Capello insists English spirit will silence Bilic

Coach will use Croatian counterpart's barbs in bid to seal World Cup place tonight

Fabio Capello barely knows enough English for a war of words but yesterday he hit back decisively at Slaven Bilic for his criticism of the England team by sarcastically thanking the Croatia coach for motivating his players ahead of tonight's World Cup qualifier.

England can qualify for the World Cup finals next summer if they beat Bilic's team at Wembley. After his team's victory over Belarus on Saturday, Bilic accused England of "missing some Englishness" since Capello took over 20 months ago. Having beaten Steve McClaren's England twice to deny them qualification for Euro 2008, the Croatia coach had, for a while, been the bogeyman of English football.

In response to Bilic's remarks, Capello said that his opposite number had given his players the perfect motivation to win the match. He said: "Thank you, Mr Bilic. It is the best thing you could have done. I have no need to motivate my players after this. He tried to provoke a reaction. It's a fantastic assist. Thank you."

Bilic had said that Capello's team were "definitely missing something", although he had refused to elaborate. Unfortunately for Croatia they are also definitely missing something tonight: Luka Modric, Stipe Pletikosa (the first-choice goalkeeper), Robert Kovac, and Ivan Juric are all injured while Vedran Corluka is suspended.



It is the first time that Capello has been drawn into what might loosely be described as mind games with an opposing manager. Despite losing 4-1 to Capello's England in Zagreb one year ago, Bilic has not lost the ability to get under the skin of England managers, having ensured McClaren got the sack in November 2007 with two wins in Euro 2008 qualifying.

Capello said that no matter what authoritarian changes he had made with England, they had not lost their Englishness. "I want, and I like, the English spirit," he said. "I saw this spirit in a lot of games that we've played. It's impossible to win without spirit. We suffered sometimes during first halves and played better second halves, and it would have been impossible to do that without spirit."

The Croatia game in November 2007 when England's Euro 2008 qualification fate was sealed with a 3-2 defeat was the occasion on which McClaren, with umbrella in one hand, was nicknamed "the wally with the brolly". Capello indicated he had no intention of becoming pirla con l'umbrello. "I have heard the weather is going to be dry," he said.

The Croatia players have also outlined their intention to target Wayne Rooney's brittle temperament during the game in the hope of getting the player, dismissed in the 2006 World Cup finals, sent off. Capello said: "I think that, with me, only once has Rooney done a 'not good' tackle. Only once. Afterwards, he always played well. Provocation means nothing to Rooney." That last claim is debatable, especially as Rooney committed two dreadful fouls against the United States alone in a friendly in May last year.

Capello's team remains cloaked in secrecy but once again it seems that Emile Heskey will start ahead of Jermain Defoe. Shaun Wright-Phillips is also expected to be in the first XI.

When England last played Croatia at Wembley in a qualifier, Capello was a television pundit and, in the aftermath of the defeat, he immediately threw his hat into the ring to succeed McClaren. "Me the coach of England?" he said then. "It would be a great test to overcome and I am the right age to do it."

Yesterday Capello denied he had said that and claimed he had never watched a video of that night. "That's for history," he said. "A team like England not qualifying for a Euro or World Cup is a terrible thing for the players and the clubs. For that reason the motivation we will have is more important."

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week