Staggered finish to the season riles Capello

Date of Champions League final confuses England's plans for pre-World Cup camp
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Fabio Capello fears the convoluted conclusion to the club season could impact on his preparations for the World Cup finals in South Africa.

While the England manager is keen for his adopted country's clubs to reach the European Cup final – a winning player is a happy player is his belief – he is concerned over the potential for disruption as he determines the 23-man squad for the finals.

The end of the Premier League season, on 9 May, signals the start of a hectic three-week period that culminates with the squad flying to South Africa on 2 June ahead of their first game against the US 10 days later. Capello names his initial 30-strong squad the day after the FA Cup final on 15 May; they then fly to a training camp in Austria, minus any players involved in the Champions League final. Some players will be in camp – in Graz, a venue Capello used while manager of Real Madrid – for two and a half weeks, others for just a week.

"We have some problems [in preparation] when we go to the training camp in Austria," said Capello yesterday in Abu Dhabi, where he was attending the Laureus World Sports Awards. "The Premier League finishes on 9 May, the FA Cup is 15 May, the Champions League 22 May – and I hope an English team will be in it – so I have to pick a squad at three different moments."

English success in Europe will, of course, keep the Italian on tenterhooks over the possibility of injury, as well as the wearying mental and physical demands of such an intense game, but Capello believes there are compensations. "I'd rather have my players happy [through winning] than rested," he said.

Capello has not had much to be happy about over recent weeks, barring the second-half performance against Egypt last week. He refused to accept any questions over the bugging of the team hotel ahead of the friendly at Wembley. "Private problems," he said sternly. "Is the England captaincy jinxed?" came another enquiry. "Next question," announced Capello.

He did, though, respond when asked whether he was surprised over the amount of off-field problems he has needed to address. "Yes," he said. "My job was to decide only on the pitch. Not outside it. It is new to me. It is always a challenge to be England manager – at my age without that challenge I would just stay at home. This [the World Cup] is the most important challenge of my life."

Capello, sitting next to Franz Beckenbauer, a man who has lifted the World Cup as player and coach, was upbeat about England's chances.

"We are one of the best teams in the tournament," Capello said. "We hope to make a minimum of the semi-final and after that... We're a good team, we have good players – we think we can beat all the teams there."

Wayne Rooney is his player of the moment and Capello sees the Manchester United striker as being one of a youthful cast who will stand out at the finals. "Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney are the three best in the world. Wayne is strong and this year he has scored many goals. All three of them are really, really young."

Concerns have been raised over England's base in South Africa, but Capello is confident that problem will go away. "I have been to Rustenburg and checked everything," he said. "We are very happy with facilities, with the pitches, with the hotel. It will be the best training centre in South Africa."

The prospect of getting his players together for a sustained period, when the dust of the domestic season finally settles, is something he is relishing. During the qualifying campaign he concentrated on trying – and succeeding – to instil a "winning mentality" during the limited time he had in preparing the squad for games, but in South Africa he will be able to act more like the coach of his Serie A days.

"The big difference in managing a national team is that it is a psychological job," he said. "During qualifying there is a short time in training. It is more important to train the mind, find the confidence, create the group and create the winning mentality. Before the World Cup there is more time to find solutions. Then it is more like a club manager."

No time to spare: England's schedule

9 May Premier League season ends.

12 May Europa League final.

15 May FA Cup final.

16 May 30-man squad announced.

17 May Training camp in Austria.

22 May Champions League final.

23/24 May England v Mexico at Wembley.

24/25 May Return to Austria.

30 May England v Japan in Graz.

1 June Final 23-man squad announced.

2 June Squad flies to South Africa.

12 June England v US in Rustenburg.