Spanish lesson learned insists Cap

12 February 2009 04:00
Fabio Capello is convinced England flew out of Spain last night having sat through what will prove to be their most important lesson of 2009.Rather than Capello providing the tutorial, it was the European champions, who displayed all the craft and ingenuity which brought them glory at Euro 2008.Although England might reflect on an early foul by Gerard Pique on Emile Heskey which could have brought a penalty and a red card, it was probably better the former Manchester United defender remained on the field.Then the Three Lions could not get a false impression of their current status, or run away with the idea the gap between themselves and the top teams in the world is now pretty small.For, as Spain proved, there is still plenty of work ahead if England are to challenge properly in South Africa next year."Yes," was Capello's unequivocal answer when asked whether if the 2-0 defeat would be the game his players learned most from this year."Spain are the European champions and a very good team. I have learned a lot."It was not so much a gulf in quality Spain exposed. Apart from Phil Jagielka's inexplicable error in playing the ball into a midfield area occupied only by Spanish players to create the opening for David Villa's first-half strike, England acquitted themselves reasonably well.True, midfield maestro Xavi, with his quick feet and even quicker brain was a class apart, while Villa, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso provided pretty competent back-up.But in one-off situations, England quite often had the answers.But that extra 5%, which turns good teams into trophy-winning ones, was missing.The challenge of finding it is not insurmountable, even if it would be wrong to cite the absence of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard as the solution.Such an important pair were missed but the physical demands of the Premier League mean someone else will inevitably be missing when England tackle Ukraine on April 1.Part of the answer comes through the type of confidence and trust that Spain have built up since beating England at Old Trafford two years' ago. Results last year suggest that aspect will evolve naturally.But Capello does have some work to do next month recovering lost ground. And, against the very top teams, particularly ones from Latin America, England must also heed the vital lesson of keeping possession."After two months we are not the same team that played against Germany," said Capello. "There is a big difference."But people also have to understand the style of Germany and the other teams in Europe is different to that of Spain."They are a very difficult team to play against because technically, all their players are very good and it is very difficult to win back the ball from them."I needed to understand a lot of things about the characteristics of our players against theirs, who are very small and quick."Before the game I said I expected to learn a lot - and I have."Capello has six weeks to wait before another friendly against Slovakia at Wembley on March 28, when David Beckham is expected to eclipse the 108-cap record of Bobby Moore he equalled in Seville.Then it is the World Cup qualifier with Ukraine, a game that is crucial on so many different levels.Eighteen months have passed since the Three Lions last roared on home soil, when Guus Hiddink's Russia were put to the sword. A few weeks later they lost to Croatia and were eliminated from a major championships for the first time in 14 years.Since then, England's fans have proved hard to please. If they can get off the players' backs and allow them the freedom to express

Source: Eurosport