'I am happy' declares coach despite his first defeat

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Fabio Capello last night promised that England "will be ready" when they come to face the Czech Republic on 20 August, prior to the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign, after last night's defeat to France.

The England manager defended his team selection and tactics, and professed himself to being "actually quite happy" with what he witnessed at Stade de France. He now has just two more friendlies before next season. "As I told the players, I'm happy about what they did," the Italian said of his second match in charge.

"We made progress compared to the Switzerland game, even though we won that game. I'm happy because I saw some very good things, especially because we were playing against a top-level team. That showed us what our value and worth are. Another thing I'm happy about is that I made the team play in two different ways. I could see plenty of players. So my ideas are a lot clearer about the future."

Capello claimed that his team's confidence will not have suffered because of the defeat, even though they faced a weakened French team. "On the contrary, I'm happy that the team showed they didn't want to lose the game," he added. "They played right to the end. That's the most positive thing about the night, especially considering the level of the opponents."

Asked why he was so pleased, Capello added: "The way we played, we didn't let the opposition play too much and especially, the way we played with personality. We did especially well in the first half, but unfortunately we conceded the penalty, the goal."

He refused to blame David James for the penalty. "I didn't see it clearly but I don't think he could have done better," he said of the goalkeeper. James himself admitted he had been exposed by Nicolas Anelka's pace.

As for his substitutions – four at half-time and two soon after – Capello said they had not been prompted by individual performances. "No, I need to see all the players play, especially in real matches like this, to get a clear idea of what to do when the World Cup qualifying campaign starts."

One of the players who was taken off, David Beckham, also came in for praise on earning his 100th cap. "He played like he always does and like I know how he can play," Capello said. "I only substituted him because I know how he can play and I know him well, so I could see someone else." Capello said there had been "no ceremony in the dressing room" to mark Beckham's rare achievement.

England's captain – at least for this match – Rio Ferdinand claimed the team had taken "a stride forward in certain areas". The central defender added: "The players were not scared to get on the ball, we were passing it very well at times – maybe without creating many openings, but I'm sure that will come. I'm disappointed because I'm very honoured to be captain but it would have been nice to have got a win. There was no prouder man on the planet today, leading my country out, but it's not about personal accolades, it's about the team and today we didn't get the result we wanted."

The France coach, Raymond Domenech, said the match had been a "test against a good side. I think it was more of an 'intelligent' match than a spectacular game," he explained. "It was very tactical, perhaps industrious more than entertaining, but it was a solid performance. We worked hard, but we can play better. But a match won is always better than a match lost."

It is a line Capello would have liked to have used.