Capello on war path as England produce leaden display in final warm-up game

Manager faced with familiar problem as Gerrard and Lampard fail to gel again

Before the kick-off the England players paraded a sign in Setswana to the crowd that translated as, "Happy to be here with you". In the 57th minute Wayne Rooney was booked for dissent and the notion that the English contingent was happy looked like the afternoon's biggest fantasy.

This was, at times, an excruciating experience for the two XIs which Fabio Capello fielded against the Platinum Stars – 16th in an 18-team South African Premiership last season and summoned from their holidays to play. In particular it was painful for the England XI in the first half which conceded a penalty that, had it been converted, would have been a goal on a par, in terms of infamy, with San Marino's in 1993.

It can be dangerous to read too much into a game of this kind in which every England player – from Rooney to Stephen Warnock – was doing his best to escape unscathed for when the real action starts on Saturday against the United States. The players were told to treat it as nothing more than a training session albeit with proper opposition and a referee. In the annals of the England team history it will not register as a proper international.

Yet, even so there was that familiar gnawing pre-tournament apprehension in the pit of the English stomachs, fuelled also by those warm-up games against Mexico and Japan. That feeling that says: what if we have seen the best of this team in qualifying and there is no more left?

Capello must have felt that fear too because, for a meaningless training game, he did a lot of despairing at his players during the first half, articulating his emotions with that characteristic pleading gesture, arms straight at his sides, palms up. He also did himself little credit when he became involved in a row with the female fourth official.

In front of an enraptured crowd of locals in a rural North West province town that just does not get to see footballers of the fame of the men in white shirts, this was something of an embarrassment. There was no question that in the first half the Platinum Stars played the better football.

It will be the memory of the first half that Capello seeks to put right this morning and, most crucially, the partnership of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the centre of midfield. Between them they could not make the England midfield anything more than predictable and static. By the end of the half they were trying to play through the centre of their opposition.

With Gareth Barry now out of the game with the US, Capello will have to ask the question whether he can afford to be without an orthodox holding midfielder on Saturday. The Lampard-Gerrard axis may suddenly click into place in this tournament but the consequences of them playing as poorly as they did yesterday will be very serious.

If there was another key concern then it was the temperament of Rooney who struggled to control his furies despite the low-key nature of the game. In the 57th minute he went over the top on the midfielder Kagiso Senamala. Later he was booked for dissent. The testament of the referee Jeff Selogilwe that Rooney swore at him during the match suggested that the unpredictability that takes control of England's most talented player is still there.

The rage ebbs and flows in Rooney who, after he scored the third goal in the 3-0 win, seemed to calm down at last. At the end of the match his jersey was naturally the most sought-after by the opposition players but Rooney made a point of seeking out the Platinum Stars player who had asked him first and handing over his shirt.

Played together in attack for the first 45 minutes, it was not Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe's most auspicious half together with some of the familiar tensions from their partnership at Tottenham evident as Defoe tried to shoot from everywhere. He scored the first goal neatly enough but his passing was all over the place. But he was not the only one that allegation could be made against.

Most disappointing was that after 10 days in Austria and a further five in South Africa, there was no pace or imagination about England. They did not stretch their opposition who, in the first half in particular, passed the ball around their famous visitors on more than one occasion. Capello's team were locked into the rigid lines of 4-4-2.

It was scarcely a test for John Terry and Ledley King who were playing together in the centre of England's defence for the first time in three years although if you were searching for something positive from the first-half performance then it was the ease with which they took care of the threat from the opposition. Glen Johnson conceded the penalty and neither he nor Ashley Cole had one of their better days.

In the first half in particular, England failed to put any pressure on their opponents and as result the players of the Platinum Stars grew in confidence.

By the end of the second half, with England three goals ahead, it felt as if the people of Moruleng had seen something closer to what they expected. Aaron Lennon was the game's most dangerous player, running from deep into the inside-right position and committing defenders. He has made the strongest case of any of the possibles to start on Saturday.

In that second half Joe Cole – who scored the second and was the only England player to feature for 90 minutes – and James Milner who played in central midfield, demonstrated a liveliness that put their opposition on the back foot. They will remember this game for a long time, although like the rest of us, they may struggle to make sense of England's performance.

What we learnt from England's display

The Lampard-Gerrard axis still does not work Rarely has Gareth Barry looked so indispensable. The return of the odd couple did not invigorate England in the centre of midfield. Instead they struggled to raise the tempo of the game and, for all their individual qualities, found themselves worryingly ineffective.



Which could mean a chance for James Milner He did a good job in the centre of midfield in the second half. Much better than against Mexico. A possible stand-in for Barry against the United States?



England need to push on As Fabio Capello told his players at half-time, they need to keep the pace up if they are to knock opposition teams out of their stride. The pressing game is a crucial part of the England approach and the cooler temperatures at this tournament allows them to play that way without exhausting themselves.



Lennon looks back to his best The Spurs winger cut in from the right on more than one occasion, using his pace to cause chaos in the opposition's defence. When he is on form he is a real threat and his final ball was better yesterday.



Heskey is not an international goalscorer None of the four strikers had their best day but Heskey remains the biggest worry. Pairing him with Rooney in the second half suggest they could be the starting two for Capello on Saturday. Heskey's miss in the 67th minute did not inspire confidence that he is going to add to his seven international goals anytime soon.



King and Terry can play together Although they will need a rather more rigorous test than the one presented by the Platinum Stars forwards. King is a class act.



Joe Cole could be peaking at the right moment He looked more effective for England than he has for much of the season at Chelsea since his return from injury. A candidate to start on the left against the United States if Capello perseveres with Lampard and Gerrard in the centre of midfield.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
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

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence