Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cole Must Be Given a Chance to Boost England Campaign; Ups and Downs: It All Looked to Be Going Wrong for a Despairing Fabio Capello (Left) Who Tried to Get His Message across to Wayne Rooney (below) before Joe Cole Scored Twice in Quick Succession (above and Far Left) to Save England from Embarrassment

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cole Must Be Given a Chance to Boost England Campaign; Ups and Downs: It All Looked to Be Going Wrong for a Despairing Fabio Capello (Left) Who Tried to Get His Message across to Wayne Rooney (below) before Joe Cole Scored Twice in Quick Succession (above and Far Left) to Save England from Embarrassment

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

THE World Cup qualifying programme is barely hours old, yet England's participation in 2010 is already the subject of intense speculation.

No change there then. This, after all, is just the latest familiar chapter in the unfolding story of England's attempt to rediscover the golden age.

But for Joe Cole's second-half intervention, England might have been travelling to face Croatia with heads bowed, derision ringing in their ears and memories of Steve McClaren's 2-0 defeat in Zagreb in 2006 fuelling serious worries about their qualification prospects.

As it is, the first-half performance in Barcelona ranked among the most inept I've seen in more than 40 years of watching England.

It was Cole's introduction from the substitute's bench, along with Emile Heskey, that changed the nature of England's threat and, in the end, secured a 2-0 victory, raising no more than a flicker of a smile from a perplexed and relieved Fabio Capello.

He knew that England's contribution was barely adequate against a team ranked 186th in the world. But, in the end, barely adequate was just about enough..

It won't be anything like enough on Wednesday. Croatia are ranked fifth in the world and their coach Slaven Bilic, remember, was a tactical novice at international level when his team finished comfortably above England in their European Championship qualification table.

Capello can console himself with the thought that whatever team he selects on Wednesday in Zagreb, they couldn't possibly play with less wit and initiative than we saw against Andorra's part-timers.

To be fair, the Italian was quick to recognise the flaws in his first-half strategy and, after the interval, played Heskey at the front with Cole replacing the woeful Stewart Downing.

At times, Cole can be frustratingly unpredictable but he, at least, is a player of skill, invention and spontaneity, willing and able to lift England from the midfield drudgery that has become such a familiar trademark. …

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