Jury out on Capello's abject England team

JOHANNESBURG - Not even the din of the vuvuzelas could drown out the sound of England fans booing and jeering one of the most abject performances England have produced for years in their 0-0 draw with Algeria on Friday.

Fabio Capello's 64th birthday turned out to be full of unhappy returns as his men struggled to control the ball, pass it or cross it, let alone score as they floundered against opponents they were expected to beat easily to take control of World Cup Group C.

The Italian, who replaced the much ridiculed Steve McClaren after England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, appeared to have created a fine side as they breezed into the World Cup by winning nine of their 10 qualifiers, clinching their place in the finals with two matches to spare.

But this performance, even worse than the poor showing against the United States in their opening 1-1 draw on Saturday, suggests that Capello has done nothing to improve the side's belief in itself in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a World Cup.

There was no invention, very little skill, no creativity and absolutely no joy in the way England played.

Instead there were TV close-ups of Wayne Rooney, who had a dreadful game, snarling; captain Steven Gerrard, who was just as bad, looking as though he was having his teeth pulled without anesthetic, and Jamie Carragher looking as though he would rather be back home in England enjoying his international retirement, watching the match on television rather than playing in it.

The performance totally justified the comments of German great Franz Beckenbauer earlier this week, who said England had "gone backwards" under Capello.

Beckenbauer said that having so many overseas players in the Premier League had hindered England at international level - and no-one could argue with that after their opening two games here.

"It looked to me as if the English have gone backwards into the bad old days of kick and rush. What I've seen has got very little to do with football," said Beckenbauer.

He added that Capello would not be able to change the mindset of England's players and they more than proved his point on Friday.

Capello has been welcomed in his adopted homeland by both fans and media alike, impressing with his hard-line approach to discipline, building a team spirit, and for winning the matches that matter most. That is now about to change.

Before the World Cup he said he would not take any players whose fitness was in doubt, yet he picked both Ledley King and Gareth Barry for South Africa.

He said he would only start with players in form, yet Emile Heskey has played as an ineffective foil to Rooney after being in and out of his club side last season.

He appeared to be uncertain over his first choice goalkeeper, playing David James on Friday after Robert Green's blunder against the United States.

England are not out of the World Cup, yet, and can still qualify if they beat Slovenia next week.

The jury though is now out on Capello's England, and the verdict is in the balance.

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