Ian Herbert: Five key changes that worked - and can now give England hope

A look at the positives Capello can take into Sunday's game
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The Independent Football

1. James Milner is a true wide man

two new offensive players who combined to score the goal which has sent England through: that's why Fabio Capello earns £5m a year. It's hard to believe, considering his contribution here, that Martin O'Neill moved James Milner from Aston Villa's right flank to central midfield because he wasn't cutting it there two seasons ago. On the right yesterday he was England's stand-out player, with the nation's cross of the tournament to supply Jermain Defoe's goal. Milner actually only found a team-mate with one of his nine crosses, though that had more to do with his team-mates failing to reach them. Another fiendish whipped cross bounced in front of Samir Handanovic, who pushed the ball way desperately to Frank Lampard, who should have scored.



2. Jermain Defoe is a potent partner for Rooney

for defoe, it's two goals in two starts against, Slovenia – manager Matjaz Kek might be ruing his declaration after the 2-1 friendly defeat at Wembley nine months ago that Capello should start with Defoe rather than Emile Heskey. The Tottenham player's contribution was not terribly substantial – he made just four passes in 86 minutes on the field – but by sticking to his role up front and not drifting deep as Wayne Rooney did in his desperation for a goal and as he had done against Algeria, Defoe provided a target; a different option enabling England to break through. Rooney's ankle problems make Defoe an even more significant player now.

3.John Terry is now a rebel with a cause

if there had been any doubt about John Terry's mindset after the events of the past four days, it evaporated at the sight of him in the tunnel before the game. Those faces looked tense and Terry was the only player talking. Terry almost let in Valter Birsa early in the game but his contribution grew as the match progressed.

Two tackles of immense timing contributed to his finest display for club or country since he was stripped of the England captaincy in February. One, on Zlatan Ljubijankic, came after Ashley Cole's slice allowed the striker in, in the first half. The second, after a visibly tiring Gareth Barry had conceded a counter-attack, Terry blocked Milivoje Novakovic before hurling himself horizontally towards the rebounding ball, which Glen Johnson blocked. At the end, it was Terry who summoned the players into a huddle to mark their departure from what Capello had admitted earlier this week was "not a good place."

If Handanovic had not blocked a Terry header on the line, we would be reminding ourselves today that Bobby Moore and Terry share a birthplace. This was an extraordinary rehabilitation after what Capello called his "very big mistake".



4. A little luck came England's way

the last time England's group games ended 1-1, 0-0 and 1-0 consecutively they made it to the semi-finals, 20 years ago. It goes to show that, despite all the planning and theorising, progress turns on a moment of good or bad fortune. The 90th minute of yesterday's match revealed that much. Slovenia broke, the ball fell to Zlatko Dedic in the England area and the nation held its breath and clutched the armchair at the sight of Matthew Upson – England's fourth-choice centre-half, whose afternoon had been rather unconvincing – shaping to make a tackle.

Amid the acres of print devoted to England's World Cup hopes, no one has given much of a thought to Upson's contribution at these finals, yet he placed possibly the best tackle Capello will see from one of his players in this World Cup. If Jamie Carragher not been suspended then he, with his vulnerability to pace, would have been where Upson stood – and probably wouldn't have been able to place that tackle. Upson's description of the challenge suggested it was as much good luck as judgement.

"There are lots of decisions in the game in every minute and it was a reaction more than anything, I'm pleased I got away with it," he said. On such fragile foundations, England's progress in the tournament was built.



5. Capello finally relaxed his regime

An Englishman's castle is his home, but it was only last night that South African Castle lager, was given to the players courtesy of the manager's own "imagination" – as he put it. That contributed to the occasion, when Capello offered the players one on the eve of the game. Capello's gesture bore out what has become patently obvious here about the England set-up – that the players "just need a beer inside them" as one ex-international put it here yesterday.

Lampard suggested no one took up Capello on his offer, which suggests that Terry was speaking only for himself when suggesting earlier this week that he was going to challenge Capello for permission to take a drink. "Sometimes those things are on offer and it's up to you if you take them," Lampard said. "You just don't have 10 beers, you might have one or two."

However many bottles of Castle it turned out to be, the imperative of victory certainly reduced the tension, rather than adding to it. After an opening 10 minutes in which Glen Johnson looked particularly anxious, there were fewer inhibitions. England hit their stride when a sublime Johnson pass reached Rooney whose cross almost allowed Steven Gerrard a header. After that England pressed and passed as instructed and Capello rediscovered the team he knew.

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