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Page last updated at 22:03 GMT, Saturday, 11 October 2008 23:03 UK

Capello's game of two halves

England boss Fabio Capello

By Jonathan Stevenson
BBC Sport at Wembley

Fabio Capello has been diligently learning English since he took over as England coach and after Saturday's game against Kazakhstan he has a new phrase to add to his vocabulary - "a game of two halves".

Capello could only look on aghast as England produced a subdued and lifeless first 45 minutes in Saturday's World Cup qualifier, before turning on the style against tiring young opponents.

His principal feeling at the final whistle must have been relief after his team struggled for long periods to break down their stubborn, hard-working visitors.

As he sat stony-faced to face the media half an hour after the game, the England boss looked more like a man who had just watched his team lose 5-1.

"After the first 45 minutes I was not happy, no," he said, much to everyone's agreement. "But we changed things, and after that we did well."

Capello did indeed change things around at half-time, ditching his 4-3-3 formation, hauling Gareth Barry off and sending on Shaun Wright-Phillips to give added width down the left.


More importantly, it allowed Wayne Rooney, who had been wasted on the left in the first half, to play closer to Emile Heskey and give the Kazakh defenders another problem down the middle.

But why did the master manager need 45 minutes to see what has become startlingly obvious over the last few years of watching this England team play - that in any formation other than 4-4-2, they struggle?

Rooney was caught in no man's land, Heskey was badly isolated and Steven Gerrard played far too deep, refusing to join the attack on numerous occasions - though he should have been safe in the knowledge that Barry was always covering him.

Frankly, the debate over whether Gerrard and Frank Lampard can play together has still not been answered, though on this evidence it is the Chelsea man who is in far better form should Capello decide he has to choose between them.

The booing reserved for Lampard on England duty in recent times has thankfully subsided and he was crucial as England showed impressive patience to wait for their moment to go ahead.

Capello has underlined his concerns about England playing at Wembley in no uncertain terms, believing that the fans booed players "for their first bad touch" and suggesting it was easier for the players away from home.

Theo Walcott
Walcott - the new darling of the England faithful

If an Englishman's home is his castle, Wembley seems to not be doing the job for England's resident Italian coach.

Prior to the game he asked for patience, he told the fans "sometimes it is not that easy to score a goal". They had clearly listened and the voices of discontent were few and far between, even when England were struggling.

The atmosphere before kick-off was electric and save for a few random boos at half-time with the score 0-0, the Wembley faithful could hardly have done any more to get behind their team.

Apart from Ashley Cole, of course, who was the one unfortunate victim of the boo-boys after his shocking, uncharacteristic error let in Kazakhstan to pull the score back to 2-1 midway through the second half.

Capello did not hide his disappointment: "At that moment, a player needs the crowd to help, not boo. I don't understand it. But I would like to say also, the crowd was very strong for us. They helped a lot after the first half."

Capello will know that the margin of victory flattered England

BBC's Jonathan Stevenson

Theo Walcott certainly seems to be the new darling of the England supporters, the Zagreb hat-trick hero getting the loudest cheer of the night when his name was announced before kick-off - until, that is, David Beckham made his second-half entrance as a substitute.

Walcott gave Capello yet more good news with another sterling display down the right, his explosive pace and direct approach causing Kazakhstan all kinds of problems until he tired after the break.

He has replaced Beckham not just down the right, but as the first man many of England's players look to pick out when they receive the ball - and his bursts of speed are a very useful outlet in tricky situations.

But Capello will know that the margin of victory flattered England, and he will already be planning his tactics for the trip to Belarus on Wednesday.

"They are a good team, very dangerous. This will not be an easy game," he warned.

England are nowhere near qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, that is certain, and more difficult tests await in Group Six as Capello bids to lead his team to South Africa.

But as the former Real Madrid coach put it: "Three wins out of three, it's job done so far."

see also
England 5-1 Kazakhstan
11 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Win 'all important' for Capello
11 Oct 08 |  Internationals
World Cup qualifying as it happened
11 Oct 08 |  Internationals
World Cup qualifying photos
11 Oct 08 |  Football
Pick your England XI
31 Aug 07 |  Internationals

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