Capello hoping to level the score with 'the Kaiser'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am

If the circus that surrounds England's World Cup campaign is starting to mess with the mind of Fabio Capello, the England manager is certainly not letting on, not for a second.

Addressing the press at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Abu Dhabi last week, Capello knew the questions were going to come, even if those gathered had been asked specifically to steer clear of controversy just a day after it had been revealed that the England camp had been 'bugged' and with the stench of John Terry's sordid affairs still lingering around the squad.

When the first question arrived, the Italian simply looked down over the top of his glasses and said: 'No questions about private problems, please.'

For the second, he simply sighed and said: 'No.'

Capello would only admit that he did not expect to have to deal with so many 'off-the-field issues'. And that was it.

The Italian preferred instead to talk about his hopes for what might happen with England out on the pitch in South Africa this summer, and it was fitting then that the man with whom he shared the stage was representing a nation forever linked with England's footballing fortunes.

Franz Beckenbauer looked across at Capello when asked what his dream final would be this year and then gave an answer obviously well rehearsed.

'Germany-England in the final,' smiled Beckenbauer. 'It goes to penalties ... and we all knows who wins.'

Capello and Beckenbauer's relationship goes way back to the late 1960s when they were plying their trades domestically for Juventus and Bayern Munich and nationally for Italy and Germany, respectively.

In the years since, they have left their stamp on the game of football, as players first then as managers, winning between them every honour there is to be won in the game.

Unlike 'the Kaiser', however, Capello's CV is missing one vital piece - a World Cup victory.

Beckenbauer won both as a player and manager with Germany (in 1974 and 1990) - the only person ever to achieve the feat - so he knows well what it takes. And he says he likes what he's seen Capello doing with the England set-up.

'We have known each other for a very long time, been friends for a very long time,' said Beckenbauer. 'His record as a manager speaks for itself so I am sure he will have England very well prepared, and they are certainly one of the favourites for the World Cup. He looks to have a pretty good balance.'

For Capello - who has won domestic titles with every club he has managed, from Roma to AC Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid - there is a difference to managing a national team (and the English one at that).

'It's more of a psychological job you do when you only have a short time to train. It's more important to train the mind, to create a group, create a winning mentality.'

He said the job with England had fulfilled a life-long ambition.

'To be England manager was one of my dreams. I'm really proud to be manager of England,' said Capello.

'We are one of the best teams in the World Cup. We hope to arrive at the semi-finals, minimum, and then, after a lot of years, win the World Cup.

'We have a good team, good players, and at this moment we think we can beat all of the teams because we can play at the same level as the best teams in the world.'

Beckenbauer believes there are any number of chances going into South Africa - 'Spain, Italy, England and France, all these have a chance to win in South Africa', he said. 'Other continents are also very strong, like Argentina and Brazil. Argentina beat Germany in a friendly recently, so they could be the favourites, but then the African teams are getting stronger all the time.'

But Capello tried to narrow things down a little.

'I think it's time for a European team to win,' Capello said. 'We will have no problem with jet lag, the problem will be for South American teams that are really strong like Argentina and Brazil.'

He makes no mistake when it comes to the man he feels will play a major role for England - Wayne Rooney - and when it comes to the other players who will figure prominently when the World Cup opens in June.

'[Rooney] is one of the three best players in the world right now with [Argentina's Lionel] Messi and [Portugal's Cristiano] Ronaldo,' said Capello. 'One is fast, one has a lot of imagination. Rooney is stronger, he runs a lot, helps everyone and this year has scored a lot of goals. They are all really young, and will be the best players for the future.'

And while much of their time in Abu Dhabi was spent talking about the future, the two veterans also had a chance to reflect on the past, and on just how the game itself has changed over the years.

For Capello, the introduction of lighter footballs has meant anyone can now have a crack at goal, while in his day, 'with the heavy ball you were sometimes lucky to get it in from 10 yards out. For attacking players this makes a huge difference'.

Beckenbauer, meanwhile, marvelled at the change in pace.

'It's been 30-40 years since I played and the fitness and style of playing has definitely changed,' he said. 'It's a different game today - the space is tight. In my day you could stop and look around, so it was definitely easier to play then.'

As the session drew to an end, Capello was left to ponder the possibilities of winning his first World Cup, while Beckenbauer closed things off by reflecting on his own achievements - for club and for country.

'If you win the World Cup it is the highest achievement you can have in football, winning as a player or a captain or a team manager,' he said. 'But the biggest victory was to bring the 2006 World Cup to Germany because as a captain or a team manager you can win the World Cup every four years; to bring the World Cup to a country, to a people, can happen only once in your life.'