Honeymoon over for Capello
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
Despite the gesturing, all fingers have been pointing at England coach Fabio Capello following a 1-1 draw with the United States. (REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci)
CAPE TOWN – It took only 90 minutes of football for England manager Fabio Capello to go from genius to dunderhead.
The honeymoon with the England fans and media is now officially over.
It was actually a lengthy event lasting longer than some marriages.
One need not be a genius to figure out why. It was all about results.
England was winning and Capello was the Teflon man with nothing sticking to him.
Capello was hired for $9 million for the sole purpose of preparing England to win a World Cup.
That's not a new story. Every manager hired by England is supposed to get them to a World Cup.
But this was different. Capello took charge from the start. After a tremendous qualifying run, England was elated they had finally found the right guy even though it was hard to swallow that he wasn't English.
There were many lying in wait for him to fail, some because he wasn't English and others simply because there is a political nature to holding the England manager's job – no matter what you do, you can't satisfy everyone.
Now the knives are out.
As much as beleaguered netminder Robert Green has taken the heat for his horrendous miscue of American Clint Dempsey's shot that led to England and the United States drawing 1-1 in their opener, Capello has been on the rack for his decisions leading up to and during the game.
No one has ever been wrong in deciding what to do after the fact.
The enormous build up to this World Cup for the English is now mirrored by their despair. The English had hoped they could start well. Instead the same angst and fears are surfacing.
"England Crisis Worsens as King Ruled Out," shouts one headline, referring to defender Ledley King’s injured groin.
"Capello's Gamble on King Backfires, Defensive Plans in Tatters," spews another.
Crisis? Plans in tatters?
My God, England has a point sewn up and their two easiest games to play yet.
Despite the result in the opener, only some fine work by American goalkeeper Tim Howard prevented them from winning.
Yet the focus remains on Capello's decision-making.
King is a fine player but he had multiple injury problems before this World Cup. And yet Capello brought him anyway.
Against the U.S., in a surprise move Capello started James Milner in the midfield. By the 30-minute mark of the first half, he was out of the game, replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Then there was the decision to start Green.
Things couldn't have gone any worse for Capello.
There were some cracks on the stone-faced manager. Hell, make that caverns. He knows he is under pressure.
There may not be panic on the England squad but there is panic everywhere else in the land of The Three Lions.
The fluttering hearts of a nation are about to burst.
England fans, who believe their team lost points to the Americans, have lost complete perspective. You would think England had just been eliminated from the tournament.
The Americans deserved more respect than they were afforded in Britain. This is not a bad team.
The newspapers and tabloids are having a go at Capello from all directions. Every critic has now become a manager telling Capello what he should do.
Usually it is Capello protecting his players.
Now the players are protecting Capello.
Jamie Carragher, who was subbed for King against the U.S., supported his manager when asked why everyone should have faith with Capello.
"Because he is Fabio," Carragher said at England's training camp in Rustenburg. "Just look at his record. It's unblemished."
So this is where Capello earns his keep.
Part of his strength is his ability to armour-plate himself and his team for times like this so everyone can focus – not on defending themselves but on the business of winning.
He has a reputation for not panicking and being able to adjust.
But Capello better get it right against Algeria.
If anything else goes wrong there won’t be enough armour in the world to prevent him or his team from getting skewered.