What Capello got right
The Bold Calls: The decision to drop Robert Green and select David James for the Algeria game was taken deep into the evening before the match but it paid off.
Without him, England might not have made the knockout stage. James Milner's recall against Slovenia raised some eyebrows, given that he lasted for only 30 minutes of a disastrous display against the United States and was deployed by Fabio Capello on the right wing, where Martin O'Neill had not valued him for Aston Villa. But Milner's crossing, including the ball which delivered England's goal, was sublime. The player who got on the end of it happened to be the other new individual Capello introduced against Slovenia: Jermain Defoe. That is the kind of team selection that the Football Association pays Capello £5.8m a year for.
Flexibility: The players' obvious fear and tension baffled Capello at first but he did tackle it. He broke with his conventions by instructing his assistant Franco Baldini to tell Steven Gerrard, during the flight to Port Elizabeth to face Slovenia, that the players could take a beer on the eve of the game. There were butter and ketchup on the breakfast table, which Capello does not usually allow. Small details, maybe, but evidence that Capello can adapt. The day before facing Slovenia, he also gave 11 players the confidence of knowing they were likely to start, by working on "team shape" and issuing bibs to what was effectively the first XI. The performance was far less inhibited. Capello has said he will learn from the South African "experience": his flexibility during the tournament suggests he will
The John Terry situation: John Terry's minor insurrection placed Capello in a quandary: should he tackle it head on and risk alienating comfortably the best central defender at his disposal? Or smooth things over and put his own authority under question. Capello managed both. His declaration in an interview with ITV that Terry had made a "big mistake" was what senior players like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher wanted to hear. A willingness then to make his peace with Terry – Capello has never been one to hold a grievance – secured a display of the highest order from the defender against Slovenia. Without that, England might have not moved out of the group stage.
What Capello got wrong
Isolationism: For a man who so vividly recalls the monasticism imposed on him and his Juventus team-mates when they were holed up on the outskirts of Novi Sad in Yugoslavia before perishing to a free-spirited Ajax team in the 1973 European Cup final in Belgrade, Capello's decision to remove his players so far from the heart of the tournament by taking them to Rustenburg in North-West Province is hard to comprehend. While other squads embraced the tournament, visiting townships and making community appearances, England's players were limited to the plastic pleasure palace of Sun City. The retreat there involved flights back to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, then a two-hour coach journey. It was not an escape from the spotlight anyway: Ashley Cole screamed abuse at a photographer who tracked the side to the golf course. It was a siege mentality.
Tactics: The displays of the United States, Algeria and Slovenia revealed how sides England would once have expected to brush aside have discovered how to repel them with massed defences. The South Americans have succeeded where England, Spain, Holland and Italy have failed to penetrate such resistance by fielding players with the flair to find a way around. Capello's decision to leave Theo Walcott (above), the one potentially game-changing midfielder behind and his reluctance to move beyond a one-paced 4-4-2 formation to a 4-5-1, with Joe Cole on the left side, cost England dear. The 3-1-3-3 formation the Chilean coach, Marcelo Bielsa, displayed was typical of the multilayered approach which has worked well in this tournament.
Bad Luck: The revisionist interpretations of Capello, casting him as the manager who just lost the plot, are based on a defeat which simply might not have happened without the referee Mauricio Espinosa's decision to disallow Frank Lampard's "goal" in Bloemfontein. Though the shock of Germany's counter-attacking display led some to dismiss Espinosa's decision as an "excuse" for defeat, Roy Hodgson's observations, when the dust had settled a few days later, were the wisest. "Who knows what would have happened? What I do know, as a manager, is that having to try to salvage a game from 1-2 is a damn sight more difficult than having to go out and try to win it from 2-2. And when you suffer a gross injustice like that disallowed goal then you cannot just forget it," he said. A manager's reputation can stand or fall on such twists of fate. A manager can but pray.Reuse content