England's big names might have been no-shows, but Fabio Capello was still celebrating as he approaches his first anniversary as coach.
Capello makes his mark
LONDON // England's big names might have been no-shows, but Fabio Capello was still celebrating as he approaches his first anniversary as coach. The Italian took over last December with the country needing a lift after missing out on Euro 2008, needing a knight in shining armour to put them back among the world's top sides.
What they got was a rugged, no-nonsense tactician, who has moulded a team who have belief again and a winning mentality. It is smiles better. With several key men ruled out of Wednesday's friendly against Germany, he called on the hopefuls and they did not let him down with a 2-1 victory. It was England's fifth straight win and players, particularly Michael Carrick, Matthew Upson, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stewart Downing, showed they deserve a chance at this level. The Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor was another to impress in Berlin on his debut and give Capello a dilemma for the future.
"I think it is impossible to be better than this," said the Italian, whose side have lost just once, to France, since he replaced Steve McClaren. "We have played 10 games and after every one I said the players had taken another step forward. This is another one. "When I started this job I said we had to recover the confidence. We can see it during the game and in training." Carrick added: "I think you can see the lads are playing with a smile on their face, really enjoying themselves, and people stepped up and performed.
"The belief is there for all to see. Everyone's enjoying it, and when you enjoy something you tend to do it that much better." England deserved the win against a lacklustre German side. Upson scrambled home the opener before a terrible mix-up between John Terry and keeper Scott Carson allowed Patrick Helmes to poke in an equaliser for Germany. Terry then rose to head home a Downing free-kick for the winner and was happy to make up for his earlier blunder. He took the blame, although confidence in Carson as an international keeper remains fragile.
"This is a great way to finish the year, but we need to come back and continue in this form," said Terry. Wales also enjoyed a good win in Denmark. Aaron Ramsey made his senior debut at 17, but it was Craig Bellamy who was the hero with his 16th goal for his country, enabling him to overtake John Charles in the all-time scoring list. The coach John Toshack said: "I asked Craig to play a bit deeper with what turned out to be six kids all around him - and he was excellent."
Northern Ireland were "embarrassing" according to their coach, Nigel Worthington, as they lost 2-0 at home to Hungary, while the Republic of Ireland were pipped 3-2 by Poland to end Giovanni Trapattoni's six-match unbeaten run. He tried out some new faces like Caleb Folan and said: "I saw from some players that we can believe in the future." email@example.com