John Terry said it was the angriest he had ever seen Fabio Capello at half-time of Monday's warm-up match against Platinum Stars and there has been some competition for the worst England performance over the last two years and four months that he has been in charge.
The friendly against the Czech Republic in August 2008, before the Capello effect had really taken hold, took some beating in that regard. The first half against Andorra a month later was much in the same vein. As for the previous World Cup warm-up game against Japan in Graz, it will not be remembered as Capello's finest hour.
But there was something uniquely infuriating for Capello about England's display against the South African club side. As Terry explained, Capello had told his players before the game that they should "not fly into tackles", but never the less lost his temper with them at half-time for standing off their opposition and, at times, allowing Platinum Stars to dictate the game.
"It sums him up," Terry said. "He was not happy with the first half against Japan either, but he is a winner, and even in training he can go like that [angry] from nothing. We came here and realised it was a friendly game and that we should not fly into tackles and he stressed that before the game, but he just was not happy. He wants us to be at our best in training, on the pitch, just everywhere."
Capello has been here before with England – at the start of World Cup qualification which the team began at their lowest ebb under him and then rapidly found their feet with the win over Croatia in Zagreb in September 2008. With three days left before England take on the United States in their first Group C game, their coach has some big decisions to make.
1. Green or Hart?
It has come down to a straight choice between Robert Green and Joe Hart to start against the United States with Capello more convinced than ever, it seems, that David James is not fit enough. Green is regarded as the more consistent, dependable goalkeeper while Hart, who started on Monday, has impressed in training. The more conservative bent to Capello's thinking suggests he will opt for Green.
Nevertheless, Hart has a chance which is remarkable for a goalkeeper who has never played a competitive game for his country. The factor that is likely to count most against Hart is his distribution, which the Capello camp say was poor on Monday. They would prefer England to play out from the back more, and the sight of Capello shaking his head at Hart's punts upfield on Monday may be a clue to his thinking.
The mystery is why Capello is so anti-James. He claims the goalkeeper has an injury yet James trains everyday. There is a suggestion that the players would prefer James to Green because the more senior player is a better communicator.
2. Should Joe Cole start?
If he does not sign for a new club by the end of the month and England survive beyond the second round, the official history of the World Cup will have to record him in the record books after 30 June as J Cole (unattached). As The Independent reveals today, Cole yesterday cut his ties with Chelsea and he will be begging the Football Association not to press him into media duty with so many questions unresolved.
Funnily enough, as Cole has presumably made his mind up to leave Chelsea so he has played better. He squeaked into the 30-man squad and then made Capello's mind up for him with a sparky second-half performance against Japan. Now there is a chance of him making the first XI, providing Capello plays Steven Gerrard in the centre of midfield against the United States.
3. Will Gerrard and Lampard work together this time?
Which brings us to the thorny question of whether Capello still believes he can make the central midfield pairing of Gerrard and Frank Lampard work. They looked very one-paced against Platinum Stars. We now know from the experience with Theo Walcott that just because Capello picks a certain player or a certain formation, that by no means guarantees that he is wedded to staying with him/it.
Gerrard and Lampard in the middle of a midfield in a 4-4-2 formation may look just a little too predicable for the Americans to shut down on Saturday. The advantage of playing them is it allows Capello to bring Joe Cole into the team.
4. Do King and Terry make the best defensive match?
The two former Sunday club-mates look comfortable together, which was one of the few positive aspects to come out of Monday's game. Both players maintain that they get along well despite the suggestions to the contrary.
"It has been a long journey from school days playing football together to the World Cup," Terry said. "Back then Ledley [King] was a lot bigger and stronger than the rest and he still is now. He is a real nice bloke away from football.
"I still could not tell you if he is right- or left-footed. The ball gets played into the box and he does a Cruyff-turn on his left foot, which as a right-footed player is difficult to do. He has great understanding, he has great feet and is a joy to play alongside."
As for Terry himself, he said that the Wayne Bridge saga, after which he was stripped of the captaincy by Capello, has not made it awkward for him around the squad. "When I met the manager I stressed to him that I accepted his decision but one thing that he gets from me is completely the same character, the same person, and I am not going to allow my head to go down or beat myself up about it. I am here to win the World Cup like every other player."
5. Can Rooney's keep his cool?
A delicate one for Capello. While the swearing at the referee during a game played largely for the benefit of the locals was not quite what the FA had in mind, it was, rightly or wrongly, standard practice for Wayne Rooney in the Premier League. If it turns out that he could be dismissed for it then better he knows now.
Rooney did not lose it completely and he will be aware that he will have to tread carefully with the erratic Brazilian referee Carlos Simon on Saturday. Let's hope Simon is not in the mood to make himself centre of attention.Reuse content