England stand on the verge of “doing a France” as they prepare for their must-win final Group C clash against Slovenia in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.
With Fabio Capello claiming he’s “wasted two years” and former captain John Terry revealing tensions in the camp, all is far from serene as the side depart their Bafokeng base for the windy city.
After the appalling 0-0 draw against Algeria in Cape Town on Friday, Capello is clearly attempting to distance himself from the way his side has played so far. An error-strewn 1-1 draw with the USA in the opening game was little better and, like France who boycotted training yesterday, there are reports of serious divisions inside England's purpose-built Royal Marang hotel in Phokeng.
Capello, the all-conquering Generalissimo during an impressive qualifying campaign, admits: "Training is very good so I can’t understand why we have been playing like this. It feels a little bit like the last two years have been a waste of time. I don't know why or how we arrived at this point.
"You work hard for 20 days, do all the preparation but on the pitch, it’s completely different. I am unhappy. During the match I was thinking about pressure, the fear that stops the legs, stops the mind, stops everything.
"I was a player and I know this pressure. But we still have one last chance to go forward.
"Why don't they transfer their training form on to the pitch? We were really, really slow and if you don't run at this World Cup, if you don't fight, it becomes very difficult. Now I’m hoping for a reaction from the players.”
But the only reaction Capello is getting appears to be a backlash against John Terry, the man he stripped of the captaincy for his off-field affairs three months ago.
Some of the squad have expressed their dismay at the Chelsea skipper after he told a press conference the senior players are set to challenge Capello’s authority.
Amid calls to reinstate Terry as captain, the 29-year-old said: "If we can’t be honest there’s no point in us being here. If we have an argument with the manager and it upsets him or any other player, so what?”
The FA have moved to defuse reported rifts in the camp but Terry appeared to suggest there are serious tensions, adding: "Everyone needs to get it off his chest and say exactly how we feel. As a group of experienced players, we owe it to ourselves and our country and our manager."
Terry named Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard as he talked. Both players are said to be angry, claiming their former captain had been “talking out of school".
While France dominate the front and back pages over their revolt over the weekend, England appear to be in little better shape, with Slovakia now favourites to qualify if they snatch a point at Port Elizabeth, along with the USA, who face Algeria at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld at the same time.
Neal Collins is in South Africa to promote his first novel A GAME APART. For more details seewww.nealcollins.co.uk.
He is also appearing at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown next month. For tickets, seehttp://www.computicket.com/web/event/neal_collins_a_game_apart/148367625