Capello plays up England display

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Ten weeks after the blow-out in Bloemfontein, Fabio Capello declared England produced the best first-half performance of his entire time as manager.

Capello has told anyone who is prepared to listen that England are a different team in the autumn than they are in the spring.

"It is the best first half since I have been England manager," said Capello. "We have to know the value of the opponents."

Amid the fallout from South Africa, those words have largely been glossed over. But the facts back up Capello's claim.

Not since the visit to Belfast in 2005 have England lost a September fixture. They beat Germany 5-1 in Munich in that month and a run of 10 successive wins includes 4-1 and 5-1 wins over Croatia, plus the eye-catching 3-1 triumph over Switzerland in Basle.

If only FIFA could be persuaded to change the international calendar, England might well become world champions again.

"To play here against Switzerland is not easy," Capello added. "The fans and the stadium and the pitch made it really difficult for us to play. We played very well, with confidence. The players are fresh. They play quickly. They run fast. For this moment we are a good team."

Capello must be reasonably confident of his players being able to maintain their form next month, when Montenegro visit Wembley.

Information has already been collected from fellow countryman Giovanni Trapattoni, whose Republic of Ireland side could only manage two goalless draws against them in World Cup qualifying. Nevertheless, after 10 consecutive home wins, the Three Lions have every reason to be optimistic.

"I spoke with Marco Tardelli and Giovanni Trapattoni before Bulgaria played against Montenegro," said Capello. "He told me we have to respect Montenegro because they are a really good team."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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