World Soccer: You have experienced everything in your career as player and manager but never as coach at a World Cup. How are you approaching that?
Fabio Capello: Of course a World Cup itself is not a new experience because I was there as a player. Right now we are preparing everything, studying all the different situations which will arise between here and South Africa including during our training camp in Austria. We are working very hard together – not only the players but also everybody else who has to work for us with the media, with the kit, the travel, the logistics, the accommodation and so do. We are always looking for the right answers – and that means everyone from Lord Triesman down. For me it’s a big job but a very exciting one because you have to think of everything. Sometimes, you know, players can find every excuse possible – this wasn’t good, that wasn’t good, I can’t sleep, the pitch is a problem, the hotel waiter etc.
You chose the training camp at Royal Bafoking when you attended the Confederations Cup last year. What will conditions be like for players at the World Cup?
It’s a good question. When you go down to play at sea level – at Port Elizabeth and Cape Town which we have to do, as well as Durban ˆ it’s very humid then Rustenburg is colder. But last year I saw two games, in Johannesburg and in Bloemfontein – Spain against the United States – when it was only two degrees, really cold. In those conditions it can be difficult to recharge the energy levels but English players are used to playing a lot games so that will be good for us. It can’t be an excuse.
Will the altitude be a problem for goalkeepers?
The probem is not so much the altitude itself but the trajetory of the ball on crosses and long-range shots. It will be really important for the keeper to understand the ball’s trajectory. There will be a lot of shots from long distance. Goalkeepers may relax and think the ball is a long way away but that’s a mistake. Also, he may expect the ball to come down in its flight but it won’t – it will stay up. Goalkeepers will need to be really careful.
What have you discovered over the last few years which might have changed your opinion about English football?
I have changed my opinion – about English footballers. In Italy on TV it’s possible to see far more matches on a weekend than you can even in England. When I used to watch games on TV I thought English players were only strong, tough and quick but not so good technically. However, when I started training and working with these players I understood their high quality – and the Italian members of my staff felt the same. That made it much easier to teach the players what I wanted from them. With players like this it should almost be possible to win everything.
Is it true that the Italian game is more tactical than the English game?
In the two and a half years since I started working here I have seen the English club managers change the style of the game a lot. It’s not only about long balls but about better organisation and making it much harder for teams to score. Teams keep possession of the ball much more. Of course some can’t do that because they don’t have the players so maybe for them the long ball is still the best idea. Some of the evolution comes from the foreign players and some from the foreign managers, from their different schools of football. They have been intelligent enough to mix the best of what they have found and the best of what they want.
You watch a lot of games?
Of course. I have watched as many World Cup games as I can, the Copa America, the European Championship and always live, not on TV, because you learn the most from being able to see all the pitch. When I see something good then I “save” it for my own use. You need to do this all the time because teams’ styles change, another ball behaves differently and everyone is always improving, physically. A new factor has been the long throw-in. Well, we don’t have anyone to do that but there are other things – at free kicks and corners and also the way players and teams move with the ball and without it.
Have you experimented deliberately with your own tactics and teams selections?
Yes, of course, sometimes I have changed positions and players but I always explain everything at our meetings after training when we analyse it all. We also watch and analyse the games we have played, especially when we play Saturday/Wednesday – then we always watch the video of the Saturday game because I want us to keep improving. We also use one camera which “sees” the whole pitch. Sometimes I use this as a joke. I say to someone: “Where were you when we were attacking?” He’ll say: “Boss, I was up there.” But then I’ll show the full-pitch picture and say: “OK, where were you really?” But when I do this it’s not to pick up players on individual mistakes; it’s so all the players understand what happened during a game.
Do you have a minimum target at the World Cup?
No. I always think and want the best for us in every game.
The second most important issue for England fans watching the World Cup – after the England results – is what will happen in penalty shootouts.
Look, penalties are a problem for all the teams. I remember how Italy lost the World Cup Final in Pasadena in 1994 because Baggio shot his penalty over the bar. I saw an interview recently in which he said that, apart from that one time, he never ever shot a penalty too high. So, it’s like this. You know your best players for penalties but at the end of extra time, after two hours of football, you have a lot of tired players, and maybe some have cramp. Then you have to adjust.
After England’s defeat by Brazil in Qatar last November, you said you had learned something important about them. Can you explain?
They surprised me in Qatar because I had seen their games on TV and later I saw them play against Ireland at Arsenal and I saw what they do during a game. They have a solid team, good technically but not the traditional Brazilian style. This is a team that wants to win and that is more important than style. They defend with nine players, they don’t leave three players up in attack, just waiting for the ball, any longer. They make it hard for you to shoot, they run back quickly when they don’t have the ball, and you have to play a really, really good game to beat them.
Can you beat them?
You have to plan to win all your games if you want to win the World Cup.
What do you think when you hear your name linked with the ups and downs at some of your old clubs, such as Juventus and Real Madrid?
It’s interesting but that’s all. Of course I’m happy to see that my name is always at the top of the lists of the coaches who may be wanted but I do not think any more about going back to club football. I will stay where I am.
Finally, Will England win the World Cup… bid for 2018?
I hope so. Ideally. It’s very important for England and for the game that the World Cup should be played in the home of football. The facilities are all here, everything that’s needed. They could play the World Cup in England tomorrow. A lot of other countries want to organise a World Cup but the passion for it is here.