Ian Herbert: This team must be released from their shackles to win

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The travails of the past three days have left England in a bad place but the weekends experienced both by France and Italy put it into some perspective. There are not enough resources at Fabio Capello's disposal to allow the Italian to alienate John Terry despite the public shot across the bows of his own regime, which continued in the privacy of a team meeting last night. Once of the characteristics Capello has demonstrated time and again over his club career is a refusal to hold personal grudges after tests of his authority far greater than this one. Capello now needs to draw Terry back into the fold. There will be time, when the tournament is over, for addressing the damage he has done when England need unity.

Though the manager could have done without private disputes becoming public, the team meeting may have been just what the players needed, by getting issues out of their system and breaking the shackles. Even without last night's release valve, England's players probably will play without the fear Capello has seen within them, on Wednesday. A must-win situation has a habit of freeing inhibitions.

But in the two days before the flight to Port Elizabeth, a little more levity might be in order around the camp. A round of golf, an unscheduled trip to see relatives, perhaps, rather than that routine of "breakfast, train, bed, eat" which Wayne Rooney was so desolate about when he spoke last week. Rooney's description called to mind the reclusive process of retiro which managers would impose on their players in Italy when Capello played for Juventus in the 1970s. When Ajax turned up, hair permed, pretty wives and girlfriends in tow for the 1973 European Cup final they were so relaxed they slaughtered them.

Perhaps amid Capello and assistant Franco Baldini's attempts to deal with the "fear" which, as the management views it, leaves them unable to run to a throw in with vigour, should be a message to them along the lines of: "Don't worry lads. We're not expected to win this trophy." Jamie Carragher put his finger on one the flaw which piles too much pressure on England's players when he said, in a searing critique of England in his own biography, that "a superiority complex has developed" around the side. "It's presumed England should go close to winning every World Cup," Carragher wrote. "This game is as much about knowing how to win as it is about natural ability. We should be embracing the idea of being underdog on the world stage."

Algeria proved the power that sentiment engenders. England central defenders can be full of opinions – but some of them actually make sense.

What England must do

*England head to Port Elizabeth for Wednesday's final group match against Slovenia knowing only a victory will guarantee them a place in the Second round. Whether they top the group with a win depends on the United States' result against Algeria. A draw for England would only be good enough if US lose, or if Fabio Capello's side have a high-scoring draw and the US a low-scoring one. A 3-3 draw for England and 1-1 draw for the US would result in the drawing of lots. Defeat would mean certain elimination.