It's Now Time To Deliver

Posted on: 05 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

International football is back on the agenda for the home nations.

With the football season barely a month old and Spain’s European Championship glory just over two months ago, international football is back on the agenda for the home nations.

Gone are the summer friendlies and the time for transition is over for the likes of new England coach Fabio Capello. All the experiments are coming to an end and it’s time for the real examination as we reach a new era in international football.

It’s the start of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign with England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland all bidding to reach South Africa in two years time for the world’s greatest sporting tournament.

For England supporters it’s a chance to erase the hurt of failing to qualify for Euro 2008 whilst also getting to grips with a new man in charge. Capello is costing the Football Association a hefty £6 million-a-year to deliver qualification and it’s time for the serious business to begin.

England meet Andorra this weekend in what can only be described as a home-banker, despite the match taking place in Barcelona. It’s the match-up in Zagreb on Wednesday when the Italian could really gain his gold stars against the hostile, passionate and technically gifted Croatians.

Croatia, as football fans will remember, dumped England out of the Euro 2008 qualification campaign with two wins against the Three Lions, leaving Steve McClaren out of a job and David Beckham, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard with a rare summer off from football.

Capello’s honeymoon period drew to an early close when England were fortunate to hold the Czech Republic to a 2-2 draw at Wembley last month and the former Real Madrid number one is under no illusions about the size of his task on the flanks of the Adriatic Sea. The desperate display raised some serious question about Capello’s methods and tactics after the shapeless and muddled debacle.

England brought in the Italian and his expensive back-up team to put an end to their perennial “underachievers” tag that has hung around since 1966. Capello was also installed as a ruthless seeker of results with a tactical mind to outwit the best in Europe.

If he can deliver a result on Wednesday, all the early stutters and unspectacular performances will be put in perspective. If he does not, the questions about whether England are going to simply deliver more of the same under their new coach will be posed.

England’s journey from Barcelona to Zagreb and back again must end with a minimum of four points for a satisfactory verdict to be delivered on Capello’s first forays into competitive international combat. The Italian has been calm and uncompromising despite the lack of excitement in his early games, and it is to be hoped his confidence is not misplaced.

The notion of “there are no easy games in football” can be thrown out the window when it comes to Andorra but Croatia represent England’s toughest opposition on route to Africa in 2012.

Capello will be the central figure in both fixtures. He will claim the praise if England come home unscathed, but he will face close scrutiny if they lose in Croatia, because that is his proving ground.

Elsewhere, the Republic of Ireland also have a new head coach in charge for their first two qualifiers against Georgia and Montenegro. Fellow Italian Giovanni Trapattoni replaced Steve Staunton in the dugout and brings a wealth of experience with him.

Meanwhile, Scotland travel to Macedonia for their first fixture before moving north to face Iceland on Wednesday, Wales host Azerbaijan before a trip to Russia whilst Northern Ireland visit Slovakia and entertain the Czech Republic.

How will your country fare? Can England qualify for South Africa 2010? Will Fabio Capello be a success in charge of England?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. Alternatively, share your thoughts with other 50connect members in the forums.

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