Fabio Capello insists he has learned enough from England’s World Cup flop to make changes he believes will put his team back on track as long as they play without fear.
Capello’s side host Bulgaria in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley on Friday with their woeful effort at the World Cup still fresh in the memory.
The fixture is fraught with difficulties for Capello as he tries to avoid the kind of embarrassing result which would lead to renewed calls for his head from the increasingly vitriolic English media.
Capello knows the knives are out after the poor showing in South Africa, but he is convinced he can recapture the positive results England produced during World Cup qualifying if his players don’t let the negativity become a distraction.
“We have to play without fear. The players trained well and with confidence and I hope we can see the same against Bulgaria,” Capello said at the team’s hotel on Thursday.
“It is our job (to deal with pressure), and it is the job of the manager. When we win we are the best and when we lose we are the worst.
“It is easy to be happy when you win but we have to go forward. It will be important for the spirit of the team and for the fans if we win.
“We have to win, we have to play well and I hope the fans support us during the game.”
Against that background of extreme cynicism, Capello has spent the last three days working to restore his squad’s shattered morale and making alterations to his tactics, while also dealing with the absence of injured stars John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Peter Crouch and Frank Lampard.
Complaints about the stone-age nature of England’s style at the World Cup came thick and fast after the 4-1 second round thrashing by a younger and more vibrant Germany.
There were plenty of critics of the boot-camp approach he took around the team’s base in South Africa, which reportedly left players bored and unhappy.
Those criticisms appear to have struck a chord with Capello and he is said to have adopted a more relaxed attitude.
Capello has also been tinkering with tactics in training this week, with an increased emphasis on getting his widemen to provide service for Wayne Rooney.
“I changed some things,” Capello said. “I always learn something after new experiences and games. I changed some things but not a lot.
“The training was good, all the players were ok. Also something is getting better. Some problems we have had in the past have not been there for the last two days.”
Capello knows 10 of his team for Wembley and named Rooney, Joe Hart, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole and Phil Jagielka as certain starters.
Everton centre-back Jagielka recovered from an ankle injury to train at Wembley on Thursday and will partner Matthew Upson or Michael Dawson.
“I know the players who will play in the centre of defence will play together for the first time but I am not concerned,” Capello said
“I hope they will be really focused and I hope (Ashley) Cole and (Glen) Johnson will help these players. Also the two midfielders must help.”
If England are to start erasing the bitter memories of the World Cup, it is essential that Manchester United striker Rooney recaptures the form he showed for most of last season.
Rooney scored for the first time in 14 matches when he netted a penalty against West Ham on Saturday and Capello said: “I checked on him during his last game against West Ham. He is good, he is back.
“I’m happy because he is scoring goals, It is always important for forwards to score for confidence. He will play with style.”
Capello also repeated his belief that David Beckham’s international career is not over.
He appeared to write off Beckham as too old before last month’s friendly win over Hungary but has since softened his stance.
“The door is open for all the players always but I prefer for this moment to choose the young players,” he said.
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