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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
And so the recovery continues. Fabio Capello's patient, paternal treatment of the blundering failures who shamed the nation last year is, little by little, beginning to pay off. He hasn't asked them to play in strange formations, he hasn't made sweeping changes, he hasn't even announced a permanent captain. It's his demand for composure on the ball that seems to be making the difference. Baby-step by baby-step, performances are slowly approaching a level of competence that might just be enough to secure qualification for the 2010 World Cup. The United States have qualified for the last five and are not the minnows they once were. For England to beat them so comfortably, even in a friendly international, is encouragement enough for a broken-hearted nation. The Three Lions are on the mend.

It was somehow fitting that it was John Terry who opened the scoring. He recovers so quickly from physical injuries that it's no surprise to see him bouncing back from mental trauma at full speed as well. This was his first game as Capello's captain and it brought the same reward as his first for McClaren; a well-taken headed goal. The Chelsea skipper moved smartly across the penalty area, no slips this time, and pounced on David Beckham's laser-guided set-piece. At the other end of the pitch, alongside the always-excellent Rio Ferdinand, he held the Americans at bay without breaking sweat.

End of season friendlies are not known for raising the blood pressure and sadly this was no exception. The Americans seemed to have arrived with the intention of stopping England from playing, but they did it to the detriment of their own game. David James will not have had many simpler nights than this. With Spain and Argentina still to come in the next ten days, this was probably the easiest of Bob Bradley's summer friendlies, so his team's inability to create sustained pressure will be a major concern for him. Eddie Johnson's squandered chance after the break was their only serious effort on goal and by the end they were chasing England's shadows as their hosts played keep-ball.

After toying with a lone striker against Switzerland and France, Capello opted for a simple 4-4-2 here with Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe in tandem up front. Defoe had more than enough chances to prove to Capello that he was worthy of a starting place, but his inability to make them count will cost him dearly. Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard floundered on the left-wing and, while Rooney was typically industrious, it all seemed a bit stale and lifeless. The introduction of Gareth Barry as a deep-lying partner to the superb Owen Hargreaves allowed Gerrard the freedom to roam in the second half and it paid immediate dividends when Gareth Barry poked an inviting ball through for him to slot into the bottom corner. With speculation linking Barry with a move to Anfield, Liverpool fans will have taken note at the obvious chemistry.

Straight-forward victories in games so dull that they are forgotten as soon as the television powers down are no barometers of future success. However, there were signs here of growing confidence and professionalism. A willingness to play a short pass instead of a long punt. A desire to keep possession. Johan Cruyff once said that he loved playing English teams because if you lost the ball, they would soon give it back to you. Capello has quickly sought to address this nasty habit and his hopes of success depend upon, not a of personnel, but a change of mentality. With all of that in mind, this was still not a result to celebrate. For England fans though, it was reason to smile.