Glenn Moore: Quick cure needed for passing ills of a nation

Crouch's arrival with those telescopic legs made some loose passes look good ones

Too often Sven Goran Eriksson would begin his review of England performances with the phrase, "First half good, second half not so good". One of the notable differences between Fabio Capello's England and that of the previous foreign manager is that Capello's team normally improves after the break.

So it was at Wembley last night. This was always going to be a difficult fixture for England. Egypt were confident and organised after a successful month together in Angola winning the Africa Cup of Nations. They began with 10 of the team which started the final and it showed. However, Capello cannot have imagined his team would look so leaden.

While Egypt passed the ball with composed command England appeared short of confidence and options on the ball, and slow to react off it. It can be assumed they will be a more cohesive unit after their pre-finals training camp in Austria but, not for the first time, Capello must have wondered why a nation of 50 million people, in which football is the national sport, cannot produce more players able to control and pass the ball under pressure. As so often, scratch a couple of names off the team sheet and it becomes obvious that England's run of international failures is not down to bad luck. It is also why David Beckham is still in the squad.

In the long term Trevor Brooking hopes to provide a solution by skill-centred coaching of five-year-olds, but Capello cannot wait until 2030. He needs to find a short-term fix for English inadequacies. Obviously Wayne Rooney, a rare throwback to the days when young footballers learnt their skills in the street, is central to Capello's hopes. But for all his talent Rooney is not Diego Maradona and cannot win the tournament alone. Last night made it clear England are best served by his being partnered by a target man.

The problem with partnering Rooney with Jermain Defoe is that their lack of stature demands more accurate passing than England can consistently provide. The arrival of Peter Crouch, who has always had an extraordinary capacity to make loose passes look good ones with those telescopic legs, gave England an outlet. With Rooney less isolated they also looked more coherent.

At half-time Capello told the team to play with a higher, more "English" tempo. This is usually suicide at a World Cup, as was shown in Shizuoka against Brazil, but should be possible in a South African winter. England's best period came in the third quarter, with Steven Gerrard driving forward from a roving midfield commission and Shaun Wright-Phillips stretching Egypt in a way the disappointing Theo Walcott never did. This created the space for Gareth Barry to drive into for Crouch's first goal.

As well as sweating on the fitness of Rooney, Capello will be anxiously monitoring that of Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole. Ferdinand is the best passing defender in the country and when he is absent the supply forward is too slow, or too imprecise. Johnson and Cole are comfortable going forward, Wes Brown never has been and Leighton Baines, on his debut, was inhibited.

With the timely equaliser injecting confidence England began to look a decent side even if the result was flattering. They remain a work in progress but there is potential to work with and the Austrian sojourn should be a critical period. One imagines Capello can barely wait.

* England's Under-21 side lost 2-1 to Greece in European Championship qualifying last night.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future