Capello: 'We will qualify for the World Cup'

August 11, 2008

Fabio Capello has pledged to take England to the next World Cup in South Africa.

The Italian inherited a squad which did not reach Euro 2008 under Steve McClaren, whose disastrous reign ended in a defeat in the Wembley rain against Croatia last November.

Given England only needed a draw to qualify and Croatia were already through, there appears little reason for confidence in a group which again pits the Three Lions against the Croats.

Not only that, the general standard of play at Euro 2008 was viewed by many as beyond the reach of England's beleaguered players.

Capello watched events unfold in Austria and Switzerland at first hand, seeing Croatia in action on three separate occasions before returning home to keep up with the rest on TV.

Yet his faith in his players remains undiminished. And he is adamant they will reach South Africa in two years' time.

'We are a very good team,' he said.

'It is always the same. For us, the opponent is not important. The important thing is what we do.

'We will qualify for the World Cup. We will be in South Africa. I am sure of it.'

Indeed, it seems Capello was not left as starry-eyed by Euro 2008 as some of the pundits.

The former Real Madrid coach singled out eventual winners Spain for special praise. But of Holland, Russia and the obdurate Germans he said not a word.

And he was not left spellbound by new tactics or formations either.

'I watched some games live and saw the rest on TV,' he said.

'Only Spain played in a different style. Only the characteristics of their play was different.

'But I have a lot of confidence in my team and I think we will be okay.'

Capello was speaking at the National Football Festival at Wembley which was organised by McDonalds.

Over 800 children took part in the event, the pinnacle of 50 free football festivals around the country, which saw 1966 World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst put in a special appearance alongside Capello.

The Italian will soon have more pressing matters on his mind though.

Rather than announcing a large squad on Thursday, then cut it down once the weekend's opening Premier League fixtures have been completed, Capello will name his squad on Saturday evening for the friendly with the Czech Republic at Wembley on August 20.

It seems an odd strategy given three games, potentially including a dozen key men, do not take place until 24 hours later.

Manchester United alone could field six England players against a Newcastle side containing Michael Owen at Old Trafford.

Frank Lampard, David James and Jermain Defoe are likely to be involved as Chelsea meet Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge, while Gareth Barry is still likely to be with Aston Villa when they entertain Micah Richards' Manchester City.

Also in action are both potential captains, given Steven Gerrard has apparently been ruled out of the running and David Beckham's appointment for the friendly in Trinidad this summer seemed a mainly political move to appease influential FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner.

Rio Ferdinand won warm praise for his faultless performance at Wembley yesterday as United beat Portsmouth in the Community Shield.

Ferdinand has been tipped as Capello's favoured choice, although the opinion mainly seems to be based on John Terry looking a bit glum around the Chelsea training ground.

Yet it appears whatever is vexing the Chelsea skipper it cannot be the captaincy issue.

For Capello has no intention of telling either man, or anyone else for that matter, who will his new-look England until next week.

'I will announce the captain the day before the game,' he said.

'I will speak with the captain just a moment before I tell the rest of the squad, then everyone else will find out.'