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England v Slovenia Mailout

by Josh Powell | June 22, 2010

From the email but not an email:
It’s All Just A Clever Roo-se – [maybe]
You’ve got to hand it to Fabio Capello – he sure knows how to take the heat off Robert Green. Oh sure, England may have only taken a point off the 30th best team in the world, but no-one’s talking about ol Butterfingers Green anymore, are they? John Terry was quick to point out it’s two games undefeated which must rank up there with “It wasn’t cheating because I pulled out” in terms of squirming technicalities.
The prospect of beating Slovenia to secure passage to the knockout stages shouldn’t be all that terrifying but sadly for England, their last two matches were shown on TV and all of a sudden it feels a lot more daunting. Plus, if the lethargic performances weren’t enough for Fabio Capello to have to deal with, there’s the whiff of rebellion throughout the England camp. In fairness, it’s better than the usual whiff of sweat, farts and excessive amounts of Lynx Africa that normally dominate the dressing room.
The big question is how can a bunch of players who look utterly awesome when dismantling … er … Stoke in the Premier League all of a sudden look so out of their depth at international level? A team that looked well primed to conquer the world only a few short months ago now looks hopeless and bloated – they’re the Mischa Barton of football. Gerrard and Lampard still look as comfortable together as the Terrys in a ‘forgiveness’ based Hello! magazine shoot, but there are things that have surprised about these England performances. Wayne ‘our only hope’ Rooney looks about as mobile as Stephen Hawking after the battery’s run out. Aaron Lennon has taken a refreshing break from beating his man and then putting in a disappointing ball in favour of not beating his man and not putting a disappointing ball into the box.
But Fabio Capello is some sort of managerial genius isn’t he? That’s what we were told when he was handed the job a couple of years back. With plentiful honours at club level in Italy and around Europe, he was like Sven Goran Eriksson only with better glasses, better keeping it in his pants ability and generally just being better than Sven Goran Eriksson in almost every way. With the added advantage of not being Sven Goran Eriksson. That’s enough Sven-bashing – what is it; 2006 all over again?
There was the general hope that when England looked uncertain and pedestrian in their pre-tournament friendlies, it was merely Fabio asking his players to leave something in the tank for the games that matter. Secretly he was hoping the other sides would watch the matches against Mexico and Japan and draw conclusions like "England are rubbish. We’ll only play with 6 players to save our energy for the good teams." That could still be the plan and if it is you really have to admire Capello’s commitment to his scheme. He’s got the rest of the world well and truly lulled at this stage.
Bitching about Fabio is more trendy than making your life sound really exciting on twitter these days, but the facts remain. England can still top Group C and maybe even avoid the inevitable penalty shoot-out defeat to Germany until the final if things pan out well. Yes they’ve been awful, but the good news is that there’s room for improvement and everyone knows it. Jut think about how bad things would be if they were awful and there was no hope of improvement. Then we’d all be Scottish. Are we looking forward to watching another 90 minutes of England? No. Is Emile Heskey likely to get his hands on the World Cup by any other means than staging an Oceans 11 style heist? No. But is it possible that England will beat Slovenia and start with pretty much a clean slate in the knockout stages? Absolutely.
It may take a couple of slices of blind optimism, but if you can’t rely on blind optimism once every 4 years, then when can you rely on blind optimism. Well, there’s always the Eurovision.


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