It was not the result the LA Galaxy midfielder would have wanted to mark such a significant occasion, while there was little to suggest Rio Ferdinand had staked a strong case to be made captain on a permanent basis.
In fact, on the evidence on display, France can look forward to their opening Euro 2008 fixture in 75 days with growing confidence after a mature, composed display.
In contrast, Capello must realise that he has a lot of work to do if he is to translate his success at club level to the international stage.
The Italian's reign as coach started with a victory over Switzerland at Wembley in February but this was always going to be a much sterner examination.
He opted to start with a 4-2-3-1 formation and may have to revise his thinking after a performance in which his team lacked width and penetration.
Once again several of his key players failed to reproduce their club form for their country - with Gerrard, Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney and the injured John Terry all withdrawn at the break while Frank Lampard missed the match entirely through illness.
Capello's team started at a high tempo but it was France who created the early openings - Anelka heading wide from a Ribery free-kick and shooting weakly at goal after he was gifted far too much time to turn on the edge of the area.
England - with Gareth Barry and Owen Hargreaves shielding the back four - gradually asserted themselves on the contest and enjoyed a decent period of play.
A low teasing cross from the left was diverted clear of Beckham's path by keeper Gregory Coupet while Gerrard twice missed the target with headers.
However, the first time France managed to thread a pass through the England defence they won the penalty from which they scored.
Beckham made little impact on the night he won his 100th cap
Anelka collected Francois Clerc's defence-splitting ball and closed in on goal before he was dramatically sent flying by James, who had rushed off his line but was undone by a clever touch from the Chelsea striker.
Ribery then completely outwitted James from 12 yards, sending the 37-year-old the wrong way.
England's riposte was to increase the tempo but they all too often surrendered possession and France eased to the interval with their lead intact.
Capello opted to make four substitutions at the break - with Peter Crouch, Michael Owen, Stewart Downing and Joleon Lescott introduced.
Only Terry's substitution by Lescott was injury related, with the Chelsea skipper complaining of a tight hamstring.
The changes hinted at Capello's recognition that his decision to play Rooney as the lone striker did not work, with the Manchester United player often forced to come deep in search of the ball.
But it was France who continued to play the incisive football, breaking viciously with James saving from Anelka while Malouda shot narrowly wide.
In contrast, England were frequently betrayed by a poor first touch while a speculative - and wide - effort from Crouch was emblematic of their growing frustration.
Anelka had illuminated the contest with several audacious back-flicks and he also laid the ball off to Ribery but the goalscorer somewhat scuffed his shot.
France substitute Djibril Cisse went close towards the end, while England rarely looked like equalising.
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