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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
With three wins out of three and a new-found ability to pass the ball about on the ground, the Fabio Capello revolution is gradually gaining momentum. A surprisingly perky Kazakhstan team were eventually swept aside at Wembley, crushed 5-1 with a late flurry of goals. The dark days of the former regime, of long balls and of ineptitude are slowly fading away like a half-remembered nightmare.

Yet, despite the emphatic scoreline, Fabio Capello is unlikely to be over-excited about this performance. After a first half that produced possession without penetration, the Italian manager was forced to scrap his intended 4-3-3 and revert to a more traditional 4-4-2. Capello may have many strengths, but England fans remain most grateful for his ability to understand why a system isn't working, and for his conviction to change it quickly before it's too late.

It seems to be a right of passage for all England managers to fumble about with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, desperately trying to crowbar them both into the same side and Capello's attempts have been no more successful than those of his predecessors. Recognising that neither of them seem able to provide the tactical discipline required in the middle, he installed someone who could, Gareth Barry. The Aston Villa man took care of the menial tasks while the superstars enjoyed the freedom to attack. Unfortunately neither of them proved worthy of the hype, mislaying possession with frustrating frequency. It was most unjust to see the industrious Barry sacrificed for Shaun Wright-Phillips when England eventually reverted to type. Gerrard and Lampard are both fine players, but how long can these experiments continue? If Spain can leave Cesc Fabregas on the bench, why can't England cope with the thought of one of these two sitting out?

They may not yet be world-beaters on the pitch, but off it England are unstoppable. No-one else in the world can boast fans so stupid and so self-destructive. Capello had warned that the impatience of the Wembley crowd was contributing to underwhelming performances, but his words went unheard by a significant minority. Boos and catcalls were heard on half-time, despite the attractiveness of the football and the clear dominance of possession. Much worse though was the treatment of Ashley Cole after his woeful second half back-pass led to a Kazakhstan goal. The Chelsea left-back is not a man who engenders affection, but to mercilessly boo one of your own players for a simple mistake is so jaw-droppingly, brain-achingly stupid that you wonder how some of these people manage to do up their shoelaces in the morning. Who pays SG$300 for a ticket and then spends the afternoon sabatoging their own team's efforts? Thankfully, the majority of the crowd responded by applauding Cole's efforts in an effort to redress the balance, but the day had already been soured.

England fans have had a lot to moan about in recent years, but those times have gone. There is a new manager and a new ethos now. The ball is something to be cherished, not given away on a whim. There is belief, desire and urgency, married with a refreshing ruthlessness and aggression. The first half performance wasn't particuarly effective, but with the introduction of width and balance, Kazakhstan's resistence finally collapsed in the second. England is full of people eager to get behind their nation and support their players. Perhaps next time, the boo-boys could stay at home and make some room for them.

HEARTBREAK - There's no logical reason why Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard shouldn't be able to play together. They're both professionals at the peak of their game, but it just doesn't seem to be happening for them. Maybe this was less the fault of the system and more the players themselves who were culpable but that doesn't make any less disappointing.

TURNING POINT - With Wayne Rooney tucking in behind Emile Heskey, there was no balance to England's first half performance. Kazakhstan needed to be stretched and Fabio Capello rightly concluded that a pacy left-winger was required. In the absence of one of them, Shaun Wright-Phillips deputised and delivered.

ELECTRIC - Eyebrows will have been raised at the performance of Kazakhstan's Tanat Nuserbayev. The speedy midfielder caused a number of problems for Capello's defence and might have caught the eye of a few scouts. He's got a January move to Bolton Wanderers written all over him.

PUNTERS RANT - Against a team ranked 131st in the world, the smart money would have been on England winning by something large to nil, so hats off to Ashley Cole for ruining everybody's day with his daft backpass.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Wayne Rooney was in ferocious form once again, weighing in with two goals which, if you include his strikes for Manchester United, make it five for him in his last four games. The skinhead superstar was tough, tenacious and dedicated, and he's back to his Euro 2004 best.



David James 7, Wes Brown, 7, Ashley Cole 6, Rio Ferdinand 7, Matthew Upson 6, Gareth Barry 7 (Shaun Wright-Phillips 7), Steven Gerrard 6, Frank Lampard 6, Theo Walcott 7 (David Beckham 7), Wayne Rooney 8 (Jermaine Defoe 7), Emile Heskey 7


Alexandr Mokin 5, Aleksandr Kuchma 5, Alexander Kislitsyn 5, Tanat Nusserbayev 7, Ruslan Baltiyev 5, Sergey Skorykh 6, Zhambyl Kukeyv 7, Yuri Logvinenko 5, Sabyrkhan Ibrayev 5, Sergey Ostapenko 5 (Gleb Maltsev 5) , Alexander Kirov 5 (Talgat Sabalakov 5)

Attendance - 89,107