Capello eyes fresh start and bright future

WATFORD - England coach Fabio Capello hardly looked on Thursday like someone supposedly hanging on by the thread of two Euro 2012 qualifiers.

The 62-year-old, whose long English honeymoon abruptly ended with an early return trip home from the World Cup, faces potentially tricky tests against Bulgaria and Switzerland over the next week.

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With half of the English press calling for his head since the 4-1 defeat to Germany in the second round of the World Cup in South Africa, Capello returned fire on Thursday with nothing more than his usual confident smile.

Even his English, for so long a target of criticism from his detractors, seemed a little more fluent when he appeared at a pre-match briefing ahead of England's return to competitive action.

Crisis? What crisis? Pressure, what pressure?

"I'm the manager, it's normal," said Capello, as relaxed as a regular at England's plush golfing resort hotel north of London.

He has his problems, of course. John Terry, Frank Lampard plus striker Peter Crouch are all sidelined through injury and Bulgaria and fellow World Cup flops Switzerland, on Tuesday, both threaten to derail Euro 2012 ambitions early.


"We have to play without fear," said Capello, whose job earns him around 6 million pounds ($9.25 million) a year.

"I saw the players trained well today and with confidence and I hope they play like that against Bulgaria.

"It will not be easy to play against them, they will defend with nine players and one forward and play the counter-attack really fast and with quality.

"But this is not an excuse. We have to win, we have to play well and I hope the fans get behind us during the game."

Capello, who has been under intense pressure in his illustrious club managerial career before - "the second time at Real Madrid and the second time at Milan" was how he summed up his most intense periods.

But he rarely loses his cool, at least in his public dealings with the men who are his severest critics. So it was on Thursday.

"Since the World Cup I have changed some things, I always learn something after new experiences and games, I've changed some things, but not a lot."

He proferred no further explanation of what that might be although playing newcomer Phil Jagielka and the much-criticised Matthew Upson in the centre of defence in the absence of Terry and the recovering Rio Ferdinand would give at least some coaches cause of considerable concern.

"I hope they will be really focused and I hope (Ashley) Cole and (Glen) Johnson will help these players."

He said he was also delighted that Wayne Rooney's five-month goal drought was over.

"I monitored him during the last game that he played against West Ham," said Capello.

"He's good, he's back and I'm happy because he scored a goal.

"Rooney runs a lot around the pitch, he's free to move whe