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Fabio Capello: Getting it Right for His Undeserved Second Chance

England played its first Euro 2012 qualifier this weekend. They easily handled Bulgaria and won 4-0. While it was a good victory for England, I feel like it was an undeserved second chance for their coach, Fabio Capello. England went with a different lineup from what they used two months ago in the World Cup. Here are the starting 11 from their first game at the World Cup:

Robert Green (G)
John Terry (D)
Ledley King (D)
Ashley Cole (D)
Glen Johnson (D)
Steven Gerrard (M)
Frank Lampard (M)
James Milner (M)
Aaron Lennon (M)
Wayne Rooney (F)
Emile Heskey (F)

And here are the starting 11 from the qualifier on Saturday:

Joe Hart (G)
Phil Jagielka (D)
Ashley Cole (D)
Michael Dawson (D)
Glen Johnson (D)
Steven Gerrard (M)
Gareth Barry (M)
James Milner (M)
Theo Walcott (M)
Jermain Defoe (F)
Wayne Rooney (F)

There are quite a few changes. Granted, there were many changes even during the World Cup. England had an all around poor showing at the World Cup and few players were solid throughout the tournament, so changes were necessary. Jermain Defoe didn't get the starting nod at the beginning of the tournament, but he was starting by the end of the tournament. Why he didn't start in the first place was puzzling considering he had such an amazing season prior to the World Cup. Tottenham qualified for the Champions League for the first time ever and that was largely due to Defoe. He was their offense last season. I guess no one could have foreseen that Wayne Rooney would be completely absent during the World Cup and Capello probably expected more scoring from Rooney, but still, you have to start Defoe after how great he had played. Defoe started yesterday's game and finished with a hatrick. He's a scoring machine. This isn't a new revelation either.

Not starting Defoe was bad, but the failure to play Joe Hart was a catastrophe, especially since goalkeeping woes plagued England throughout the Cup. Joe Hart has been simply amazing this season. Granted, there have only been three league games, but he has risen to the occasion in each of the games. His debut game for Man City against Tottenham was one of the greatest goalkeeping performances I have ever seen. He was bombarded with shots and came up big each and every time. Even yesterday in the game against Bulgaria he had a couple of huge saves. He completely changes the England squad. The players have confidence in their goalie and don’t consider themselves as much of a liability defensively and it changes the entire mentality and course of the game.

But here’s why I think that this is somewhat of an undeserved chance for Capello: yesterday's game wasn't 4 years after the World Cup where some players have changed and others have developed and different players are available. The World Cup was two months ago. So any player or any combination of players that are being used now were available two months ago. But Capello didn’t find or use that combination even though it was at his disposal, which is somewhat inexcusable considering it’s the World Cup. He used the World Cup as his experimental stage or try outs and now seems to have figured things out…in time for the Euro 2012 qualifiers? It like a band getting the chance to open for U2 and playing their B-sides and then busting out all their great stuff a few weeks later when they are playing at local clubs and dive bars. Seems a little backwards.

And it may be a little harsh to hold Capello to such a high standard and scrutiny, but he's getting paid millions and the World Cup only happens once every four years. If he could try again in six months and he wasn't getting so much money I would give him a pass. But for what they are paying him (more than any other national team coach in the world), the expectations are higher and the room for error is smaller, especially since he is proving that his errors could have been corrected since he has apparently corrected those errors only two months after the tournament.

I actually like Capello. He had a great run at Real Madrid and improbably controlled all the egos and led them to a league title. I think he is a good coach and I thought he should have been given more time with Madrid and not run out of town for the next big coach. He must have kept that second chance token he should have received from Madrid and he’s now cashing it in with England. He was gracefully given another chance and seems to be finally getting it right, just in time for the local club and dive bar tour.
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