Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Football : Bullish Capello bites back

Capello hopes to see his England project bear fruit against Croatia [AFP] England manager Fabio Capello has thanked his Croatian counterpart Slaven Bilic for giving his team all the motivation they needed to win at Wembley and qualify for next year’s World Cup finals.
Bilic said at the weekend that England had lost their "Englishness" and their competitive edge since the Italian became coach last year.
The former West Ham United player had said: "They are definitely missing something that always made English teams difficult to defend against and play against" – despite the fact that England have been much-improved since the departure of English coach Steve McClaren.
Silly Bilic?
Asked on Tuesday what he and his players felt about those comments, an upbeat Capello, shot back: "I just say: 'Thank you Mr Bilic'.
"It is the best thing. I do not need to motivate the players after that. It is fantastic assistance, so I say thank you."
England face Croatia standing top of European Group Six and will clinch their place in South Africa if they beat Croatia at Wembley.
The last time the teams met there, in November 2007, Croatia beat England 3-2 to deny them a place in the Euro 2008 finals.
England have since beaten Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb in this qualifying tournament but Capello said those matches counted for nothing ahead of Wednesday's game.
"It is history, they belong in the archives, although we have improved a lot since we beat Croatia 4-0 in Zagreb," he said.
Tomorrow never knows
When reminded that England actually won 4-1, he said: "See, it is history, it doesn't matter, all that matters is what happens tomorrow.
"The squad are training well, they are much more focused for this game than for the friendly against Slovenia on Saturday, and we have no injuries.
"We have won all seven games and have improved in every game – even since we beat them in Croatia.
"We know that we have to win this game to get to South Africa and that is all that matters to us."
Croatia are in second place, four points behind England, having played one match more, after a laboured 1-0 victory over Belarus on Saturday.
They will be without their key playmaker Luka Modric, who is injured, and his Tottenham Hotspur team mate Vedran Corluka, who was sent off against Belarus and is suspended.

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