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England v Andorra

Capello eyes early goal

June 9, 2009

Fabio Capello has rejected the theory that England's World Cup qualifier against Andorra on Wednesday is a pointless exercise.

GettyImagesFabio Capello prepares his team for Andorra

The part-timers have won only three games in their entire history and would regard a goal as a major achievement on their first appearance at Wembley Stadium.

Capello is acutely aware Andorra will pull all 10 outfield players behind the ball for the full 90 minutes, giving his England stars a thankless task in continually breaking them down in a quest to improve an already impressive goal difference.

Yet neither Capello, nor predecessor Steve McClaren will recall meeting Andorra in Barcelona with any fondness given England were held to goalless first opening periods on both occasions which was enough, in McClaren's case, to trigger vicious abuse from the travelling fans.

And those memories ensure England will be fully focussed as they attempt to make it seven wins from seven outings on the road to South Africa 2010.

"You have to ask FIFA why we are playing not me, I would be very happy to go on holiday.

"But football is not like other sports. When you defend all the time, sometimes you can draw.

"That is what happened in the first half in Andorra and we had to wait another 20 minutes in the second to score the first goal.

"Tomorrow I hope we score quickly. After one goal, you can play without pressure."

The actual make-up of Capello's side is probably not that important given the imbalance between the two sides.

However, he is debating whether to rest Glen Johnson and Emile Heskey, both of whom would be suspended for the far more significant September clash with Croatia if they picked up another yellow card.

David Beckham is in the same position, yet he could be the man Capello turns to in order to fill the void created by Gareth Barry's one-match ban.

Shaun Wright-Phillips is another alternative but not, it seems, Steven Gerrard.

"I could put Steven there but I prefer him nearer the box because he can shoot from a longer distance," said Capello.

One man who can expect to start is Theo Walcott, who didn't exactly distinguish himself on his return to international duty in Almaty and was replaced at half-time.

Given Walcott must join up with the England Under-21 squad ahead of their European Championship campaign in Sweden later this week, Capello might have decided to give the Arsenal star the evening off.

Instead, Walcott has been identified as a key man as England begin the onerous task of unlocking the Andorra defence.

"Theo will be very important because we have to attack," said Capello.

"Wide areas are very important because they are play places where one man can go directly against another.

"I have spoken with Theo. He has been training very well and he needs to play."

While the outcome is not in question, the performance should give Capello a decent indication of what lessons have been learned in an excellent first full season in charge.

Successive wins in Croatia, Belarus and Germany were the undoubted highlights, yet it was the defeat by Spain which provided the most valuable test for the new-look Three Lions.

Andorra offer nothing like the same test but, remembering those September struggles, it will be interesting to see whether England can now perform with more intelligence, inventiveness, patience and guile, all of which will be crucial factors at the next World Cup, which starts in South Africa on June 11, 2010.

"Yes, this is where I would want to be a year before the World Cup," said Capello.

"I am very happy with the job we have done so far. When we stay together the atmosphere is really good. I can breathe in every moment.

"Also, I am very happy with the performance of the players.

"We still have to improve a lot of things. But we have time to address them before we arrive in South Africa."