewing pleasure was England vs. USA, which I watched at a skewed angle in a bar with the only audible noise from the stadium being the rhythm of England fans’ drums. For all I know though the horns may have persisted in the comfort of homes across the nation, without the accompanying chorus of drunken chanting to beat them into submission.

 I also pity those who watched it at home and therefore may have actually heard the banal bleating of Adrian Chiles in the ITV studio. Why such a man was fought over and subsequently acquired for ludicrous amounts of money is beyond me. I could just about tolerate his autocue, everyman style on Match of the Day 2. This after all was a highlights show and unless you enter isolation to avoid hearing the scores at the weekend you are aware of the results when you tune in. His dull delivery seemed to matter less then. Live coverage however could do with an injection of occasion and excitement now and again, something Chiles does with all the effectiveness of a damp cloth. I imagine any genuine football fan could do a better job of presenting than him, as he seems to have entered some sort of depression in the absence of One Show co-presenter Christine Bleakely. Someone ought to remind him he’s getting paid to watch football at the World Cup! If he’s this bleak in South Africa I fear for GMTV when he returns to front their new look breakfast hello.

Other aspects of the broadcasting spoil the purity of the football. For example ITV in particular have a fetish for slow motion, showing not just glorious goals again but the gesticulations of a manager, the expressionless face of a manager or the brandishing of a yellow card again and again and again. Such clips are used not just in-play but again at half-time, eating into the precious seconds of “analysis” squeezed between commercial breaks and Chiles drearily informing us of upcoming unmissable fixtures. The “analysis” is conducted by the likes of Gareth Southgate, another boring character, and Marcel Desailly, whose comments are far from boring but not usually correct; “the midfield needs to sit down on the defence more”.

Then there was England’s opening performance and the shambles of Clint Dempsey’s goal. I have previously defended Capello’s handling of the Terry scandal but serious issues remain that should have been ironed out long ago and were not examined in the warm up matches. It is unacceptable that we do not know who our first choice goalkeeper is, our best midfield, our best formation or who will partner Terry out of uncapped Dawson and recently un-retired Jamie Carragher. One of these issues could seriously undermine a team’s chances of tournament glory, let alone all of them.

However on the upside things can only improve from here and England’s performance was their best in a while, despite the result. The coming days should see better football and better news for England, with Gareth Barry set to return, perhaps freeing up Gerrard to connect with Rooney and lead us to glory? Well, maybe.

Why Capello Had to Sack Terry and Pick Rio


The endless revelations regarding the private life of a certain Chelsea defender have dominated the front and back pages of both the tabloids and supposedly respected news publications in recent weeks. However most of us are simply concerned that such trivial drama about the sordid and inevitable escapades of the Premiership footballer will harm England’s chances at another World Cup. In 2010 even I, a sceptic when it comes to England’s chances of actually achieving when it counts, have been persuaded by factors such as a favourable climate despite the far flung locale of South Africa, Capello’s simple organisation, Rooney’s growing brilliance, a gentle qualification campaign and an easy group on paper, that we may actually get somewhere. For sports writers and celeb gossip columnists alike then John Terry’s foolish, failed attempts to suppress details of his adultery are nothing less than a wet dream with ongoing opportunities to prophesise doom in place of success and ask how Capello shall choose to react to such a colossal crisis.

I’ve heard several people comment jokingly that Capello is presumably bemused by the fuss surrounding Terry’s macho behaviour, given his Italian nationality. Before he gave way to media pressure and gave Terry the boot as skipper, these jokers suggested Capello would simply rise above the tidal wave of publicity and leave the only leader in the team in place, armband secure. Critics pointed to the example a national captain must set not only for young fans but for the rest of the team. Capello couldn’t simply ignore the allegations with their mounting evidence and thus condone Terry’s actions.

I would argue that ideally this is what would have happened. Had there been no spotlight of media scrutiny, had Terry not aggravated matters by trying to silence the papers and effectively screaming his deception from the rooftops, the purely football decision would’ve been to leave Terry as captain, despite his behaviour. Let’s not kid ourselves; every member of the national side probably has an equally scandalous skeleton in their closet. Sadly though not every member of the England squad is blessed with the natural characteristics of leadership that John Terry has, in fact none of them are. That fact is made evident by Capello’s choice to succeed the disgraced Terry.

Rio Ferdinand! The news that a crock, himself with a tarnished track record following a missed drugs test, was to replace his centre-back partner as captain, made me scoff at Capello’s supposed genius. After ten minutes brooding over the alternatives though I changed my mind. Who else is there other than Ferdinand? Ordinarily the equally safe but wiser option would be too appoint the first choice goalkeeper to act as an experienced, calm, urging presence from the back. However England has no obvious choice between the sticks. Robert Green and Ben Foster are questionable as squad members and David James would be a step backward.

Strong voices have called for Rooney to be made skipper, a move that would complete his maturing process from raging bull to clinical cheetah in front of goal. However Capello no doubt agreed with the chorus denouncing that option as the death of England’s chances. Rooney still isn’t primarily a goal-scorer and he needs to retain a degree of savagery to be England’s world class talisman. Making him captain would have burdened Rooney with one responsibility too many and would have seen a return to sights like Rooney valiantly tracking back only to give away a penalty to Russia in the left-back position, costing England their best player and the match. Steven Gerrard then? He too is far from free from scandal and is another player Capello will be praying can recapture his best this summer, another match winner who could do without the extra weight on his shoulders.

And so whilst Ferdinand is clearly not the perfect choice as captain Capello has logically chosen him to maximise England’s chances and minimise the impact of the whole incident on the team’s preparations. Up till now Capello has got things right and the team had been in buoyant mood. Whilst Ferdinand may not be a guaranteed starter due to his own fitness problems, ideally Ferdinand will partner Terry come the summer. He is also a proven winner with Manchester United. Capello will no doubt hope that little will change with Ferdinand wearing the armband and his big players, including John Terry, will feel liberated to produce their best football. I understand those looking at Capello’s handling of this whole affair and likening it to the safe, failure inducing calls made by past England managers. However if those critics take a moment to think they might realise that Capello is rising above the media bubble, (whilst not ignoring it) and is pursuing the same pragmatic, hard-line tactics that so far have only brought him praise and England consistent success.