Early Doors

Capello learns who not to pick

Early Doors

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Fabio
Capello claimed he learned valuable lessons from England's shambolic display against Brazil in Doha - presumably
that a one-legged Gary Neville would be a better option for South Africa than Wes Brown.

Despite the
dreadful performance, Capello is probably right. It would have been nice for England to play
well, but at this stage it is just as important to find out who is rubbish as
who is good.

Capello's first XI for the World Cup is almost nailed down.
Between now and June his job will be to whittle his squad down to 23.

If he can
now strike Brown, Darren Bent and Jermaine Jenas off the 'maybe' list and file them under 'use
only in the event of plague or pestilence',
then that is progress of sorts.

Nor should
it be a major concern that England's back-ups are not as good as the first-teamers. Isn't that how it ought to be?

If the
likes of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard really are world class,
isn't it right that their absence
should be missed?

And Matthew
Upson's blundering display proved
the perfect antidote to the speeding bandwagon of opinion that Rio Ferdinand
should be dropped.

Along with
the media's condemnation of England came lavish praise for a Brazil side
that ambled through the second half barely breaking a sweat - more than can be
said for Fabio Capello who ended the game sporting Jose Antonio Camacho's under-arm perspiration patches.

This may run
counter to football's unthinking
accepted wisdom, but ED does not even think Brazil are that good.

Their best
player on Saturday was Nilmar, who failed to make the grade at Lyon and has
scored twice in 14 games since returning to Europe
with Villarreal.

Among the
others on show were Gilberto Silva and Elano - both are well known to Premier
League fans, and neither would strike fear into Exeter,
let alone England.

It's true they were without their South American-based
players but they do not have many match-winners playing their domestic football
in Brazil, unless you count rotund strike duo Adriano and Ronaldo, or former
Manchester United... er, what was he exactly?.. water carrier Kleberson. And you
probably don't.

Imagine
what the damage might have been by Spain, with their five world-class
midfielders and two world-class strikers? Actually, you don't have to. England have played them three
times in the last five years and lost on each occasion.

- - -

Of course
the real action took place at Croke Park, where Giovanni Trapattoni's
luck finally ran out in Ireland's first competitive defeat under his stewardship.

Trap's men went down to a deflected Nicolas Anelka goal for France,
and were second best in everything but the final whistle fisticuffs, which
paired Keith Andrews and Richard Dunne against Yoann Gourcuff and Lassana
Diarra.

It is still
just about a contest at 1-0, but any French goal would more or less kill the
tie off - you just can't see the
Irish scoring twice. In fact, it takes a mini-leap of faith to imagine them finding
the net at all.

All
right-minded football folk want the French to slip up, as there is a widespread
perception the last-minute decision to seed the play-off draw was motivated by
Les Bleus' presence in it.

Even if
France do go through, FIFA will still have egg on their face as the seeding
system managed to pair Greece and Ukraine in the most unattractive head-to-head
since 'Alas Smith and Jones' went off the air.

After the referee ended 90 turgid, goal-free minutes, a graphic came on the TV screen saying: 'KICKS
- Greece 8, Ukraine
10'.

It wasn't a foreign producer falling foul of the
language barrier; there really were only 18 meaningful touches of the ball.

- - -

George
Burley held on to his job as Scotland
boss despite a miserable World Cup qualifying campaign, but the final straw was
Saturday's 3-0 humping by a bunch of
Welsh teenagers.

Burley will
be sacked this week after winning just three of 14 matches, and presiding over
a fall in FIFA World Rankings that has seen them slip behind Costa Rica, Gabon
and Northern Ireland.

While it is
fun to list 'rubbish' countries ranked ahead of Scotland, does
anybody actually think they would beat the above-mentioned sides?

ED does not
know what sacking Burley will achieve, since the problem is not with the
manager but the personnel at his disposal.

Chastising
Burley for a (comparatively narrow) failure to reach the World Cup is like
watching a caveman invent the wheel, then complaining that it doesn't have alloys.

The pool of
players Alex Ferguson had to choose from in 1986 was so strong he could afford
to leave Alan Hansen at home - Graeme Souness, Gordon Strachan, Charlie
Nicholas and Steve Archibald were among the quality players on the plane to Mexico.

Who are the
equivalents in Burley's squad? Don
Cowie? Graham Dorrans? Kevin Kyle?

Rather than
firing a manager who has done a decent job with an awful squad, the SFA would
be better off persuading the youth of Scotland to put down their
deep-fried Mars bars and have a kickabout.

Not for nothing did ED, on its way to work, hear a Scottish schoolboy, talking on the radio about a stargazing trip, describe the Plough as "like a frying pan".

- - -

QUOTE
OF THE DAY:
"I am
third choice for Manchester United

at the
moment yet I am playing for my country. It is very disheartening not even to be on
the bench at United. Edwin (van der Sar) is one of the best keepers in the
world. I can't really go knocking on
the manager's door and say he is not
doing his job because he is." Ben Foster continues goalkeeper whinge week
at Manchester United.

FOREIGN
VIEW:
Argentina coach Diego Maradona has been given a two-month ban and fined
over £14,800 following his globally-broadcast foul-mouthed outburst at the end
of last month's decisive World Cup
qualifier in Uruguay.

Maradona,
you may remember, invited journalists to fellate him in a rant that would have
made Joe Kinnear blush, telling them to "suck it and keep on sucking".

FIFA
said the sanction would start immediately and run until January 15. It means
Maradona will not have to miss any competitive internationals, although
Argentina are due to face the Czech Republic in a friendly at a venue to be
decided next month.

COMING
UP:
No live football today, but plenty of reason to lurk around this website
like the cyber-pests you are. We review the international weekend in full, get
Paul Parker's view on England and
mumble indistinctly for 20 minutes or so on this week's
podcast.

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