Looks like its gonna be Capello

Is the long national nightmare over? The news out of England points to Italian Fabio Capello as the man set to replace Steve McClaren as England manager. If the FA can tie up the details of Capello’s contract—a big if with this crew—the former Milan, Juventus, Roma, and Real Madrid coach will take over a team that twice threw away qualification for next summer’s European Championships with defeats when a solitary draw would have seen them through.

 

McClaren’s disastrous decisions in both the Croatia fixtures, experimenting with an untried 3-5-2 formation in Zagreb and an untested Scott Carson in the return, were a key factor in England’s ultimate failure. But Michael Owen is right, not a single Croat in their starting XI would have made it into even the injury- and suspension-depleted line-up that ran out for the Three Lions at Wembley. For all the obsessing over the manager, soccer is a players’ game. Preparing and selecting the team are important, but once the coach turns in the team sheet, the players have 90 minutes to settle things on the pitch.

 

Capello will start with a leg up on the first foreign manager to take the reigns of the English national team. The Swede Sven Goran Eriksson was expected to be the final piece to the puzzle that finally took the supposed golden generation of English players to the winners’ circle at a major tournament. Never able to live up to those lofty expectation, yet Eriksson’s three quarterfinal losses—two on penalties and once to the eventual champion—now look like stunning achievements compared to McClaren’s bungling qualification campaign. Consequently, expectations will be reasonable.

 

Challenges do remain, however. Can Michael Owen still perform at an elite level or is he simple too fragile to be relied upon to score goals? Will Wayne Rooney recover the form that dazzled at Euro 2004? Can Rooney, Lampard, and Gerrard all play together in the center of the park? Who will play on the wings and are they fast enough to stretch elite International defenses? Are any of the midfielders capable of maintaining possession and controlling the pace of the game? And of course, who is going to play in goal?

 

Fortunately for Capello, he wont have to play a competitive fixture until next September, giving him plenty of time to work through these questions. With his credentials, he will probably be able to come up with at least enough of the answers to make England competitive. The rest will be up to the players.

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