Fabio Capello: 'England can still win this World Cup...And no, I haven’t gone crazy'

Capello in defiant mood as he prepares to drop Heskey and Lennon for Defoe and Milner

Fabio Capello put the difficulties of the past three days behind him last night, declaring as he headed into the game England must win against Slovenia here this afternoon that "I'm not crazy when I say my target is the final of the World Cup."

It was after England's 5-1 win over Croatia at Wembley nine months ago that Capello, asked if England were genuine contenders for a first World Cup win since 1966, declared: "Yes, why not? We are one of the best teams in the world who can play against all the teams out there." The events of 11 days have put that claim into perspective, though Capello insisted his goal had remained consistent. "My target, as you know, was to get to the final," he added last night.

The England manager is virtually certain of starting with Jermain Defoe alongside Wayne Rooney, in an attempt to inject more energy into the England attack, meaning Emile Heskey will pay the price for England's ineffectual attack against Algeria. Another casualty is likely to be Aaron Lennon. On the basis of the England training sessions which took place yesterday morning, James Milner is the surprise contender to play on the right, despite his disastrous performance against the United States, which saw him withdrawn after half an hour. Milner is the first choice but Joe Cole is still in contention on the England right as England seek to avoid their first World Cup straight group stage elimination since 1954.

Capello admitted that he was experiencing his most frustrating period in management at these finals and he declined to answer this newspaper's question as to whether he believed he would still be England manager by tonight. "Thank you for the question," he replied.

Capello has anxieties about the state of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium pitch, which has been dressed with too much sand and is loose underfoot. "I just looked at it. It's not so good, but that's not an excuse. [At] Wembley we won always, so I hope so..." he said.

But he was incredulous when asked if John Terry might not start alongside Matthew Upson, following the Chelsea captain's challenge to the manager's authority, which Capello described as a "very big mistake" on Monday evening. "No. Not exist. He is one of the most important players. You can speak about the game, not John Terry," Capello said, seeking to draw a line under the Terry saga.

The manager did not seek to underplay the significance of the occasion. "It's a play-off. For me, it's a play-off, like a final in the Champions League, a semi-final in the Champions League," he said. "That's the spirit we have to play. From the first moment, we have to win." But he insisted he did not feel his current task had left him with weaker players than in his club career. "This is strong, no? I think the English players are strong, the same. When I trained Roma, I won and beat other teams. When I went to ... to Real Madrid, we went against all the best players. If you win, we are good players. Now I've got good players but we're not at the top like we played in qualification."

Capello is surprised by the fear which has gripped his players in this tournament and captain Steven Gerrard said they must cast it off tonight. "It would be an absolute disaster for this group of players to go home after the group stages," said Gerrard, for whom this tournament probably represents the last chance of World Cup glory. "We want more. We want a performance tomorrow. The key is to try and live without fear. There is pressure and fear. You're playing for England and you have massive support. It doesn't help to go on to the pitch and play with that fear."

Wayne Rooney, who is yet to score a goal during a World Cup finals, has been contacted by his club manager Sir Alex Ferguson, such was his concern about the striker's state of mind, but Capello said his training had shown signs of improvement since the goalless draw with Algeria last Saturday. "Sometimes the pressure is so big, even for important players," Capello said. "He's improved in training in the last three days."

It was Defoe whom the Slovenian manager Matjaz Kek picked put as a threat after England beat his side 2-1 at Wembley nine months ago and Capello will certainly have remembered that performance. Capello believes Slovenia will try to kill the game tonight. "It's possible they will try to time waste, so we have to press them more when they have the possession," Capello said. "We have to press them more and run more. This is what I want to see." Kek rejected that suggestion. "We want to score goals and we've shown that so far. Why change?" he said.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
i100
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?