ENGLAND boss Fabio Capello has thanked Slaven Bilic for providing the team-talk ahead of their World Cup qualifier tonight (8pm) and will simply tell his players to remember what the Croatia manager has branded them.
Capello’s men can qualify for South Africa with victory against the side that denied them a place at Euro 2008 – but there is added incentive of proving Bilic wrong after he stirred up the mind games this week. Bilic suggested England have lost “Englishness” under Capello, which the Italian feels has motivated his squad.
“Thank you Mr Bilic,” Capello said. “I have no need to motivate my players after this. It’s fantastic assistance.”
Instead of a moving speech to rally his players towards eight wins from eight Group Six qualifiers, Capello’s message will be simple. “You have to remember what Bilic said,” he said.
Capello believes his side have improved since their 4-1 win in Zagreb last season, when Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick and gave England their momentum for the rest of the campaign. “In Croatia we played very well and won 4-1,” he said. “We played a lot of good games for qualification and won seven games, improving in every game.”
There will be no Walcott at Wembley due to a side strain so Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and David Beckham are competing for a place on the right flank, with Lennon favourite to start.
In attack, Jermain Defoe has scored five goals in three substitute appearances but Emile Heskey’s physical presence could see him partner Wayne Rooney.
And should Croatia provoke Rooney and attempt to ignite his hot temper, Capello is confident the Manchester United forward can restrain himself.
“If I remember correctly, with me Rooney only once did a bad tackle,” Capello said. “Only once. Afterwards, he played always well. Provocation means nothing for Rooney.”
Rooney was injured for the Wembley clash two years but Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry are the likely starters from the survivors when Croatia effectively ended Steve McClaren’s reign.
Capello has not reviewed the footage of that evening when McClaren – famously sporting an umbrella in the rain – failed to get England to Austria and Switzerland.
“It’s too old,” he said. “I study the last games we play. It’s history.”
Meanwhile Croatia boss Bilic insists Eduardo is big enough to face the jeers from England fans following the diving row that erupted two weeks ago.
The Arsenal striker received a two-match ban “for deceiving the referee” during the Champions League match against Celtic.
“Eduardo is a complete man and a complete person,” said Bilic.
“I’ve known him since he was 17. So I know. It can only motivate you more. He knows he is 100%, horizontally, vertically, diagonally, 100% honest.”
Bilic also defended his “Englishness” comments. “I didn’t say anything negative. “I said, in a positive way, that Mr Capello is one of the best managers in the world; they are more organised, more solid.
“They should be better at a World Cup – if they qualify, of course.”
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