Prior to the match against the US, Fabio Capello gave his first press conference in English. The 61-year-old has been undergoing intensive lessons since his appointment and they appear to be paying off. Conversely, over the past ten days, the England squad has been receiving intensive football lessons from the Italian - and they too appear to be paying off.
The performance may not have thrilled the fans, but the fact that England kept a clean sheet, created chances, scored twice and dominated a game against a team just ten places below them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking pleased the former Real Madrid and Roma manager immensely.
"I am very happy," he said after the game. "I saw on the pitch what I asked the players to do before the game. All the players played well. I think it was a good performance. I saw the same performance that I have seen in training, the intensity and fire. We tried to win back the ball in the tackle and did that a lot. But this is only a step forward and now we have to move on."
The major positives from the night were a man of the match-winning performance from Steven Gerrard, playing in an unfamiliar role on the left wing, Owen Hargreaves dominated the centre of midfield and Wayne Rooney arguably had his best game for England since last summer as a supporting striker. Of the substitutes, Gareth Barry made an instant impact, teeing up Gerrard for the second goal just two minutes after coming on.
"This was another step in the right direction," said Gerrard. "We are pleased with the win and we have a clean sheet. We are getting a bit more used to the new set-up. .
"Not going to the EURO finals has been hitting home for a long time, ever since we failed to qualify. We are going to have to suffer that disappointment throughout the summer. We all wanted to be part of the finals and challenging to win the tournament. But we've got to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers. We have to put the disappointment we are feeling to the back of our minds."
Terry bounces back
Someone who epitomised the sentiments expressed in Gerrard's last sentence was skipper for the evening, John Terry. Just a week after missing a potentially UEFA Champions League-winning penalty, the Chelsea defender was back leading his country and opened the scoring, guiding David Beckham's inch-perfect free-kick past Tim Howard's outstretched arms.
A goal in a friendly match will not have completely healed the proud Londoner's wounds, but it was the start of the process. Plus, the sight of Manchester United players Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, plus Rooney and Hargreaves rushing over to congratulate him would have offered a crumb of comfort following the disappointment he suffered in Moscow.
"The manager gave me a massive boost in the week by giving me the armband and so I think I repaid him with my performance and my goal," said Terry. "If I'm honest, England was the last place that I wanted to come and see the Manchester United players and everybody, but it's done me the world of good. It's been good getting back into the football routine, getting into training and being back out there on the pitch."
Terry was handed the captain's armband by Capello for the game, a decision which the England coach said was taken before the events of last week. Former skipper, David Beckham believes that he has pressed claims to be the first name on the Italian's team-sheet, just as he was during the reign of Steve McClaren.
"We are not surprised as he's done it before," said Beckham. "He does it every time he wears the shirt. . He will be hurting for a while but he's strong enough to get over this."
The defender now has the summer off, as along with Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Hargreaves, Brown and Rooney, he will not be making the trip to Trinidad and Tobago for Sunday's friendly. But he has earned his time off, according to Capello. "His goal made me happy, he is a good captain and it was a good performance. John Terry is always John Terry, in good moments and bad. He has good charisma for other players, he is a natural leader."
England return to Wembley in August for a match with the Czech Republic before the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers begin with a trip to Andorra on Saturday 6 September. When the friendly phase ends, Capello will have his captain in place and, he hopes, a team playing the style of football he wants to take his adopted country to South Africa 2010.