The power of positive thinking

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Robert Green may have gifted the USA a point with his absurd goalmouth fumble, but the England players are admirably sticking to Fabio Capello's mantra of positive thinking.

Whatever the state of the performance against the USA, and it was largely poor, this England coach seems to have instilled a sense of belief in the team that might help them survive the inevitable moments of crisis that occur in a tournament such as this, even the 'Hand of Clod'.

Capello understands that confidence is everything. It is the emotion that makes sporting success achievable and can turn the ordinary into the unbeatable, but it can be a fragile commodity.
An error like the one made by Robert Green is not in itself the problem, it is the ability to cope with the situation that is crucial. Negativity is contagious and can spread through a team like wildfire, and when that happens there is little hope. Capello has certainly impressed this on his team.

After the draw with the USA, to a man the England players presented themselves as interested only in the positive. "Tim Howard was 'Man Of The Match' and that was proof of how strong we were," said David James, without flinching. "Obviously with a 1-1 draw we haven't got the three points but with the amount of openings and chances that we created, it's something that we can take into the next game as a positive."

Despite squandering a fine chance early in the second-half, Emile Heskey was also resolutely on-message. "It was frustrating game and I'm disappointed that we didn't take some of our chances," he said, "but we've got to take the positives into the next game."

Glen Johnson, meanwhile, ignored compliments about his own performance in favour of stressing the team ethic, snapping back when a journalist asked whether it was too early to discuss whether this was England in crisis. "That's ridiculous," he insisted. "We've played just one game and the team spirit is fine. The boys will stick together through anything. We've put this behind us now."

For the man whose error cost England the win, there was no attempt to hide. After going through a post-match drugs test, Robert Green was one of the last players out of the dressing room but faced up to the press with confidence. He had only learnt the news that he was the starting keeper when the team was announced to the players five minutes before leaving for the stadium, and although at half-time he had offered his apologies for the error to his team-mates, after the game he was already prepared to move on.

"It was a mistake," he admitted, "but it's something that happens in life. I would have loved to have stopped it, as I do time and time again in training, but it was obviously a genuine mistake, a horrible mistake, but something to deal with and something that you prepare for mentally."

Right-back Johnson was among the players quick to leap to Green's defence. "Everyone makes mistakes and if you're a goalkeeper and you make a mistake it leads to a goal," he said. "But Rob's a great keeper and he deserves to wear the shirt." Emile Heskey echoed the sentiment: "He made a brilliant save in the second half, but people probably won't remember that because of the mistake he made. But he can bounce back from this."

For David James there was no satisfaction to be had from seeing his rival struggle. "We'll have a look at it on video and as goalkeepers we'll get together and help each other out," he said. James sidestepped the opportunity to blame his relegation to the bench on a rumoured injury earlier in the week. "As with Joe Hart, I was up for selection," the Portsmouth keeper insisted. "It was reported earlier on in the week that I had a problem with my knee, but it wasn't the case."

While there still may be question marks over the performance, and indeed over some of Capello's team selections for the USA game, no-one can question the infectious positivity that the Italian radiates, and maybe when push comes to shove, that will be enough to keep this team focused and inspire them to greater things.

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