James Lawton: Display of mettle that was again made in Italy

Meaningless game, were we saying? There is no such thing when England visit Germany
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Sir Geoff Hurst no doubt provided some inspiration when he shook hands with England before the game and one of his West Ham successors, the polished Matthew Upson, was soon providing a little more with his goal. But then there was never any question about the origin of an unfamiliar team's most coherent work. Again, it was made in Italy.

Fabio Capello has some relentless adversaries in the club and country battle that grew so intensely in the build-up to this game, but not one of them can dispute the fact that any time he wins to spend with his players is hungrily seized upon.

Meaningless game, were we saying? There can be no such thing when England visit the gaunt old stadium where Hitler used to strut and pose and if there was any doubt about this it was swept away by the angry reaction of the 74,000 crowd to the almost casual subjection of the home team in the first half.

However, no amount of careful team building can cover the kind of catastrophic confusion that allowed the outplayed Germans back into the game. Scott Carson, so desperate to banish the memory of his mistake against Croatia in the last stride of the failed bid for European championship qualifying, was plunged back into torment when he and John Terry conspired to allow Patrick Helmes to shoot into an empty net.

That brought a parity that was much less than Capello and his team deserved after controlling almost all the action, to such a degree at times that the arrival of national hero Lukas Podolski in the second half was greeted as some last chance of redemption by the German fans.

Yet England, even this virtual second-string version, seem to have acquired levels of confidence that would have seemed like some kind of fantasy this time last year.

Terry redeemed his contribution to the defensive blunder when he headed in the late winner from a free-kick by Stewart Downing, one of several Englishmen who seemed to grow a little more in composure, and stature, throughout the game.

Others included Aston Villa's new cap, Gabriel Agbonlahor, who when he left in the second half had given Capello the encouraging picture of a young player of wounding pace and developing assurance, and full-back Glen Johnson. At one point Johnson went by three opponents as he probed into the German defence with the look of a player who seemed to believe he was equal to any situation.

The more experienced Michael Carrick also made this point, once threading an exquisite pass between the central defenders. When substitute Darren Bent missed from in front of an open goal, and Shaun Wright-Phillips sent a stunning shot against a post, England had put themselves into position to deliver a withering score-line. But the impression was still fairly complete: Capello is building into his charges a depth of belief in their ability to reimpose themselves on a game. Of course let's be clear, this was a wretched German performance, but Capello came here to develop work that brought such striking results in the early World Cup qualifying - and he succeeded with the material available to him.

Sadly for Carson one moment of redemption, a fine save from a quickly delivered long ball, such composure was still a thousand miles away at the end of night which brought such generous bounty to so many of his team-mates... and fresh confirmation that they are being organised by a man who knows pretty much precisely what he is doing.

Capello's men, the big stars and those who yearn for a more permanent place at the centre of the stage, are now gaining some significant battle ribbons. The one acquired here in Berlin can be added to those of Zagreb and Minsk. Put them together and they form a mosaic which, who knows, might just turn out to be bewitching.

For the moment there is no question that it is one coloured by the bright hue of hope. Hopefully, it might just be sufficiently so to encourage that Capello is indeed right to fight so hard for the men and the time he is putting to such good use.

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