Fabio Capello allowed his England players to drink beer the night before their do-or-die match against Slovenia - and then watched them reach the parts they had not come close to reaching at this FIFA World Cup™.
Jermain Defoe scored the first-half goal which gave England a 1-0 victory which took them through to the last 16. They will now play the winners of Group D in Bloemfontein on Sunday after the USA topped Group C with a last-ditch win against Algeria. England boss Capello was delighted by the manner in which his team rediscovered the spirit which had been missing in draws against the USA and Algeria.
Capello, whose iron discipline had been questioned in the last two weeks, said: "Yesterday evening they drank beer before the game. And I saw the team play with the spirit that we lost in the games we played before this game. The performance was really good and we created a lot of chances to score a second goal. This is the spirit that I remember when we played in the qualification games. I am really happy with the performance of the team. We played hard, we attacked the ball and this is important if we want to win."
Capello substituted Wayne Rooney, who was struggling with an ankle injury after suffering a kick in the second half, bringing on Joe Cole after 71 minutes. But he is confident Rooney will recover to take his place on Sunday. Capello said: "I substituted Wayne because his ankle was not so good, he has some problems."
Pressed on how serious the injury was, Capello added: "I don't know. I have to wait for the doctor but I think it will be okay for the next game on Sunday."
Capello strode onto the pitch at the final whistle and made a point of embracing John Terry, the former England captain who had questioned the manager's methods at the training camp in Rustenburg and made a thinly-veiled appeal for Joe Cole to be selected.
Yesterday evening they drank beer before the game.
Capello said of Terry: "He is a leader. I have no problem with the players. I respect the players and they respect me. It was a very important performance from Terry. But all the players played really well."
Capello also believes England will improve as the tournament progresses. "I'm sure we will play more with confidence," he said. "We have found the spirit, the quality of the play was really good and we improved a lot physically. We ran a lot. I spoke with the players when we saw the first half against Algeria. We understood it was not a good way to go forward and during training it was very good, focused and fast. We found the physicality that we know usually. The players were the same that we see in the Premier League."
Now Capello is unconcerned who his side face on Sunday in the last 16. "First or second (in Group D) will be Germany or Serbia," said Capello. "They are two good teams but you have to go forward. You have to beat all the teams. The name is not important. Germany or Serbia is the same if we are to go forward."
Slovenia manager Matjaz Kek had to wait for a couple of unbearable minutes at the final whistle, only to learn that Landon Donovan had scored for the USA against Algeria to send Slovenia home. But he believes England can now go on to win the trophy.
Kek said: "I hope England win at the World Cup and I think England are a favourite. They played well but at the end we could have levelled and made a draw. Sport is very unpredictable. Some people will think I'm disappointed but I am proud that I have come so far with with this Slovenia side. At the end it was indescribable but this is sport.
"I hope it will be a positive experience for Slovenia and our squad will benefit from it. I would be really glad if Slovenia had won. We have put in a lot of effort. I hope these players will be role models for other players in Slovenia. They are maturing a lot and we have created future potential."