This article titled “Fabio Capello keen that England avoid Republic of Ireland at Euro 2012” was written by Dominic Fifield in Kiev, for The Guardian on Thursday 1st December 2011 22.29 UTC
Fabio Capello is anxious to avoid being placed in the same group as the Republic of Ireland in Friday evening’s draw for the Euro 2012 finals and has reiterated that it will be his last tournament in charge of England, despite Sir Trevor Brooking hinting that the Italian might stay on.
The national side will be drawn from pot two in the event to be held at Ukraine’s Palace of Arts and Culture in Kiev. There remains the prospect of competing in the same group as Spain or Holland, ranked as the two best sides in the world by Fifa, as well as potentially Portugal and France. The Republic of Ireland, managed so impressively by Capello’s friend and compatriot Giovanni Trapattoni, are in the fourth pot as they prepare for their first major tournament in a decade but would represent awkward opponents.
“I spoke with Giovanni Trapattoni and [his assistant] Marco Tardelli after they got through,” Capello said. “They were both really happy. I think it’s a real success for Ireland and for this manager. It is a great thing. I hope we are not [drawn against them]. The countries are close and also it would be two Italian managers, so I’d prefer not to be drawn with them. It would be interesting, but I prefer not. We cannot draw Italy as we are in the same pot but this would be the same for me to face another Italian manager.
“I think you need to avoid [the highest ranked teams in] the first pot, so Spain and Holland. After that there are also Portugal and France in the third and fourth pots, and these are the teams I would prefer to avoid in the group stage. You also need to be careful with Ukraine and Poland, as they can improve a lot with home advantage. It is possible they could be the surprise of the tournament. I remember watching some games at Euro 2008 and Switzerland and Austria, the host nations, were very unlucky. They played very well, and you need to be careful with the home teams because the fans can make a big difference.”
Capello has spent the past few days in discussions with the Football Association’s legal advisers as the body fine-tunes its appeal against Wayne Rooney’s three-match ban ahead of next Thursday’s hearing at Uefa’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. At present the Manchester United striker will be suspended for the entire group stage following his dismissal for kicking Miodrag Dzudovic during England’s 2-2 qualifying draw with Montenegro in Podgorica in October.
Even if that sanction is reduced on appeal to two matches, Rooney’s absence represents a blow for Capello and an incentive for prospective opponents, with the Sweden striker Ola Toivonen having already suggested as much. “It would be nice to play against England without Rooney,” the PSV Eindhoven forward said when contemplating his country’s prospects in the draw.
Regardless, Capello has said that the 16-team European Championship will represent a sterner challenge for his side than last year’s World Cup in South Africa, when England stuttered so disappointingly and were eliminated in the first knockout round by Germany. “Absolutely, this time it will be stronger,” the Italian, whose side are to be based at Krakow in Poland for the finals, said. “If you look at the groups and all the teams, particularly the three European teams who reached the World Cup semi-finals, the technical level is at the top. The organisation of the teams is at the top.
“Also, I think that some teams who didn’t play well at the World Cup will now be back at the top. Teams like Portugal, France and Italy will be better and it will be a really tough tournament. But I have learned a lot since South Africa. One of the problems we had last year was altitude, but here we can prepare differently. We have a programme and, after the draw, we will decide what we need to do.”
Capello has reiterated his intention to leave his position on the expiry of his £6m-a-year contract next summer. “As an England manager, this is it for me,” he said. “I think we can prepare something different [after the expiry of his deal in July].” The FA chairman, David Bernstein, and the Club England board intend to turn their attention to the appointment of a successor after the finals in Poland and Ukraine, effectively leaving the body a five-week window between the tournament and the national side’s first friendly of next season in August in which to unveil their new manager.
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