Let's not turn Capello back into a God after one win

By Oliver Holt

Let's not start plying Fabio Capello with nectar and ambrosia again just yet.

Let's not turn him back into a god just because we beat Bulgaria at Wembley last night.

And let's keep last night's England display in perspective: it was a decent performance against a very, very ordinary side.

In those circumstances, the 4-0 victory that England achieved in front of a subdued crowd was the minimum requirement.

The margin of victory flattered Capello's side. The difference was in the finishing of the two teams and England's, courtesy of the vision of Wayne Rooney and the ruthlessness of Jermain Defoe, was in a different league.

Still, transplant this game to a stadium in South Africa against slightly better opposition than Bulgaria - like Algeria, for instance - and England's performance was not much better than some of the depressing fare they served up in the World Cup.

When they failed to press home the early advantage provided by Defoe's sharp finish, they allowed Bulgaria back into the match and better players than Ivelin Popov and Stanislav Angelov would have converted good second half chances.

Despite all that, it would be wrong not to grant the beleaguered England boss any credit for delivering a winning start to his side's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

It was achieved without the injured John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard at a time when confidence among the players is close to an all-time low.

It was secured under a state of siege where nothing other than a win would do and where bitterness about the World Cup still lingered.

So even if it was hardly Capello's redemption song, it did at least suggest the beginnings of some form of very modest recovery.

We will find out an awful lot more about England's fortitude against Switzerland in Basel on Tuesday night than we did against a desperately limited Bulgaria.

We will discover then whether we can look forward to another seamless qualification campaign like the one Capello delivered the last time.

Although, after what happened in South Africa, even if England win all eight of their qualifying ties, there will still be a good deal of trepidation about how Capello's side will perform when it comes up against a team like Spain or Germany in Poland and Ukraine.

But even though victory over last night's visitors was patchy and disjointed, there were improvements for the Wembley crowd to clutch at.

Wayne Rooney may not have been quite back to his best but he is getting there.

He may not have scored but that doesn't matter when you set up all four goals with vision and wonderful subtlety.

Defoe, whose hat-trick was the epitome of clinical finishing, is pushing himself closer and closer to being an automatic pick for the first eleven. Ashley Cole was superb at left back, James Milner was impressive on the left of midfield and Phil Jagielka was assured in the centre of defence.

Joe Hart made two superb second half saves to underline the fact that not only that he should have been Capello's first choice at the World Cup but that England finally have a goalkeeper who inspires confidence.

So there were some reasons for optimism. Last month's friendly against Hungary seemed to have acted as an acrimony buffer zone between the World Cup and the start of this new qualifying campaign.

There was a healthy round of applause for Rooney, who had been targeted by some fans. Even Cole was granted a lukewarm ovation.

So things are starting to move on. Some of the pressure on Capello has been lifted. A few of the bad memories from the summer are starting to drift away.

Last night was progress of sorts. It probably also meant that even if England are beaten by Switzerland, the FA will stand by their man.

Whether that is a good thing or not depends on whether you think Capello can succeed in a tournament as well as in a qualifying campaign.

Judging by England's debacle in South Africa, the evidence is not encouraging.

Capello hails hat-trick hero Defoe after 'important' England win

England 4-0 Bulgaria: Daily Mirror match report

Top 10 things we learned from England 4-0 Bulgaria

England 4-0 Bulgaria - Picture Special  

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