England striker inspirational in 4-0 qualifying win as Blanc begins competitive France reign with defeat to Belarus.
|Rooney was inspirational against Bulgaria but allegations about his private life have since surfaced [GALLO/GETTY]|
Two of Europe’s most successful club coaches meeting on the international stage should be an interesting enough prospect but the problems mounting for Ottmar Hitzfeld and Fabio Capello make England’s trip to Switzerland still more intriguing.
Expected to be England’s most difficult Euro 2012 qualifier, Tuesday’s match in Basle is overshadowed by the sex scandal dogging Wayne Rooney in the British media and the continued lack of faith in Capello and the team since their poor World Cup showing.
“The way that a few fans treated him was embarrassing. Alexander Frei has given great service to the team”
Ottmar Hitzfeld, Switzerland coach
The respite offered by England – and Rooney’s – performance in their opening 4-0 win over Bulgaria was short-lived as the News of the World newspaper followed up its Pakistan cricket allegations with an exposé of Rooney’s alleged affair with a prostitute.
Rooney is due to travel to Switzerland after training with the squad as normal, but coach Capello could still decide not to play him depending on the married Manchester United star’s state of mind.
Hitzfeld, winner of an extraordinary seven German Bundesliga and two European Champions League titles, is under growing pressure over a less titillating but more worrying issue – Switzerland’s failure to find the net.
Capello, winner of four Italian Serie A, two Spanish La Liga and one Champions League title, may take a long time to win back confidence.
Both men showed signs of fraying nerves after their team’s matches on Friday.
Hitzfeld lost patience when the St Gallen crowd jeered striker and record Swiss scorer Alexander Frei after he missed a penalty in the goalless friendly draw at home to Australia.
|Hitzfeld, left, called the jeering of striker Frei ’embarrassing’ [GALLO/GETTY]|
“The way that a few fans treated him was embarrassing,” said the German, suggesting that Switzerland should avoid playing at St Gallen in the future.
“Alexander Frei has given great service to the team.”
Switzerland were widely criticised for their defensive style at the World Cup, where they went out in the first round despite a 1-0 win over eventual winners Spain in their opening game.
It turned out to be their only goal at the tournament, a problem throughout Hitzfeld’s two years at the helm.
Italian Capello snapped after being asked if he deserved more respect.
“Respect is not the right word because ‘respect’ in Italy means something different. The word ‘respect’ has a lighter meaning in English,” he retorted.
Capello will look to ensure that his side hit the ground running, repeating the sharp passing and incisive running that tore through Bulgaria in the opening 20 minutes.
Joe Hart, installed as first choice goalkeeper having been an unused number three in South Africa, was forced to make several good saves, not least on the hour at 1-0 when Bulgaria were really pressing, while Jermain Defoe scored a hat-trick.
The defence looked disorganised at times and, with regular centre back partners Rio Ferdinand and John Terry being joined by Michael Dawson on the injured list, Capello must throw together another untried pairing against the Swiss.
Phil Jagielka, whose pace and movement belie his insistence that he still does not feel worthy of an England shirt, is certain to be one of them.