MORULENG, South Africa - England manager Fabio Capello had to rouse his players during a sharp half time speech as they laboured to a 3-0 win over South African premier league side Platinum Stars on Monday.
He may have been satisfied with the result but not with a performance that left him with a new set of puzzles to resolve before meeting the United States in their opening World Cup Group C fixture on June 12.
Capello, who picked Joe Hart in goal, Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right wing and Jermain Defoe in attack alongside Peter Crouch, was frustrated after watching England plod to a 1-0 lead courtesy of an early strike by Defoe.
His team, minus top striker Wayne Rooney, was expected to be the one that will face the Americans, but looked more senior in age than authority as they struggled for rhythm in the opening period when the Stars missed a penalty.
The introduction of Rooney in the second half roused the team, who were obviously more comfortable when hot sunshine was replaced by a cool evening, and he scored and picked up a booking with a typically boisterous performance.
Joe Cole, the only player to stay on for the full 90 minutes, claimed England's other goal.
"To be honest, the manager was not happy with our performance in the first half," said Defoe, scorer of a close-range goal after two minutes. "He said we could have pressed a lot more, but it was difficult because of the conditions.
"We were a bit better in the second half, we pressed them a little bit more, but we can improve on that.
"It was short and sweet. The manager is a great character and all he wants to do is win - and he gets you fired up for it before the game.
"And he's right, too. He wants to press high up and win the ball back and he wants 100 percent - it's the same in training and that's what we have done."
Capello made 10 changes at the interval including the introduction of uncapped central defender Michael Dawson.
The 26-year-old Dawson arrived in South Africa on Saturday after flying out to replace injured former captain Rio Ferdinand, whose number five he took.
"He did well, we all thought so," said Defoe. "All the lads on the bench talked about him in the second half. He's good on ball, he's aggressive and he can head it - and he has just had a fantastic season. He is a great talent."
On an evening more memorable for the noise generated into the open night air by hundreds of vuvzelas and the wide views of red soil, savannah grass and distant mountains, England appeared frustrated and close to moments of indiscipline.
"It is a good thing to have fire in your belly as a player and if you take it away, then he is not the same player," Defoe said.
"But obviously in a friendly you don't want to pick up any injuries, just look at some of the other teams.
"I spoke to Wayne this morning and we both said we want it to start now. We're ready for it. It's such a long build-up."
England midfielder Gareth Barry said he would not play in the opening game against the U.S. as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury.comments