Fabio Capello says the emergence of a new generation of England players has given him a welcome selection headache as he prepares for next year's UEFA EURO.
England brought the curtain down on an unbeaten 2011 with their first victory over Sweden in 43 years on Tuesday, when an own goal from Daniel Majstorovic handed Capello's men a 1-0 victory at Wembley. It was the first time England had beaten Sweden since 1968, and gave Capello's team another morale boost following their defeat of world champions Spain last weekend.
While Capello was happy to finish the year on a winning note, the Italian is more satisfied that his decision to blood youngsters including Phil Jones, Kyle Walker and Jack Rodwell has paid off.
"It's important to win always. It's important to beat Sweden after 43 years," Capello said. "But for me it was really important to see Jones, Walker, Rodwell, play against a team that is really well organised on the pitch. And the answers that I received from their performances is really, really important for me. These three players played really well."
Capello said the emergence of Jones, Walker and Rodwell overshadowed the fact that England's 2,000th international goal ended up being an own goal. "It's just a statistic," Capello said. "I read statistics but for me it's not so important. It's important probably after 10 years, the 2,000th goal.
"For me it's not so important. During these past two games I was looking for something new, and I found it. These three players (Jones, Walker, Rodwell) are really good technically, physically, and all three of them are fast. This is important in modern football."
Capello's problem now is trying to distil his resources into a 23-man squad for next year's campaign in Poland and Ukraine. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere are both certain to return after recovering from injuries, while Manchester United's Ashley Young will also re-enter the reckoning along with Wayne Rooney, dropped for the Spain and Sweden friendlies following his three-match Euro 2012 ban.
With Scott Parker, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Gareth Barry, and Adam Johnson all jostling for position in midfield, Capello has a myriad of selection problems to mull over when England meet up again in the New Year. Asked if Rodwell was now a serious contender for the Euro 2012 squad, Capello refused to be drawn, but is happy that will be genuine competition for places.
"At the end of the season I will decide," he replied. "I hope that all the midfielders will be fit. Rodwell is a really interesting player, he's a young player. I think the competition to play in the Euros, will be really, really strong for all the players."
Capello also played down the significance of England's unbeaten record in 2011, which followed the disappointment of 2010 when his side was bundled out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ after a humiliating 4-1 defeat against Germany.
"Good results are important. It has been really interesting the last two games we have played. We are unbeaten in 2011, but it's statistics. "It's more important what will happen in the Euros next year and not this year," he said.