James Lawton: England are rescued by Capello's old school values

The Netherlands are third in the world, England are seventh. No, that's not a misprint. They are seventh, not 77th, and this in the end seemed, mercifully, somewhat less of a distortion of reality after a start of grotesque incompetence.

By the finish there were at least glimpses of evidence that England had indeed been whipped into some kind of shape by one of the great football men, a disciplinarian of the old school who believes that when you are a professional it is not a vocation you dip into from time to time.

It is something that, for a relatively brief period, you have to make your way of life, your way of expression.

All the way to last night's game England's players could not be suppressed in their desire to say how much they appreciated, and had absorbed, this philosophy of Fabio Capello.

That, soon enough, was the most disturbing aspect of England's catastrophic failure to live to anything remotely approaching such a principle when they allowed the Dutch to stroll into a two-goal lead in the first half.

Rio Ferdinand, perhaps the most eloquent advocate of the Capello way, and Gareth Barry, one of the newer members of English football's plutocracy, made mistakes so nonchalant it was difficult to understand quite what had filled their heads before coming out on to the field. It was not, we could be sure, the driving philosophy of their coach, which is based almost entirely on the belief that professional respect is something that has to come afresh with each new performance.

Ferdinand and Barry committed almost identical crimes, passing the ball to the feet of opponents in positions which gave their colleagues, most notably the traumatised goalkeeper Rob Green, little serious chance of preventing goals. Capello, naturally, was not so much surprised as aghast.

In past regimes we might have expected a wholesale disintegration of faith, pretty much of the dimension that came in Copenhagen on the approach to the World Cup of 2006. Then England defended quite as haplessly but for rather longer and the 4-1 defeat cast a huge shadow over the prospects of Sven Goran Eriksson's England.

Capello's England though have a different kind of imperative, a rather strong force. Capello has the capacity to find pockets of resistance to the most unpromising fate, and last night his famed half-time conversations, which can as sweet, apparently as a master diplomat's or a ferocious as a demented sergeant major's, had perhaps their most dramatic effect since he arrived here 18 months ago.

The England coach effectively re-made his team at half-time, leaving Ferdinand, whose concentration has been known to slip before but remains a player of often quite imperious quality on the field, but yanking off Barry, a man who not for the first time had given some worrying hints that he might well have been promoted, both in club and international football, somewhat above his station.

Most significantly, he brought on Jermain Defoe, who scored two goals with brilliant opportunism. They were his ninth and 10th goals for England, and here we have, surely, a gathering body of evidence that he may well travel the full course to next summer's World Cup finals in South Africa. New force was also provided by Carlton Cole, James Milner and Michael Carrick, a player who surely offers potentially more much to the creative instincts of the side than Barry.

It wasn't so much the change of personnel as spirit and concentration of effort that marked this latest development of Capello's England. For much of the game the Netherlands passed more cohesively and seemed to have more men in greater areas of empty space, but slowly the force of England's effort neutralised any advantage that came with the Netherlands goals.

England still may have been a little flattered by their high Fifa ranking, but then their perfect record in World Cup qualifying and their ability to win in a place like Berlin has done much to wipe away fears that Capello simply had too much to do to draw from this generation of players a significant place in the World Cup.

For a while the team were certainly rooted in some of the failures of the past and it said much for the determination of front players Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey, that they were able to conjure some threat while operating in front of a team capable of such sudden breakdowns in mere competence throughout the first half.

Capello, though, performed his increasingly celebrated half-time act of appraisal and exhortation and last night, words that had come to seem quite empty took on a life of their own.

This will never be regarded as a famous English performance but it carried a rare force of redemption. It showed that England are a team who are operating under the force of proper control, proper values.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game