Capello: 'We can go forward without fear'

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The Independent Football

England coach Fabio Capello praised the spirit of his side after their 1-0 win over Slovenia booked their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup finals.

England needed victory to assure their place in the last 16 and Jermain Defoe's 23rd-minute strike was enough to see them through.

The victory came after the team had come under fire for their performance in the goalless draw with Algeria on Friday night and an emotional Capello was full of praise for his players.

"We played together, fight together and I am really, really happy for the result," he told BBC 1.

"This was the team that I know.

"This team can go forward. All the team the coaches, their mind is free.

"We can go forward without fear, without everything."

Defoe was delighted with his first World Cup goal, converting a fine cross from James Milner.

"I'm lost for words to be honest," he said on BBC1. "What a moment."

He added: "Everyone was focused before the game.

"We are through, that's the most important thing.

"The lads were fired up, in the first 10 minutes we wanted to put them under pressure."

Defoe missed a chance to double the lead, although it did not prove costly.

"I had one early in the second half which was disappointing," he added.

Captain Steven Gerrard again started on the left side of midfield, but produced a much-improved display.

Wayne Rooney also played better than he did against Algeria, although missed a couple of chances to score his first goal of the World Cup.

"Wayne's had a bit of criticism over the last couple of games but today he worked his socks off and showed his quality," Gerrard told BBC1.

"I know goals are around the corner for Wayne Rooney."

Gerrard admitted England's failure to find a second goal made it a nervous finish.

"When you need to win a game and when you don't finish teams off you're going to be be anxious at the end," added the Liverpool midfielder.

"We thoroughly deserve to go through.

"I thought all the players that started the game and all the subs were terrific today.

"We need to find consistency now in the knock-out stages.

"I think if we play like we did today and keep listening to the manager and keep delivering what he's asking we've got the quality you need to win football matches, anything can happen."

Gerrard admitted the mood in the dressing room was much improved.

"100% better," he said.

"If we turn up and we play close to our potential we are a match for anyone."

Matthew Upson made a crucial late challenge on Slovenia striker Milivoje Novakovic, who had looked like he was through on goal before the defender's timely intervention.

Upson, who was drafted into the team for the suspended Jamie Carragher, admitted there had been little room for error in the challenge.

"It was just a bit of a reaction really. The ball got flicked on and a knock down. I just turned inside me and I saw the opportunity to take it," he said.

"It had to be timed right, it was and I was really pleased.

"It was a reaction more than anything and I'm pleased that I got away with it."

Upson may struggle to retain his place for England's last-16 match against the winner of Group D on Sunday, with Carragher available to return.

However, the West Ham defender believes his team-mates will be high on confidence after an energetic display.

"I think it was noticeable for everyone in the first few games that we weren't flowing the way we can do," he said. "I thought we showed that in patches today.

"I think that is the freedom that we played with and the change in attitude and the way we went about our job like it was a Saturday afternoon in the Premier League.

"I think that's the key for us. We did well to see it through."