Capello’s future on the line

2010-06-19 11:03

Fabio Capello will go into Wednesday’s showdown with Slovenia with

his future as England coach on the line after refusing to rule out quitting if

his squad go out of the World Cup at the group stage.

A disjointed display in last night’s goalless draw with Algeria has

made that a distinct possibility and the Italian has admitted he is at a loss to

understand why the biggest names in the Three Lions’ squad morph into toothless

tabby cats when they pull on the national shirt.

Failure to advance from a group that was greeted with the banner

headline ‘EASY’ in The Sun, when the draw was made in December would, for

Capello, represent a stain on a coaching career that has been synonomous with


The Italian insists he is not contemplating anything other than a

win in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

But he did not rule out falling on his sword when pressed on the

matter in the recriminatory aftermath of Friday’s debacle in Cape Town: “It is

too early to speak about this. We have to wait.”

That may have sounded like a standard piece of flat-batting but his

equivocation was significant given that Capello, who endured a miserable 64th

birthday yesterday, signed a revised two-year contract only three weeks


That deal, done against a backdrop of interest from Inter Milan,

was supposed to ensure he remained in charge until Euro 2012 as well as being a

reward for the way England qualified with nine wins in ten matches.

Capello admitted the England that has drawn both its matches here

has been unrecognisable in comparison to the side that scored 34 goals on the

road to South Africa.

Immediately prior to the World Cup, the Italian said he believed

his most significant achievement with the squad had been to give them back their

self-belief in the aftermath of their failure to reach Euro 2008 under his

predecessor Steve McClaren.

But the confidence generated by home-and-away demolitions of

Croatia has evaporated under the unforgiving lights of a World Cup as the likes

of Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard have fluffed their lines on world football’s

biggest stage.

Capello said: “Rooney didn’t play like Rooney, but he is not the

problem. It is the pressure of the World Cup. These players are training very

well at a fast speed. But in these two games they were not the same.”

Fortunately for England, other results in group C have conspired to

ensure they retain control of their own destiny and everything could yet come

good for Capello et al if the pressure produces a performance worthy of their

reputations in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

That will be a far from straightforward task against a Slovenia

side that, having beaten Algeria 1-0 and drawn 2-2 with the USA, only needs a

draw to book their place in the last 16.

Complicating matters further for England is the hangover from a

friendly they played against Slovenia last year.

England won the match 2-1 thanks to a Frank Lampard penalty and the

Slovenians have harboured a grudge ever since over Wayne Rooney’s conduct.

At the time of the draw, defender Bostjan Cesar, who was out of

action for two months with an injury he suffered in the challenge on Rooney that

led to England’s penalty, accused the striker of setting out to hurt him and

promised to take his revenge in Port Elizabeth.

Cesar said: “I’ll have additional motivation for that match.

Everybody knows that Rooney deliberately tried to injure me. He should be

ashamed of himself. We will try to wind him up and make it an unpleasant

experience for him and his team-mates.”

Capello meanwhile must decide whether to make significant changes

to his line-up with Joe Cole – arguably England’s best player in Germany four

years ago – one of the cards he has yet to play.

England’s depleted back four will also have to be reshuffled once

more with Jamie Carragher suspended for the Slovenia match.

Despite his downbeat tone, the Italian believes England could yet

light up the tournament if they can click back to their best on Wednesday.

He said: “I hope that after playing a big performance the minds of

the players will be free and we can play like the England that I know.”


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