Out With The Old

Fabio Capello finally ceded to public demand against Hungary and adopted a formation that had been called for throughout the World Cup.

In doing so the Italian, who defended his use of a 4-4-2 system just days before the game, may have provided the fans with a glimpse of the future.

To steal a line from Andy Townsend, something I would usually be loath to do, the opening 45 minutes provided more movement and imagination than four games in South Africa.

The mish-mash of a 4-4-2 that was used during the World Cup stifled England, it failed to get the best out of the big players and restricted the freedom they were allowed.

The most notable beneficiary of Capello’s change of approach was Steven Gerrard, who played with a great deal more confidence in a more advanced central midfield role than he had done when looking lost on the left as the team feebly exited the World Cup.

The use of wingers also gave England a much more balanced approach; it allowed the play to be stretched while the use of three central midfielders when required meant they dominated for the most part in midfield.

A 20-minute spell after Bobby Zamora came on at half-time saw England revert back to a more rigid 4-4-2 than that deployed in the finals, but the difference once Rooney had been replaced by another midfielder, James Milner, was clear to see.

But while Capello may have decided that now, with two years to go before England’s next possible major tournament assignment, is the best time to coach a new style into players he believes to be slow learners, the players themselves must take a greater responsibility.

It was clear that the belief returned to English feet once they strode out at Wembley, they had the confidence to take people on and be inventive with their passing.

That didn’t happen in South Africa. The players failed to embrace Africa’s World Cup, they looked bored and frustrated and didn’t appreciate the chance that had been given to them.

They cruised through qualifying for that tournament looking confident and creative, but when the four weeks that count arrive they had lost their belief and looked like they would rather have been anywhere else.

In the next two years Capello must not only engrain a new approach into their minds, he must also alter a mindset so that the players are ready to embrace the unique challenges and opportunities a major tournament provides.

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