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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
No-one can be entirely sure of what is being said in the England dressing room at half-time, but if these second half performances are anything to go by, President Bush should consider hiring Fabio Capello to have a quiet word with Wall Street. That credit crunch would be turned around in no time. England were flawed in the first half, as they were on Saturday, but phenomenal in the second, romping to a deserved victory against Belarus.

Before the break, England were exactly what you would expect from a team with Steven Gerrard on the left-wing, in that there actually was no left wing. The Liverpool captain stampeded around the pitch in pursuit of the ball, leaving a frustrated Wayne Rooney with no outlet on his flank and allowing two Belarussians the opportunity to run at Wayne Bridge. But to blame Gerrard for this is to blame a dog for chasing a cat. It's simply what he does and we should know better by now. Some observers have suggested that Gerrard's expertly struck 30 yard opening goal was vindication of his selection, but they're wrong. It was his second half performance that proved his worth.

Mercifully moved to a more central and offensive role, he began to grow in strength. This was the Gerrard that Liverpool fans get to see every week, powerful, driven and dangerous. Gareth Barry took over defensive duties on the left and the Belarussians, who had looked lively up until then, were forced back. Once again, Capello deserves praise for turning the game around, but this was still a remarkable renaissance for a man who has failed to deliver on the international stage for too long. His through ball for Rooney's second strike was divine and his interplay so composed that he can even be forgiven for the horrendous miss that prevented a fourth goal.

Better still was the performance of Rooney, who hasn't looked this good since Euro04. Too many managers have toyed with his talents, deploying him too wide or too deep. Rightfully restored to the front-line, he is back to his best. Five goals in his last three international appearances tells its own story and it was reassuring to see his clear displeasure at being substituted late in the game. Even with two goals to his name and the man of the match award sewn up, he still didn't want to stop playing.

With four wins from their opening four games, this is now England's best ever start to a World Cup Qualifying campaign, something that has had a predictable effect on the UK press.

"It is tempting to believe that should England keep going like this they could actually win the 2010 World Cup," burbled The Sun, like a six year old after too many fizzy drinks.

This, of course, is one of the main problems with following England. When they are bad, they are very, very bad, but when they are good, they are Brazil in 1970. The truth, as always, is somewhere inbetween. Qualification looks a lot more likely than it did a week ago, but the campaign hasn't even reached the halfway stage. With a bit of luck and some composure, there will be plenty of time for over-excitement later.

Under Capello, England are motivated, determined and beginning to make the best of their talents. Under Capello, England have the ability to respond to pressure, react to changes and to turn around games. Now, if the FA would only consider renting him out for motivational speaking in the financial districts of the world, they'd have that Wembley bill paid off in a matter of weeks...

Jedi Shrimper

formerly Drastic™
Jan 10, 2008
Excellent stuff as ever.

It's the Italian way though isn't it? Feel out the oppostion in the first half, being patient then turn the screw in the second half, exploiting the opposition's weaknesses.

Thought Emile Heskey was worth a mention too, he was superb. Held the ball up well, got crosses in, his assist for Rooney's first goal was perfectly timed. I'm willing him to score at the moment because he deserves it.