Preparations for South Africa Gather Momentum
Monday, 5th April 2010 at 05:09am
As Africa's first World Cup draws nearer and nearer, final preparations are well and truly underway before the teams leave for South Africa next month.
At Wembley, a patchy and disjointed England overcame Mexico 3-1 courtesy of goals from Ledley King, Peter Crouch and Glen Johnson. In other fixtures, Argentina beat Canada 5-0, Australia overcame neighbours New Zealand 2-1, South Korea secured a 2-0 away win against fellow 2002 World Cup hosts Japan, hosts South Africa drew 1-1 with Bulgaria, while Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal were held 0-0 by the Cape Verde Islands.
Capello declared himself happy with the result, but the nature of England's performance will have caused some concern.
Ledley King, on his return to the national side, and Rio Ferdinand looked uncertain as a centre half pairing, while Leighton Baines' performance will have no doubt left Capello relieved that Ashley Cole made a full recovery from his broken ankle.
Against the run of play, England took the lead. Steven Gerrard swung in a corner, which was flicked on by Crouch and headed over the line by King.
At times the Three Lions were overrun by a quick and skilful Mexican side and were indebted to goalkeeper Robert Green for making two top class saves to preserve England's slender lead.
In the 35th minute, Crouch doubled England's lead, taking his tally to 21 goals in 38 starts for his country.
Another cross from Gerrard was met by Rooney, whose header was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Mexican keeper Oscar Perez, before Crouch bundled home the rebound, although TV replays show that he used his arm.
Poor defending allowed Mexico a way back into the match. Leighton Baines was unable to complete a clearance off his own goal-line and former West Ham striker Guillermo Franco netted on the stroke of half time.
Glen Johnson's stunning goal two minutes after the restart put some undeserved gloss on the night and gave the score line an unflattering look.
Picking up the ball on the right, the Liverpool defender beat two opponents and struck a curling left foot shot inside the far post from 20 yards.
Despite the defensive frailties, there were some positives for Capello further up the field with Aaron Lennon and Adam Johnson producing good performances in their cameos and that Gerrard is showing signs of returning to his outstanding best, but the Italian will hope for an improved performance against Japan in Austria.