England coach Fabio Capello has admitted he has "more or less" made up his mind over whether to play Emile Heskey or Jermain Defoe in tomorrow night's crucial 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier against Croatia at Wembley. The Italian has seen the Tottenham Hotspur striker Defoe score five goals in three substitute appearances, but the physical presence of the Aston Villa forward could give him the nod against Slaven Bilic's men.
"More or less, I have decided in my mind," said Capello. "Heskey and Defoe are both really important for me, each has a different style, but are both really important. We will be playing at home and Croatia will play in a different style. We have to prepare for a different game."
Heskey and Defoe are both really important for me, each has a different style, but are both really important.
Capello dismissed any talk of revenge from the failure to reach UEFA EURO 2008, when Croatia recorded a infamous victory at Wembley, which ended Steve McClaren's reign. "That match is too old, it was too long ago. It is history," he declared when asked if he had watched the game as part of his planning for tomorrow.
"I prefer to look at the next game. I do not speak about a game that they played two years ago. I have to motivate the players for tomorrow, not what happened two years ago. They will go into this game thinking about how we won in Croatia."
"We have three finals to play now - tomorrow will be the first, after will be in Ukraine, then the last at home to Belarus. We have to win one or draw some.
"But the most important thing is to arrive first in the group to get to the World Cup. We are playing well at Wembley, have won all the games and play with confidence. I am sure that will be the same tomorrow."
Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson has been singled out for what most observers felt was a poor showing in the friendly against Slovenia at Wembley on Saturday, when most of the visitors' best attacks, including the one which brought their goal, came down his flank. Manchester City's £25m centre-back Joleon Lescott, on as a substitute for Matthew Upson, also did not have the best of matches as Zlatan Ljubijankic headed in a consolation goal.
Capello, though, reiterated his support for Johnson. "Sometimes there are mistakes, but he is one of the best right-backs in the world," said the England coach. "The players know when they make a mistake, I am not angry - I am angry when they do not do what we have prepared for in training."
The Italian also questioned why any of the England side should be jeered by the fans, Lescott the latest target. "I do not understand why they boo Lescott," he said. "Our fans have to help the players, not boo. All the players are in the England team and you have to support them."
Terry wants amends
England captain John Terry missed the defeat to Croatia at Wembley because of injury. Only Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry are likely starters among the survivors of that evening.
However, the Chelsea defender said: "It is still in the back of each player's mind a bit. But it is a new era now and a new start for everyone since the new manager has come in. It is important the manager draws attention away from it, but difficult for players to collectively rule it out of our minds."
It would be nice for our fans and ourselves to finish the job at Wembley where we threw it way before. It would wipe it all away.
"It is a chance to correct things from the bad campaign we had last time. It would be nice for our fans and ourselves to finish the job at Wembley where we threw it way before. It would wipe it all away.
"We all know we should have done better, but the manager said it is a new start and we have been doing very well. We have to concentrate on how far we have come since then."
The England skipper knows what a boost early qualification would be. "If we can put ourselves there early with a lot of preparation, we could have a good chance [in the World Cup]
"But first and foremost we have to win tomorrow. Ideally to finish the group early would give the manager a chance to try new things."