Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
England's chances of reaching EURO 2008 were effectively washed away on November 21st, when Croatia's Mladen Petric hammered a shot past England goalkeeper Scott Carson in the 77th minute of Croatia's 3-2 win.
It was at that point that the writing was on the wall for manager Steve McClaren, who was fired the next day by the English Football Association after 18 months in charge.
Enter Fabio Capello, who was introduced as England's new manager on Monday after signing a four-and-a-half year contract to take over an England side that is still reeling from its EURO disappointment.
Although the move was met with mixed feelings by English coaches, who felt that an Englishman should be the manager of the national team, the FA got this one right.
"I think we have an outstanding man with an outstanding record and I look forward to working with him from January 7," FA chief executive Brian Barwick said. "Trevor Brooking and I were always clear on the caliber of man we needed and the next appointment has to be of world class status. Fabio is a winner with a capital 'W'."
Fabio Capello's hiring received mixed reactions.
Barwick was dead on with his statement, because what England needs more than anything right now is results that will erase the bitter memory of its past failures in EURO 2008 qualifying, as well as another quarterfinal exit in the 2006 World Cup.
It has been quite a while since England has won anything significant, and that is where Capello comes in.
A quick glance at the 61-year-old Italian's resume reveals one thing about the man; all he does is win.
During his 16-year coaching career, Capello has spent time in charge of AC Milan, Real Madrid, AS Roma and Juventus, winning a total of nine league titles as well as a European Cup crown with Milan in 1994.
He began his coaching career with Milan in 1991, where he guided the team to four Serie A titles in five seasons, including a 4-0 win over Barcelona in the 1994 European Cup final.
Capello spent one season at Real Madrid, where he won La Liga, before going back to Milan for a year. In 1999 he took over at Roma and delivered a league title to the capital in 2001 before leaving for Juventus in 2004. After leading Juve to consecutive Serie A crowns in 2005 and 2006, Capello went back to Madrid to claim another league title, giving him three league titles in three years.
He was fired following the 2007 campaign with Madrid because the club said that they did not play an attractive style under Capello, but he did hand them their first La Liga trophy in four years before departing.
Capello has time to work a few things out before England's next game against Switzerland on February 6, and one of those decisions concerns Capello's former player at Madrid, David Beckham.
Beckham has amassed 99 caps with England, but his relationship with Capello will be a point of interest among British media. Capello benched Beckham after the midfielder signed a huge contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.
However, Beckham found his way back into the starting lineup after a few months and led Madrid on a late-season surge that helped them win the title.
"Every player has a new start with me - they all have a chance to impress," Capello said.
The fact that he does not have much history with England's current group of players could be a good thing.
Unlike former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who talked with the FA about the coaching vacancy and has coached players like John Terry, Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole, there is no history and therefore no sense of possible favoritism towards certain players.
One of the criticisms of McClaren was that he never seemed to be able to sort things out in the midfield. Capello needs to make better sense of the midfield situation, where players like Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wright-Phillips, Beckham, Gareth Barry and Owen Hargreaves were never properly put together to make things work.
England was hit with injuries to strikers Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen during EURO qualifying as well, which didn't help matters, but McClaren was never able to fully cope with that problem.
Capello has seen plenty during his coaching career, and having been able to adapt quickly to new surroundings is something that will be a big benefit.
"I'm convinced that in one month when I meet the players for the first time I will be able to talk the language," said Capello, who does not speak English. "I believe its very important to be able to communicate with the players. I will employ a really strict routine and apply myself every day. I want to learn the language in time for when I meet the players next month."
If Capello's dedication to learning the native tongue is impressive, wait until English fans get a look at the team he will put together over the next year.
World Cup qualifying begins next fall, so Capello will have some time to iron out the problems that plagued England in recent years.
England has not been suffering from a lack of talent, the team just needs a push in the right direction. Capello feels that the expectations that come with wearing an England jersey have been part of the problem, but he is well- equipped to handle those lofty goals because he has been dealing with them throughout his coaching career.
It has been over 40 years since England lifted the World Cup, and now Capello, who has achieved plenty in his career, is looking to add the crown jewel to an already handsome resume.
The resume is attractive, and while the manner in which he gets the results might not be, one thing is for sure - Capello is effective.