Now more than three years into his reign as England manager, Fabio Capello has one remaining chance to guide the Three Lions to international glory. The Italian plans to leave his current role following UEFA EURO 2012, where the 65-year-old will be desperate to deliver on the occasional promise his side have shown during his time at the helm.
After waltzing through their qualifying campaign, England endured a miserable time at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, barely scraping through the group stages before being totally outclassed by their old foes Germany in the Round of 16. Now the country’s sights are set on the tournament in Poland and Ukraine next summer, with England still looking to end their long wait for a trophy.
The former AC Milan and Real Madrid coach spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about a range of topical subjects, including his plans to change the style of English football, his thoughts on Pep Guardiola’s seemingly invincible Barcelona team, and his expectations for the next FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
FIFA.com: Since you’ve been in charge of England, you’ve played 38 matches and won 25. How have you seen the team improve?
Fabio Capello: We improved a lot when we played in World Cup qualifying, for team spirit and confidence. During the World Cup, we were tired. But we are improving, if we had beaten Germany we would have had a chance to really go forward. I think English football has changed in those four years. Now all the teams try to play with more touches, not only long ball. That is the main difference of the last four years.
What lessons do you think you and the team learned from being together in South Africa?
I think English players need two weeks, or ten days, to go on holiday and recover their energy. That will be our preparation for EURO 2012.
Turning to EURO 2012 qualifying, are you satisfied with your results so far?
Yes, but I think we dropped points against Montenegro. Against Switzerland, from 2-0 down to 2-2 and having chances to win, the result was really good. But against Montenegro, we had four chances to score but the goalkeeper was really good. But that is football. Sometimes you play really well, have four or five chances, but you lose. Montenegro hit the bar in the last five minutes, with one chance, and that is football.
There is so much pressure on England and yourself. Are you able to enjoy the job?
It’s pressure when we win, pressure when we lose. It’s our job. You need to stay the same when you win and when you lose. Have the same style of life and understand your mistakes, because there’s a lesson every time. I worry when we are winning, because you can lose concentration and focus.
England U-17s played in Mexico and the U-20s in Colombia during the summer. Are you happy to see them qualifying for these competitions?
It makes me really happy. If the young players from the academy can reach a final, it is a really good experience. They come back better than when the competition started. I think we have really good youth teams.
There aren’t many English players who move abroad. Do you think that would be a good thing for their development, if they experienced different cultures and styles of play?
Like I said, we have changed the style and we talk a lot in meetings about the new style of football. The academy coaches have learned a lot from other styles, like Spain, Holland and Barcelona. We need to teach this new style if we want to improve. It’s a possession style, with touches, and technically really good. If we want to stay at the same level as the other countries, we need that.
Do you think, even in the time that you have been in charge of England, that there is now more of a level playing field in international football between teams?
Yes. You can study a lot and you can see a lot of games from around the world. You can know players better, and their styles. You can tell your defenders and forwards about the opposition. Now you know absolutely everything, so things are balanced. Easy games do not exist. Look at the Asian teams, like Japan, Korea Republic and Australia, who are really good. African teams have also improved a lot.
What type of football do you enjoy watching?
At the moment, the best type of football to watch on TV or to see at the stadium is Barcelona. It is a really difficult style to use with another team or country, because you would need the same players that play at Barcelona. They have seven players who came from the academy and they started playing their style at a young age
Can you see anyone stopping Barcelona in the near future?
I think so. It will be possible, because we are lucky now that we can study opponents. You can find a solution to stop Barcelona, by understanding their strengths. You can study a lot, looking at tapes. Some team will find the solution to beat Barcelona. Also, when you win a lot, sometimes you lose something to be really focused every game, to want to win. Some players are getting older too.
What about the Brazilian style? Is it something you enjoy watching?
Brazil is a team that plays together but always with their unique individuality to win the game. It’s in the DNA of Brazilian players, to dribble and do something different. Brazil are a really good team, a young team with young forwards. They need to find a good balance on the pitch.
With your knowledge of Brazilian football and the people’s passion, what type of FIFA World Cup do you think it will be there?
I once went to Brazil to see the Copa America. I watched the final, Brazil against Argentina at the Maracana, so I know about the passion of the Brazilian people. When Brazil scored the first goal, everyone was drinking beer and they spilled it all over me. The stadium erupted. Everyone went crazy. I was a little soaked but it was great to experience!