England avoid embarrassing defeat against Japan

England 2 Japan 1

Fabio Capello will spend an uncomfortable 48 hours deciding who to trust with England's World Cup fate after a thoroughly unconvincing victory against Japan in Graz.

An embarrassing defeat against the side ranked 45th by FIFA and fifth worst among the 32 that will contest the greatest prize in South Africa was avoided thanks to a couple of late own goals.

But the overall display will have convinced no-one, least of all their astute coach, about England's durability. The side Capello has moulded so carefully for so long now seems riddled with anxiety and imperfections.

And after he makes the difficult seven telephone calls on Tuesday morning to inform those who have not made the cut, Capello can only hope those left land in a much better state in Johannesburg on Thursday morning than they will leave.

Nothing definitive can be read into any pre-World Cup performance.

Four years ago, Italy were no-one's idea of winners until they actually beat France in the final.

Yet, having posed so many questions of their manager in beating Mexico on Monday, if there were answers to be gleaned here, they made for pretty unpalatable viewing.

Aaron Lennon was ill at ease on the left wing and with so much to gain on his first start, Tom Huddlestone failed to stem the flow of Japanese attacks from his midfield holding role.

Up front, Darren Bent linked well enough with Wayne Rooney but when presented with his one golden first-half opportunity when Yuji Nakazawa looped Rio Ferdinand's long ball skywards, the man who scored 25 times for Sunderland this season headed wide.

All this was bad enough. Behind them, England's defence was having a collective shocker.

Paired together for only the ninth time in Capello's entire reign - and the first since the captain's armband was passed between them - Rio Ferdinand and John Terry both seemed unsure of themselves.

Cole took a long time to settle and at right-back, Glen Johnson was as bad as he had been good against the Mexicans.

Johnson and Huddlestone were at fault for Japan's goal, a nice training ground technique as Yasuhito Endo drilled a low corner into the box for Marcus Tanaka to thump in from 10 yards.

It was a well-worked effort but it required Johnson to lose Tanaka as he made his run across the England box and Huddlestone to move away from the near post as the ball flashed past him.

England's response was positive without being convincing, or containing an end product.

Rooney was only just off target when he steered Huddlestone's shot much nearer the Japan goal and, with the balls that are to be used in South Africa, Frank Lampard let fly from fully 40 yards, the dip and serve providing too much for Eiji Kawashima, who was thankful Tanaka came to his aid.

If Capello expressed his displeasure at half-time on Monday, presumably his mood was even worse as the interval whistle blew.

He might have had a number of substitutes in mind, but as Huddlestone and Bent were among the five men replaced, it did not seem Capello thought their auditions had gone well.

With Shaun Wright-Phillips on the left, Joe Cole operating behind lone striker Wayne Rooney and, on his 30th birthday, Steven Gerrard pulling the strings alongside Lampard in midfield, England returned a more balanced outfit.

But once Lampard followed his spot-kick miss in the FA Cup final by having his penalty saved by Kawashima after Keisuke Honda had blocked the Chelsea man's free-kick with his arm, they started to get agitated.

Rooney was involved in an ugly-looking clash with Tanaka and even Capello got embroiled in a touchline spat with a member of the Japanese coaching staff, who had taken exception to the Three Lions' increasingly robust tackling.

Had Joe Hart not made a couple of excellent saves either side of Lampard's penalty failure, part of an eye-catching second-half display from the young keeper, England would not have been in a position to have Japan transform the game on their behalf.

As it was Tanaka panicked when Cole swung over a cross that probably would not have reached Rooney at the far post, and prodded the ball into his own goal.

Then, when Ashley Cole crossed from the other side, Nakazawa turned the ball into his own net, again Rooney's presence playing a mental trick to force the defender into a rash mistake.

Emile Heskey failed to put an England name on the scoresheet at the death when he glanced Gerrard's curling cross wide.

But the thunderstorm that accompanied the final whistle was an ominous warning of what lies ahead next month if the Three Lions cannot find their roar.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine