Fabio Capello insists England are ready for next month's World Cup qualifiers despite his side's lacklustre display in a 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic.
Capello's final dress rehersal ahead of September's crucial ties against Andorra and Croatia didn't go according to plan as the team were booed off at an underwhelmed Wembley on Wednesday.
The reaction would have been even worse if Joe Cole hadn't scrambled home an equaliser deep into stoppage time to deny the Czechs a first win at the English national stadium.
A trying 90 minutes for Capello had started with the shock news that FA chief executive Brian Barwick – the man who hired the Italian – would be stepping down at the end of the year after losing a power struggle with chairman Lord Triesman.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Capello had to defend himself from criticism by Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp – commentating on the match for a television channel – who claimed that the Italian was “killing” Steven Gerrard by playing the Liverpool midfielder on the left wing.
Capello hit back by insisting he had actually positioned Gerrard more centrally and went on to highlight the few positives from a dispiriting performance.
“Gerrard was not playing on the left, I'm sorry. We played 4-3-2-1. We played (Jermain) Defoe, Gerrard and (Wayne) Rooney and three midfielders behind them,” Capello said.
“The position he had to play was between the line of the backs and the midfielders. Mr Redknapp has to say something but he didn't play on the left. Sorry. With his movement – he went on the left and to the middle – he moved but he never played on the left.
“I'm happy for the draw because the reaction to the team to the last minute was good, was important. And I think, also, that the first half we played with good football, good style and created a lot of chances to score goals. And the team played together with different style.
“I think tonight we took another step. I'm happy. I saw a lot of things which I had doubts on, and the players' fitness levels are still not at their best but I think we'll be ready for both the games next month.”
Capello did concede that the Czechs had exposed England's weakness against quick counter-attacks.
“There was only one thing I didn't like, in the first half: sometimes, when the Czechs had counter-attacks, we suffered,” he said. “That was the problem. We have to prepare something to combat that problem.
“I asked to play against them for this reason – to see where the problems are. They are not easy to beat.”
John Terry, Capello's newly appointed captain, looked strangely hesitant for much of the match and was at fault for Milan Baros's opener.
But the Chelsea defender gave an honest assessment of the performance and warned his team-mates they will have to improve by September.
“I think overall we expected more from the game but there are some positives and some negatives and we will sit down and analyse them,” Terry said.
“Maybe we should have won the game with the team we had there and now there are two weeks to go to reassess the game before the qualifying game against Andorra.
“Hopefully we can build on that and take the positives but things (under Capello) will take time to get right.
“The crowd were frustrated and the players fully understand that and we know we have to put on a better show.”
England paid the price for a slow start when they fell behind in the 22nd minute. Former Liverpool striker Baros caught Terry flat-footed as he turned and drove in a shot that deflected home off Ashley Cole.
Wes Brown brought England level on the stroke of half-time when he headed home David Beckham's cross for his first international goal.
Marek Jankulovski restored the Czechs' lead with a superb second half free-kick before Cole allowed Capello to breathe a little easier with a scrambled equaliser.
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