Fickle press hypes England

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 4:02 AM ET

From outhouse to penthouse, how quickly the transformation happens -- especially in the English press.

A word of warning though: The ride the other way may be just as fast.

The flavours of the day in English soccer are the 19-year-old Theo Walcott and England coach Fabio Capello.

After being excoriated following a poor performance against Andorra last week in World Cup qualifying, England is flying on a euphoric cloud not seen in recent memory -- perhaps not since the 5-1 thrashing of Germany in Munich eight years ago -- thanks to a shocking 4-1 win in Croatia.

Walcott scored three goals and Capello unveiled a team that pushed the ball around the pitch with confidence and authority. England used Walcott's speed to terrorize a clearly overmatched Croatian defence.

Predictably, the same media that believed England was rubbish have post-Zagreb anointed the team ready to go to the World Cup. "Theo the Lion," "Wald Cup," "Boy Wonder," "Thanks Fabio, the cycle of misery is broken, we have our England Back," the headlines read.

This is nothing new for Capello. After all, he has dealt with the Italian media for years. Regardless of what's printed and said, successful coaches don't suddenly become stupid, and coaches who don't know how to coach don't stay successful for very long. Time has a way of catching up with them.

Capello's reaction to the overreaction?

"We played well but it's only one game," he said.

I don't believe Capello thinks that Walcott is going to score three goals every game and Capello understands that, as good a coach as he is, he is at the mercy of his players.

Capello put England in a position to perform and he did it by making the right moves. Joe Cole was in great form so he was started.

David Beckham sat on the bench, with Walcott replacing him. Capello is slowly creating a style of play for England that is going to benefit players such as Wayne Rooney. Rooney now has help up front, instead of being forced to work alone.

He'll see a lot more balls allowing him not only to create more striking opportunities for himself but also to create space for others.

But this team remains a work in progress. Remember that Walcott still is an enigma. He has been heralded as the second coming since he was signed by Arsenal. More often than not, he has been disappointing, in large part because no one who is that young should be put under the kind of pressure Walcott has been.

ROLLER-COASTER RIDE

But that's what happens when a nation is looking for a saviour. Remember when Sven Goran Eriksson named him to the 2006 World Cup squad? That certainly was a failed experiment. Walcott is not even a regular fixture in the starting 11 at Arsenal. His career has been a roller-coaster ride.

How will Walcott react to this new pressure? The paparazzi already are stalking his girlfriend Melanie Slade. "Theo and Mel, the new Becks and Posh," one headline read. His lifestyle is under examination. He's getting the same treatment Rooney got when he was hailed as the next great one.

Everyone is over the moon about Walcott. He has one ingredient that is absolutely essential for England, or any national side for that matter: He has great pace, and a player with speed and skill is a deadly combination for any defender.

But Walcott still has a long way to travel and by extension so does England. There's no question there is a new confidence around Walcott and England.

Only time -- and games -- will tell whether it's justified.


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