Fabio Capello said last night that he has decided who his goalkeeper will be for tonight's match with Algeria in the spectacular Green Point Stadium here and he has provided several hints that Robert Green will be retained for the job.
Green's training session here was less than convincing, with the 30-year-old fumbling consecutive shots fired at him at pace, but Capello declared for the first time that he believes the Adidas Jabulani ball was to blame for Green's costly fumble against the Americans and seemed to say that Green should therefore be exonerated for his error. "I saw some keepers make mistakes and it's a problem with the ball," Capello said. "One problem [for] the keepers is that sometimes the bounce is higher than normal. For this reason, I have to justify the keeper."
Capello's faith in the side which drew with the Americans seems likely to include another start for Emile Heskey who, for the second successive pre-match training session, was paired with Wayne Rooney throughout last night's knockabout. Jermain Defoe has been pushing him hard for a place this week.
The shots Green fumbled were fired in to bounce awkwardly right in front of him but at the end of the session Green was put through twice the work, in one goal, that Joe Hart and David James undertook sharing another net.
Capello has agonised this week over Green's psychological state and, as ever, a change of heart cannot be discounted this morning. But the England manager was indignant about suggestions that he should already have put his goalkeepers out of their misery. "You think so? Then you'd better take my place. I've always used this way, this method [of telling the players]. It's my way. I'd prefer not to change." Asked if not telling the player was psychologically harmful, he demanded: "Why? Why? All the players are ready and focused. No problems."
Capello insisted that his experiences during his first year of management at Milan, in 1991, had persuaded him that he should never tell players they are in before the day of the game. "I remember, three times in my first year in management [at Milan]... always, in that first year, I'd tell the players if they were playing on the day before," he said. "After dinner, I'd speak with the players and say whether they would play. But if they got injured the next day... [it was difficult to get the other players ready to play]. So I stopped. I have not done it since."
In that season, Capello actually went further than naming his team. The night before games was spent in long, individual chats with the XI he had selected to start, followed the next morning by him writing tactical instructions on a white board in front of them. He felt that by forcing players to read the instructions they would better internalise them. The strategy worked as Capello secured the scudetto.
As Capello sets about his next challenge, 19 years on, Gareth Barry is in line to return to a holding midfield role alongside Frank Lampard, releasing captain Steven Gerrard to a more advanced role down the England left. Jamie Carragher is expected to start alongside John Terry in central defence.
Rio Ferdinand has hinted through twitter that he is unhappy about Manchester United's insistence that he take a two-week family holiday before returning to the club's Carrington base for more treatment on his knee ligament injury sustained here. The injury was assessed by United's medical staff this week and though Ferdinand said yesterday that he would make a quicker than expected recovery, his club have made it clear he is not free to return to South Africa and that they want him to take a complete rest before returning to United's training base.
Ferdinand said through his twitter page: "I would love to go to South Africa to cheer on England, but unfortunately the medical staff have said I need total rest for two weeks. The physios say I won't be on the sidelines for as long as first thought." United have not ruled out his returning to South Africa if England make the semi-finals and coaching staff and Sir Alex Ferguson are comfortable with the idea of him making another 11-hour flight. He is unlikely to feature in the early part of United's pre- season tour of the United States, two days after the World Cup final.