Jermaine Jenas: There are easier places than LA to see us being pipped to first by the US
View From the Sunlounger: The idea that Capello was ever going to allow players to pick apart his selections is just utter nonsense
Thursday 24 June 2010
They say watching England is never easy. Well, it's harder when you're watching from afar once you've been involved with the England team. But at least there was more for everyone to get excited about in yesterday's match against Slovenia than there was against Algeria.
Still, I've been keeping in touch daily with my mates in the camp and meanwhile I've been watching the action over in the States, where I'm on a break in Los Angeles with my partner Ellie. There probably could have been easier destinations to choose, bearing in mind the US are in our group. ESPN has been getting huge audiences out here. The England-US game was its biggest soccer audience ever, and that late winner against Algeria means the hype will only get bigger out here.
Still, wherever you watch from, you'll have heard and seen enough to know that one of the greatest changes between the England performances against the US and Slovenia was down to the fear factor. It was there for all to see against Algeria. It was much less of a factor yesterday afternoon.
Are the boys feeling pressure? Yes, lots of it. Expectations have been through the roof because of the great qualifying campaign. And I believe the squad is feeling the pressure of expectation.
That happens in sport. I was fortunate enough to be at Game Seven – the decider – of the NBA finals at the Staples Center the other day. Kobe Bryant, the great sporting star of LA, and the best player in his sport, said afterwards he'd felt the pressure and capitulated under it. Yes, he scored vital points and the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics but Kobe wasn't happy with himself. That's the effect pressure can have when you're playing sport at the very highest level.
Still, England are through, even if they did leave us sweating a bit towards the end of the day. Other big nations have also faltered at this World Cup, most obviously France but also Italy and others. But I'll be keen to find out how they react as Sunday approaches.
The strangest thing of all this past week has been the idea that Fabio Capello was ever going to attend a meeting where the players would pick apart his team selection and tactics – that's just utter nonsense. When John Terry suggested as much a couple of days ago, anyone who knows Capello would have known it would never happen. Terry certainly did not voice that notion on behalf of the squad. I say this as someone who has been in Capello's squads and teams.
Yes, there was a team meeting scheduled the other night, to re-watch the Algeria game. That's perfectly normal. There never was any extra "clear the air" showdown planned. I can assure you that whatever goes on inside an England camp with Capello as the manager goes on because it's what Capello dictates. And that's the way it should be, and the players are behind him. He knows exactly what he's doing.
He's also approachable without "showdown" meetings. His door is open. He's not going to make any decisions based on player demands – but he does listen.
I spoke to Ashley Cole and Aaron Lennon straight after the Algeria game and they were upset, disappointed, frustrated. They said Capello wasn't happy, but then they weren't happy. They know the team failed to perform. They admit it. It's an odd mixture of emotions to deal with – disappointment in yourself and what your own lack of performance means to your country.
Of course we'll all be hoping Wayne Rooney is fit after he was substituted. For me, though, Steven Gerrard is equally as important as Rooney – if not more so. Personally, I would have put Gerrard back into the centre of midfield, rather than playing him on the left, with a mandate to support Rooney. Gerrard should play where Gerrard wants to play and the team should build from there. But I'm not the coach and as everyone will now know – even if they didn't before Terry started talking about his players' meeting – Capello will make his own call.
Of course things still haven't quite worked out the way the fans or the squad would have ideally wanted. We didn't top the group, and in one sense, England have got away with murder with an unspectacular performance against the US and then a woeful one against Algeria.
I watched that Algeria game in my hotel room in LA, mainly because I wanted to be sure to see it and didn't want to be wandering the streets looking for a place showing it.
Next up: Sunday 7am, LA time. The perfect start to a day? Well, we'll have to wait and see.
Jermaine Jenas appears courtesy of New Era Global Sports, and the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar
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