Terry poised to be England's scapegoat

MIKE ZEISBERGER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG -- Should England fail to qualify for the second round of South Africa 2010, count on more than a few accusing fingers being wagged at John Terry as the man who ripped the team apart.

This much appears certain: Manager Fabio Capello finally seems to be sick and tired of Terry's off-the-pitch act.

And with good reason.

Why Terry felt obligated to claim there is discontent within the English camp is a head-scratcher, especially with the Three Lions facing potential elimination from the World Cup on Wicked Wednesday.

First off, Terry is no longer the captain of the English side, having been stripped of the title after it became public that he had been having an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the former girlfriend of former England defender Wayne Bridge.

So why is he flapping his gums in the first place when Steven Gerrard, now the man wearing the captain's armband, should be speaking for the team?

Secondly, the timing couldn't be worse. England meets Slovenia in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday needing a win to ensure a spot in the Round of 16.

Can anyone really be surprised that Capello is pissed?

"When you speak, you have to speak privately," Capello told ITV. "(Whining to the media) is a big mistake -- you have to speak with me and the players."

Capello also dismissed Terry's suggestions that there are questions within the team concerning the Italian's coaching.

"I spoke with some players," Capello said. "Only John Terry said this. No-one spoke to me about problems."

Problems with the manager? According to Frank Lampard, there are none. In fact, the veteran midfielder hopes rumours that Capello might be axed after the tournament are not true.

"I would like him to stay ... I respect him completely," Lampard said.

Lampard also dismissed allegations that there was a "rebel" group on the team.

The Capello-Terry relationship obviously is eroding quickly. Capello has many reasons to be irked with the Chelsea defender, not the least of which was Terry's public urging that Joe Cole should be selected.

In Capello's mind, that call was disrespectful to the other players on the team.

"It's another mistake to speak about one player," Capello said about Terry. "I have to think about the team."

A team the manager hopes is not imploding. As for the British media, they are lapping up this soap opera. There already are calls for Terry not to start against Slovenia.

Never a dull moment with these guys.

POTENT PORTUGUESE

As you drive toward downtown Johannesburg, you can see his image from kilometres away, rising 30 stories into the air.

Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo is larger than life here.

At least his image is, depicted on the side of a glitzy skyscraper as part of a Nike ad.

On the field, however, Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammates had the reputation of coming up small on the big stage.

Until Monday.

Putting up a touchdown against South Korea was impressive enough. But, in scoring the final goal in the 7-0 debacle, Ronaldo himself may be on a roll.

The goal itself was a showcase of Ronaldo's brilliant talent. He played the ball off his back, almost cradling it with his neck and shoulders, before volleying a rocket into the mesh before the ball every had a chance to hit the soggy Green Point Stadium turf.

A special moment for a special player.

Ronaldo's critics claim he cares more about shilling cars on the tube or being depicted on shows like the Simpsons than he does about winning on the field.

His best way of shutting them up? In the words of his sponsor, "Just Do It."

On Monday, he did just that.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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