We won't need penalties to beat the Germans, claims James

There is some footage of Fabio Capello doing the rounds on YouTube taken during the Slovenia game by the camera that focuses solely on him. It is the side of Capello you rarely see.

The raging, sweary manager who bullies his staff and shouts at his players. "Did I fucking tell you to stand up?" he roars at Stuart Pearce at one point. Pearce duly sits down. "Now get up!" Capello shouts at him and pushes Pearce out the dugout.

The manager of the England team is not a job for the fragile but it reminded me of Sven Goran Eriksson's last address before England played Portugal in Gelsenkirchen four years ago. The beleaguered, albeit unfailingly courteous, Swede was asked whether he planned – to paraphrase a famous comment from Gareth Southgate – to be more Winston Churchill than Iain Duncan Smith in his pre-match address to the players. Eriksson replied by saying he did not know the difference between the two.

Even those of us who did not need require a reference to the Second World War rolled our eyes. Eriksson was the sort of person who reacted to adversity by blinking a couple of times and folding his arms. Capello is very different. Four years on from defeat to Portugal, as England face their next make-or-break moment in a World Cup, the mood has changed. Capello's command of English might be worse than Eriksson's but he has that big-match personality.

He will need it. Cold, sobering fact: England have never won a World Cup finals knockout game against top-level opposition away from Wembley. With apologies to Belgium, Cameroon, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador and the rest, it is just not the same as beating the likes of Brazil, Portugal or Germany. If Capello's team wins tomorrow in Bloemfontein against Germany then he will have already broken new ground.

If there is a different mood in the squad now from four years ago – and five of those who started in Gelsenkirchen will start tomorrow – it was summed up by David James yesterday. He is the man who, if it goes to penalties, will have to face the Germans. "I'm genuinely confident that won't be an issue," he said. "Why? Because I think we're a better team than Germany. We played them in Berlin and beat them 2-1 in a game which we should have won more comfortably.

"I'm delighted for England as a nation that we've got an opportunity to play Germany. When the build-up was there, this was a possibility. Now it's a reality. Hopefully, people back home will enjoy a good game and a victory for England. If we get carried away as individuals, though, that we're playing Germany with the historic interest that has, we could take our eyes off the ball of our own preparations." The history, as James preferred to remember it, was more recent. While everyone else always goes back to those monumental defeats in 1970, 1990 and 1996, James said that the game that was mentioned more among the England players on Wednesday night was November 2008 in Berlin. That 2-1 victory was arguably Capello's best friendly result, although the circumstances of the game were very different to the one that awaits tomorrow.

For a start, the England team that night was missing Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole. Germany had injury problems of their own and their goalkeeper Rene Adler miscued a punch to allow Matthew Upson to score the first goal. As a measure of the two teams it would be harsh on the players who played to say that it was more like a B international, but the level was not quite what it will be tomorrow in Bloemfontein.

There have been major changes in the Germany team since then, especially with the graduation of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer and Marko Marin from the Under-21 team that won last year's European championship. This is the last World Cup for players like Lampard, Gerrard, Gareth Barry and Ashley Cole but it is the first one for Germany's young players. Like the Italy team of 2006, if the England team cannot hit their vintage now then they probably never will.

Youth v experience: but it is likely that the team which plays without fear will be successful. The English have a habit of thinking that it is only they who experience agony in international football but Germany, despite their three victories in World Cup finals, also believe that they are overdue a success. They last won the World Cup 20 years ago and the fervour at their team's progress in 2006 was born of an impatience to win it again. There will be just as much pressure and expectation on their players.

And then to penalties. James will be a crucial figure in that event and, even two months from his 40th birthday, no one could quite predict how he might react. Yesterday he was in a light- hearted mood, describing how he had missed Franz Beckenbauer's latest broadside at the England team because he was too engrossed in the daytime television that is beamed from London to the squad's training base.

In Euro 2004, when James had to face Zinedine Zidane's penalty in the last few minutes of the first group game against France, he was unprepared for which side the Frenchman would shoot because there was "no video evidence of Zidane taking a penalty for the last two years". Since then it has changed dramatically. The Football Association has two full-time video technicians. In goal for Manchester United at the 2009 Carling Cup final, Ben Foster famously checked up on the Spurs penalty takers by watching footage on an iPod on the pitch before the shoot-out.

"Now, by virtue of YouTube and scouting databases you can access a lot of players' penalties," James said. "In the last three games we have video footage of just about every aspect of the opposition's attacking threats. You do your homework. You get to know what the guy is going to do. And then at some point in the game you just hope you get the chance to prove that you're right."

It will not just be James who is hoping to be proved right. If England are to beat Germany tomorrow they will have to break through a barrier that has stood for ever. Only then will we able to say that the man in charge has really differentiated himself from all his predecessors.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders