Defoe's double rescues 'stupid' England

Tottenham striker scores twice in 2-2 draw after errors gift Netherlands early lead
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The Independent Football

Fabio Capello called England "stupid" and "silly" last night for the mistakes by Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry that gave away two goals to the Netherlands, but the England manager was rescued by Jermain Defoe's double that snatched a 2-2 draw.

The Tottenham Hotspur striker laid down a marker that he, rather than the out-of-favour Michael Owen, should go to the World Cup next summer with two second half goals after Dirk Kuyt and Rafael Van der Vaart had scored for the Netherlands. England's comeback was also marked by an impressive debut from James Milner who was integral to Defoe's second goal.

Of the goals gifted to the Netherlands by misplaced passes in the first half, Capello said: "These were just two stupid mistakes. Two silly mistakes." He said he did not resort to one of famous volcanic eruptions at half-time with his side 2-0 down. "The mistakes of this evening I can accept [as freakish]," he said. "I don't accept mistakes where the position is wrong or if I try doing something in training and then, afterwards, I don't see it being put into practice on the pitch."

Defoe said it had been his best performance for England, coming on his 35th cap in a five-year international career that has had a few ups and downs. Left out the last World Cup finals squad in 2006 by Sven Goran Eriksson because of Theo Walcott's surprise inclusion he should be able to count on making the cut this time.

"I think it was my best game for England," Defoe said. "In the first half I thought we were a bit unlucky with the goals we conceded – it's pre-season for a lot of the lads, but the second half was a lot better, we showed good spirit and we deserved the result.

"The manager just said 'Keep it going'. Last season the spirit was fantastic and he wanted to keep that going. He basically just lifted us. He brought new lads on and the fresh legs worked."

Having insisted that he had been "really calm" at half-time Capello said the errors of Ferdinand and Barry were indicative of the time of year the game was played. "It's pre-season, it's possible to make mistakes," he said, "but there are still 45 minutes to play.

"They were two presents but I prefer to give gifts in non-competitive games. I think the spirit and the quality of the players in the second half, with the style we played, was very good. Always, we have to think it's possible to recover the result. Not only here. Always, the team has to try and achieve this. We did it this time. That will help us, for sure. It's very important. We have to remember this game in the future. But, I think I'd prefer not to have had to recover the result."

On Defoe, Capello said: "I think he's one of the best forwards, English forwards, English strikers. He's very fast, technically he's good. Always in front of the goal." There was also praise for Milner and Carlton Cole. Capello said: "He [Milner] played very well. It wasn't easy. I'm happy for him. I'm also happy for Carlton Cole. I saw him against Napoli [in a friendly for West Ham] and chose him to stay in the squad. They're young players, the future."

In England's World Cup qualifying group last night, Croatia beat Belarus 3-1 putting them on 14 points, seven behind England. Victory over Croatia at Wembley on 9 September would see England through to the World Cup finals.

The Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said that Carlton Cole had caused his team problems. "Carlton Cole came on in the second-half and caused us a lot of trouble," he said. "We made silly mistakes, just like England, but Cole put our defence under a lot of pressure in the second half."

Lord Triesman, meanwhile, yesterday paid tribute to Capello's success in the England job. The FA chairman said of England's seven successive wins so far in Group Six: "The reason prospects of qualification are good is the cohesive unit that Fabio has created. He is a very inspiring leader."