Hint of farce but Capello is sure England have moved on

Manager hopes a win against Swiss today will erase memory of World Cup debacle

Today is a year to the day that, late on in England's first training session in South Africa, Rio Ferdinand challenged Emile Heskey and injured his left knee so badly that by the evening the England captain knew that he was out of the World Cup finals.

From that point it went downhill quicker than a boulder off Table Mountain which is why, 365 days on, the whole sorry experience still hangs over Fabio Capello and the England team.

Nevertheless, they will play today in front of a Wembley stadium at full capacity for a Euro 2012 qualifier against a Switzerland side with no box-office names, at the end of a long domestic season. None of which seems to have diminished the English public's appetite for watching their team whose progress in qualifying has been steady at best and has included a draw at home with Montenegro, a nation with a smaller population than Leeds.

There are new players in this team to a year ago, and a new 4-3-3 formation. There are lots of promises about how it will be different next year. John Terry even said yesterday that England had "turned the corner" after last summer's dismal World Cup. There is, as ever, plenty of upbeat talk about lessons being learned from last summer and a conviction that it will be different next time.

But what England require more than anything is the kind of performance that gives some substance to the familiar old argument that the team just requires fine-tuning to be a serious force at Euro 2012 next summer. Asked yesterday about his changed England team, Capello declined to say it was better. "It's different," he said. "We've got probably more imagination. Some players have improved. Some players."

Providing Capello's team qualifies then this time next year they will be in Poland four days away from the start of the tournament that will be the last for the Italian manager.

Yesterday, accompanied by his interpreter and his English teacher, the England manager's grasp of his adopted tongue was, to put it politely, imperfect but it is probably too late now to expect it to improve dramatically.

Win today and he goes into the summer arguably just two more wins away from qualification because if England beat Bulgaria and Wales in September then they should qualify as the best second-placed team even if they lose to Montenegro in Podgorica come 7 October. They are reasonably well-set for qualification. But the spark that tells us this team is capable of more? That is harder to divine.

There is still the faint element of farce about this England team that is compounded by a manager who is not always capable of picking up the nuances of the English language. David Stockdale, the Fulham reserve team goalkeeper, was married yesterday – an arrangement which precluded him from being involved in the squad. Capello seemed unconcerned about his player's lack of foresight. "His wife may have decided, not him," he joked.

As for Ben Foster, the Birmingham City goalkeeper who took indefinite leave from international football last month, Capello revealed yesterday that Foster has done so in order to recover from a finger injury.

"He [Foster] played four months, and stayed with us in the last game in Wales, but said: 'Please, at the end of the season I need to have an operation'." Capello said. "I hope he comes back. I'm happy with these keepers."

When Foster comes back, he was unable to say. Just as it was unclear whether it was Arsène Wenger's powers of persuasion that convinced him that Jack Wilshere would be better served by not going to the Under-21s European championships this month or his own decision. Capello has finally smoothed things over with Rio Ferdinand over the captaincy issue, although it is 12 weeks since it first emerged that he was replacing him with Terry.

Another solid performance today, like those against Denmark and Wales (less so Ghana), and Capello can slip quietly away for the summer. But if you were looking yesterday for signs that this is a man fully in charge of his brief then once again the small details around this England team – about which he is questioned only once every two to three months – seem to elude him.

The most insightful part of Capello's briefing yesterday was his insistence that next year the players have at least 10 days' rest between the end of the season and the start of their Euro 2012 preparations. "Now [after a brief break for all but Ferdinand], during training, they have started to train, they were like children, wanting to play," he said.

"They were really happy. This is really, really important, them being so happy. I learned a lot from the World Cup. That was a different moment and the altitude was a big problem." There is no Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard in the team today and it will be interesting to see how the latter fits in when he finally returns from injury.

Scott Parker and Wilshere now look like the first two names in the three in midfield with Gerrard probably chosen ahead of Frank Lampard in the event of them both being fit.

In attack, Peter Crouch and Bobby Zamora are both fit but will not take precedence over the in-form Darren Bent who will start with Theo Walcott and Ashley Young on the wings. There is an outside chance that Capello could spring a surprise and that James Milner could be in line to start, which may be at the expense of Lampard.

Having been wedded to 4-4-2 at the World Cup last summer, Capello is now a firm convert to 4-3-3. How does he assess England one year on from South Africa? "The position, I think, a lot of young players are in the squad. Players have improved a lot. I'm happy with the performance of the team. But, the qualification is good but the most important thing is to win trophies, not to play all the games. We played really well in the qualification, but we didn't play well in South Africa."

Capello knows it is a long way back from South Africa for his team and his reputation and also that, however well it goes at Euro 2012 next summer, the chances of beating Spain – should England progress – are slim.

He has his way of doing things, but he feels he has made concessions in some areas to the English temperament. And like most of us he does not seem sure what kind of England team will turn up in Poland – qualification permitting – this time next year.

Home nations' results so far

England 4-0 Bulgaria;

Montenegro 1-0 Wales;

Switzerland 1-3 England;

Wales 0-1 Bulgaria;

England 0-0 Mont'gro;

Swit'land 4-1 Wales;

Wales 0-2 England.

Home nations' remaining fixtures

Today: England v Swit'land;

2 Sept: Bulgaria v England, Wales v Mont'gro;

6 Sept: England v Wales;

7 Oct: Mont'gro v England, Wales v Switzerland;

11 Oct: Bulgaria v Wales.

Previous Meetings: From Basle Trouble to Rooney Double

England have faced Switzerland 21 times, with their first meeting coming in 1933. England have won 14, drawn four and lost three of the fixtures. Here are three of the more memorable encounters:

Switzerland 2-1 England

30 May 1981, World Cup Qualifier

Crowd trouble marred the defeat as England went 2-0 down in the first half in Basle thanks to goals from Alfred Scheiwiler and Claudio Sulser. Terry McDermott's 54th-minute goal was not enough to salvage a point.

England 1-1 Switzerland

8 June 1996, Euro 96 Group stage

The hosts were held to a draw at Wembley in the first game of Euro '96. Alan Shearer scored his first England goal in 12 games but Kubilay Turkyilmaz equalised with a penalty after Stuart Pearce handled.

England 3-0 Switzerland

17th June 2004, Euro 2004 Group stage

Wayne Rooney, scored twice making him, at the age of 18, the youngest player to score in a European Championship. Steven Gerrard added the third. Bernt Haas was sent off for the Swiss.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices