Capello sees progress a year on from debacle


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The Independent Online

Today is a year to the day that, late on in England's first training session in South Africa, Rio Ferdinand challenged Emile Heskey and injured his left knee so badly that by the evening the England captain knew that he was out of the World Cup finals. From that point it went downhill quicker than a boulder off Table Mountain which is why, 365 days on, the whole sorry experience still hangs over Fabio Capello and the England team.

Nevertheless, they will play today in front of a Wembley stadium at full capacity for a Euro 2012 qualifier against a Switzerland side with no box-office names, at the end of a long domestic season. None of which seems to have diminished the English public's appetite for watching their team whose progress in qualifying has been steady at best and has included a draw at home with Montenegro, a nation with a smaller population than Leeds.

There are new players in this team to a year ago, and a new 4-3-3 formation. There are lots of promises about how it will be different next year. John Terry even said yesterday that England had "turned the corner" after last summer's dismal World Cup. Asked yesterday about his changed England team, Capello (left) declined to say it was better. "It's different," he said. "We've got probably more imagination. Some players have improved. Some players."

Win today and he goes into the summer arguably just two more wins away from qualification because if England beat Bulgaria and Wales in September then they should qualify as the best second-placed team even if they lose to Montenegro come 7 October.

How does he assess England one year on from South Africa? "I'm happy with the performance of the team. But, the qualification is good but the most important thing is to win trophies, not to play all the games."

Capello knows it is a long way back from South Africa for his team and his reputation. He feels he has made concessions in some areas to the English temperament. And like most of us he does not seem sure what kind of England team will turn up in Poland – qualification permitting – this time next year.