Early Doors

Hacks quick to change Terry’s tune

Early Doors

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John Terry's attempt to challenge Fabio Capello's power over the England squad has turned out to be the worst coup since Mark Thatcher's plot to topple the government of Equatorial Guinea.

Well, that's what we're being led to believe anyway.

Yesterday, the defender was put up in front of the media as the FA hoped he would prove a steady, experienced hand in deflecting media criticism while playing down the significance of the drab 0-0 against Algeria on Friday.

Instead, the former England captain did the opposite. After some welcome forthright and honest criticism of the performance, he revealed the players would be using that evening's team meeting to dissect the failure in Cape Town and ask for certain things to change.

Referencing the fact that his Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the France camp for insulting Les Bleus manager Raymond Domenech, Terry said: "I see they sent him home for voicing his opinion and maybe a few of us (England players) will be sent home after this evening!"

At the time, the statement was greeted with the sort of laughter unique to press conferences, a little too over-enthusiastic and fawning for comfort.

Somehow, however, throughout the day his words transformed from your typical 'rallying cry' to an all-out revolt against Capello.

Last night many of the press corps assembled in Sun City to watch Brazil v Ivory Coast, but several were fixated on their Blackberries throughout the match - waiting for sources to get in touch and perhaps trigger a hasty rewrite of the story.

Despite a discussion between many senior writers regarding the best line to take on the story - common practice amongst football journos - the lines from paper to paper differ this morning.

While the Daily Mail screams "It's mutiny! John Terry fails in plot to undermine Fabio Capello", The Sun singles out JT as the one who will get it in the neck ("What a Terryble mess, lads").

A later interview with Terry revealed that a group of nine players had talked amongst themselves over a beer following the draw, which has been spun into talk of factions within the camp and Terry trying to summon as much player power as possible to oust the boss, just as he has done at Chelsea in the past.

If there was a plan then it backfired spectacularly as Capello quashed any hopes of a challenge to his authority when the group assembled to watch the match again.

"Everyone had gone to the meeting expecting to be able to have a frank chat about what could be done to put things right," a source close to the team told the Daily Mirror.

"But Fabio made it plain straight away that was not going to happen. He stood up at the front of the room and made it clear to the players he would not tolerate any debate.

"He just stood there and said 'nobody speak, nobody speak'. He told the players they would be watching the first half of the Algeria game then going for dinner and that was it."

Terry has made it clear that he still regards himself as the real England captain, and his standing within the squad is certainly a lot higher than his general perception within the public eye.

But his announcement, if a bit clumsy and tactless, that he and other members wanted to speak with the manager about where they think things are going wrong is hardly earth-shattering news.

Brian Clough's famous quote about having a frank discussion before deciding he was right is often held up as a shining example of no-nonsense management of a bygone era, but now this is happening with the England squad at a World Cup, apparently proceedings have been plunged into crisis.

Today's training session, Frank Lampard's press conference and the subsequent interpretation of them are going to be very interesting. The press will be hoping for more fuel for the fire. With the decisive meeting with Slovenia just two days away, Early Boers just wants clarity and calm.

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Never mind all this petty squabbling happening in squad base camps, mind, there was enough happening on the pitch to get worked up about yesterday.

Italy could only draw 1-1 in the Greatest Result In New Zealand's History in Nelspruit, placing the defending champions in a precarious position in Group F.

Despite Shane Smeltz's opener clearly being offside, it was Azzurri captain Fabio Cannavaro who had the starring role in the opener. Widely derided last season for his rickety form on his return to Juventus, and with many fans pleading for Marcello Lippi not to select him in his squad, the Qatar-bound centre-half looked as though he was knee-deep in treacle as he strained to stop the ball from reaching the All Whites striker.

He may have been made to look a hero in his Nike ad, in which he acrobatically clears a Didier Drogba shot before being serenaded with "C'è Cannavaro! Che Capitano!", but this is a truer reflection of where the 2006 World Player of the Year is at right now.

Smeltz's goal was courtesy of one of the only costly mistakes made by officials so far in the tournament - along with Maurice Edu's disallowed goal for USA against Slovenia - but referee Stephane Lannoy more than made up for it in when Brazil beat Ivory Coast 3-1 in the evening match.

The French official allowed Luis Fabiano's second goal to stand despite the striker handling twice in the build-up to what would have otherwise been a World Cup classic. Lannoy obviously had concerns about how the Sevilla man controlled the ball but, after asking him if he handled or not, he was happy to give it. Madness.

Then, as Sven's Elephants lived up to their nickname - strong, clumsy and dangerous - many of their reckless challenges went unpunished.

But the icing on the cake came in the closing stages at Soccer City when he turned from watching the play to see Kader Keita lain on the ground clutching his face with Kaka, who had picked up a silly booking just moments before, standing over him.

Despite not having seen that Keita was struck by Kaka's arm in the chest, or consult his linesman, the red was whipped out and off strode Jesus's Homeboy amid scuffles all over the show.

It could be argued that Kaka knew what he was doing, allowing just enough elbow to dig into the onrushing player's chest as he charged in, and that it should have been a booking anyway, but the fact is the official did not see it.

There are also many who will claim it is an act of justice eight years in the making for Rivaldo's abhorrent playacting that got Hakan Unsal sent off in 2002, but let's face it, Turkey haven't benefited, have they?

Anyway, the upshot from those results is that, with the second set of group games almost over, a blockbusting set of last-16 fixtures is a distinct possibility.

Due to the travails of several 'top' nations, the second round could well bring with it France v Argentina, England v Germany, Netherlands v Italy and Brazil v Spain. And there you were, calling this World Cup boring.

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FOREIGN VIEW: "Kaita has so far received more than 1,000 threats to his email from within Nigeria. We are taking these threats very seriously. We've spoken to the Nigerian government to inform them about it and also written to FIFA to notify them." - Nigeria spokesman Peterside Idah reveals what is waiting for midfielder Sani Kaita, who was sent off in the 2-1 defeat against Greece, when he gets home.

BOERMY ARMY TWEET OF THE DAY: "@EarlyBoers no more declaring ok? lol... hopefully none of the England players will be "arriving" - shalabiholic calls EB up for declaring Kaka's late 'arrival' at the World Cup with two assists, only to then announce his departure.

COMING UP: The curtain comes down on a much-improved second round of matches with Portugal v North Korea (12:30) wrapping up Group G before Chile v Switzerland (15:00) and Spain v Honduras (19:30) kick off in Group H.

Plus Armchair Pundit, Arsene Wenger and all manner of other expert analysis is coming up too.

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