Capello faces tough task to change England’s “mentality problem”
Watching a repeat on Saturday of a TV comedy show first shown early in 2010 offered a stark reminder of how quickly and deeply Fabio Capello’s stock has fallen in the eyes of the average England fan.
As Alistair McGowan gurned his best Capello impression, the Italian-accented words were all about England’s success in qualifying and how they were looking forward to the World Cup with such high hopes.
How odd that sounded when hours later Sunday newspapers quoted Capello as saying he knew England’s South African campaign was doomed because his players were physically and mentally exhausted.
“We knew the situation before the World Cup. I spoke with my staff but I could not come out and say this because psychologically it is not good for the players,” said the Italian. “We tried to do everything. I spoke with the doctors and physios to improve the situation but South Africa was a mentality problem.”
Capello apologised to the fans who travelled to South Africa and said he would have understood if the FA had wanted to sack him.
That is the backdrop to Wednesday’s Wembley friendly against Hungary – a game nobody seems to want just three days before the start of the Premier League and when Capello and some players have said they expect to be booed.
Capello’s squad for Wednesday’s game – his only chance to experiment before 2012 European qualification begins – featured only 10 of the 23 from South Africa.
Much of the dead wood has been cut away but the core of his first-choice World Cup XI remains as the likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Barry, Ashley Cole and John Terry look set to retain their places.
It would have been a shock if they hadn’t as they remain players of the highest quality who no doubt will soon be back to their best once back in the comfortable colours of their clubs.
Uncapped Arsenal youngsters Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs and Fulham forward Bobby Zamora were the eye-catching additions but Wilshere is deemed still not good enough for a place in Arsenal’s first team while Gibbs has not played since November through injury and it would be a big ask to throw them into England’s Euro qualifying campaign.
Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson, who were both culled from the final World Cup squad, are both back and could offer interesting alternatives but the rest of the new boys hardly represent a new wave ready to take up the mantle.
Wes Brown, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Young, Darren Bent and Carlton Cole have all had their moments in the Premier League but it is hard to see how England will look much stronger by their inclusion.
So, come the September qualifier against Bulgaria, after a month of breathless Premier League action, it is likely to be a familiar-looking England taking the field with a now very familiar “mentality problem”.
PHOTO: England’s coach Fabio Capello reacts during a news conference at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Rustenburg June 28, 2010. REUTERS/Darren Staples