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Does Bilic Hold The Key for Capello?


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
"Wake up! Wake up. You did not lose a game tonight because you had one up front... We are simply a better team." - Slaven Bilic, 21st November 2007

Almost one year on from the debacle at Wembley, from the wally and his brolly and the humiliation of a very public failure, have England woken up at all? Is there anything to suggest that England aren't sleep-walking into another disaster in Zagreb? There's certainly no evidence on the pitch.

The conductor may have changed, but the song remains the same. Blessed with some of Europe's finest players, England are still less than the sum of their parts. They are tactically inept, infuriatingly stupid and, in all honesty, unlikely to return from Croatia with anything other than a badly bruised ego and a ticket for the play-offs. Fabio Capello is desperately trying to wean his squad off their dirty habits, but time is running out.

Wayne Rooney is one of the finest English players in the last twenty years, but he has all the guile and mental strength of an over-excited puppy. You are supposed to grow out of chasing the ball blindly around the pitch when you leave junior school, but Rooney's misplaced enthusiasm means that he is invariably scampering back towards the halfway line instead of staying up front where he can do some damage. Capello's patience ran out at the weekend, the Italian's touchline tantrum finally breaking the myth that Rooney is 'untouchable'.

Capello also lost his temper with England's moronic belief that high, swirling crosses are the best way to feed tiny Jermaine Defoe. Stewart Downing didn't appear for the second half against Andorra and may not ever be seen in public again, so furious was the manager's wrath.

Croatia are a much better 'team' than England. They work hard for each other, they play to their many strengths, they are brave and determined and they are now seasoned campaigners. Only a penalty shoot-out prevented them from fulfilling their potential in the European Championships and they are clear favourites for this clash.

But ironically, the only factor that bodes well for England, barring an on-field epiphany from the players, is the over-confidence of Slaven Bilic. The Croatian manager's assertion that he expects his team to win the group, while being justified, is a dangerous one. His claims that, "England can't play good football because they play predictable football," are absolutely correct, but he should be wary of tempting fate.

England rarely perform against the lesser teams, but if they are ever convinced that their opponents are superior to them, if they ever feel the cold touch of a wall at their backs, for some reason they seem to turn it on. With Capello snapping at their heels, demanding that they wise up, England are going to find their stride one day. Bilic may actually have finally found a way to motivate them to that end.


James, D

Johnson, G
Cole, A
Terry, J
Ferdinand, R

Cole, J
Walcott, T
Barry, G
Lampard, F

Rooney, W
Heskey, E