Fabio Capello has turned England from a country obsessed by the WAGs culture into one of the most disciplined powers in world football, according to Carlos Alberto Parreira, coach of hosts South Africa.
Parreira, one of the most knowledgeable international coaches who led Brazil to World Cup glory in 1994, says Capello's regime has made England a stronger favourite next year than at any time in recent history.
Parreira has his work cut out to prevent South Africa becoming the first hosts to be eliminated in the group phase but England, he says, can be a surprise winner. "Capello has changed the philosophy," said Parreira. "England always had good players but now they have unity and focus. All this stuff about wives, girlfriends, partying – it's no good. When you go to a World Cup, it's like going to war. When you go to war, you don't take the wife. You go prepared to win a battle.
"There is more freedom these days with mobiles and things but you have to focus on your job. The performance of England in qualifying was excellent. There is a new mentality surrounding the team in terms of discipline and this will help a lot. I really think this could be England's best chance for a long time."
Meanwhile, US captain Landon Donovan can't wait to lock horns with David Beckham – provided his LA Galaxy team-mate is in Capello's squad. Donovan and Beckham fell out spectacularly earlier this year when the American questioned Beckham's commitment following his extended loan move at Milan. Although they made up over the season – and helped the Galaxy reach the MLS final – Donovan would love nothing more than to put one over on England on 12 June.
"It took me about half a second to realise what this means," said Donovan. "I wish we could have got a shot of David's face directly but I'm sure he was thinking the same thing. To play against your own team-mate is actually pretty incredible."
Donovan believes the US are capable of dealing with whatever is thrown at them by Capello's side. "With England, they're just physical and they're big and they're used to playing the game at a very high pace," he said. "Are we as talented as England? Probably not. But we think on a given day that we have a chance to beat them."
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