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England football coach puts pressure on Croatia

SoccerNews in English Premier League, World Cup 7 Sep 2008


Fabio Capello has warned Croatia that England have no intention of playing for a draw in Wednesday's crucial World Cup qualifier.

After Capello's side made heavy weather of beating Andorra 2-0 in their opening qualifier on Saturday, the England coach could be forgiven for employing a safety-first approach in Zagreb this week.

England lacked guile and movement during a woeful first half at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, and although they improved marginally in the second half, it was hardly a display to have Croatia quaking in their boots.

But Joe Cole's second half double-strike eventually saw off the part-timers and Capello was keen to accentuate the positive ahead of a fixture that will shape England's World Cup destiny.

The Italian believes Croatia's reputation as one of Europe's rising forces guarantees they will go for the win, which should open up spaces that England can exploit.

“I will be very happy if Croatia play like Andorra. But I don't think that is going to happen,” Capello said. “Croatia are at home have to go forward and try to score goals.

“The game will be different, not like this. I think we have to play to win, always.”

Whether Capello finds room for Cole in his starting line-up remains to be seen. For the second successive match Cole spared Capello's blushes, but the Chelsea winger's lack of tactical acumen in the second half infuriated his manager.

Cole was stationed just behind Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney when he came off the bench and wreaked havoc from that position with two clinical finishes.

But he and Rooney dropped too deep after that and, with Heskey isolated, England went back to sleep.

That kind of indiscipline will be punished by Croatia and Capello said: “Yes, I have got to think about Joe. He is very good for himself at the moment and very good for us.

“But I have to decide what the first 11 will be against Croatia. It will be another game – and it will a different sort of game.

“When we started the second half, the two of them (Cole and Rooney) played near Emile Heskey. But when we went 2-0 up, they both then started to come back into midfield.

“I was asking them to go forward again because Heskey was all on his own. That is what I was trying to transmit to them.”

There was early optimism when Theo Walcott surged clear and crossed towards Jermain Defoe, only for Koldo to smother the loose ball.

Walcott threatened again as he ran onto Rooney's pass and chipped his shot over from a tight angle.

Although Frank Lampard flashed a powerful low strike midway through the half, the first signs of discontent from England's fans were heard as passes went astray with alarming regularity.

It had taken Steve McClaren's England 54 minutes to score against Andorra. At least Capello avoided the ignominy of breaking that record as Cole struck in the 48th minute.

Lampard floated in a free-kick that deflected off Lescott to Cole and the substitute lashed his volley past Koldo.

Cole had given England the dynamism they lacked in the first half and he scored again in the 55th minute.

Rooney provided the assist with a perfect pass and Cole ran through to clip his shot into the net.

While Capello tried to be upbeat, the fact remained that his side couldn't even equal the 3-0 win by McClaren's men against the same opponents 18 months ago.

Andorra coach David Rodrigo was scathing about England under Capello and insisted Croatia were favourites to win the group.

“He can try to manage Andorra and I will do it with England and I'm sure I will beat Andorra more than 2-0,” Rodrigo said.

“I'm in love with Croatia. They play good offensive football and know how to use the ball. They are the favourites to win the group for me.”


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