Fabio Capello: ‘I saw a fantastic game, not an England friendly’

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Fabio Capello: ‘I saw a fantastic game, not an England friendly'” was written by Owen Gibson at Wembley, for The Guardian on Wednesday 30th March 2011 07.01 UTC

A satisfied Fabio Capello said the performances of some of his fringe players and the experience gained by new faces more than justified his decision to field a vastly changed team against Ghana.

“I’m very happy because I saw a fantastic game, not a friendly. Every tackle was a fight,” said Capello, who picked out the goalscorer Andy Carroll, the debutant Danny Welbeck and the again impressive Jack Wilshere for praise. “The players played very well and those who played not a lot of games, the new players, also played well,” he said. “It was interesting for me to know the value of these players to play here at Wembley in a senior shirt. All the players played really good..”

Carroll, replaced by Jermain Defoe after an hour as he seeks to recover his fitness, praised Capello’s decision to stick with a 4-3-3 formation after the straightforward 2-0 victory over Wales in Cardiff.

“It’s great to be playing again and to have scored a goal. I enjoyed the 4-3-3 formation. I’m here and ready to score goals if picked,” said the £35m striker.

Capello said Carroll could still “improve a lot” and admitted it was difficult for “big players” to find their form as quickly as the more nimble likes of Wilshere and Aaron Lennon. “Carroll scored a goal but needs more time to improve but he’s a really important player. It’s important for the striker to score a goal.”

Much of the pre-match discussion centred on whether fans of both sides, and the Ghana team, would feel short changed by an England squad shorn of five of its biggest names, but Capello said his decisions, and the fixture, were more than justified. “I know a lot has been written but it was an exciting game, a fast game, a really important game for the fans to know some players who never played,” he said, after enduring a difficult week dominated by questions about the captaincy and his decision to send five players home.

“This is the most important thing I saw. Everyone tried to go forward and score goals. It’s not easy to see a friendly game like this.”

Of Wilshere, the Arsenal prodigy who is rapidly becoming one of the first names on his team sheet, Capello said simply he was “so important”. Both Capello and Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, would have been relieved to see Wilshere complete his 60 minutes unscathed, the midfielder having remained with the squad while most of those players who still have Champions League commitments were sent home. Capello agreed beforehand with the midfielder that he would be replaced after an hour.

Wilshere called on critics to lay off Capello. “Before the World Cup he couldn’t do wrong and since the World Cup everyone has been getting onto his back,” he said. “I think we need to give him a break. He is a great manager.

“He has proved it at clubs before and he has got a great record for England as well. He is one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with. People need to get off his back a little bit.”

Following an encouraging display against a team that reached the World Cup quarter-finals, Capello said Carroll and Welbeck could be fixtures for England in the years to come.

Welbeck, booed when he came on by Ghana fans annoyed that he had not chosen to represent the team of his parents’ birth, would also become a “really important player for England and very important for Manchester United next season”.

The striker, on loan at Sunderland until the end of the season, replaced Ashley Young with 10 minutes to go, chosen ahead of Peter Crouch. Capello denied that he brought him into the fold in order to prevent him plumping for Ghana. “I monitored him last year and I always thought he was really important,” he said.

Ghana’s coach Goran Stevanovic, building towards the Africa Cup of Nations, was full of praise for his team’s second half display and the reception they were afforded by the 25,000-plus Black Stars fans at a sold out Wembley.

“England were the better team in the first half. In the second half my team gave a very good performance and we deserved a draw,” he said.

He admitted he had tried “various times” to persuade Welbeck to play for Ghana: “Unfortunately tonight he has started to play for England. That’s good for him but unfortunate for us.”

And Stevanovic, who said Michael Essien would be back with the squad for their next game, was also full of praise for Welbeck’s Sunderland teammate Asamoah Gyan, who scored a slick equaliser in the dying moments. Asked whether he was worth more than the £35m Liverpool paid for Carroll, he replied: “It’s not my place to say. Andy Carroll is a fantastic player, Gyan is the same.”

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