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Road To South Africa: Will Capello's "Tre Leoni" Roar?

Eric GomezAnalyst IDecember 1, 2008

Since he began managing regularly in 1991, Fabio Capello has coached five of the world's most prestigious teams. An unrelenting disciplinarian and brilliant tactician, Capello has been on the sideline for more than 550 matches.

He's lost only 77.

Never has a man so synonymous with winning been so acrimoniously dumped even after the greatest of successes. In his two season-long spells at Real Madrid, Capello twice won the league trophy.

Both times, he was fired after the season was over.

His drill sergeant demeanor and philosophy of sound, solid football—that at times sacrifices spectacular play for a sure victory—has simultaneously gained him admirers and detractors. Handling a double-edged sword on his way to one of the world's most important managerial jobs, it was this reputation that garnered both praise and scorn for his signing.

On one hand, former team captain David Beckham hailed the arrival of the man who once benched him at Real Madrid and told him he would never play for the team again.

On the other hand, Sepp Blatter, FIFA's big man himself, decried the appointment and wondered very much aloud why England would entrust its job to a foreigner.

Obviously, ol' Sepp didn't pay much attention to England in the months prior to Capello's signing.

Steve McClaren (who, born in York, is very much an Englishman) failed to qualify the English side to the European Championship in 2008, and was promptly bounced from the job after only a year.

McClaren's failure notwithstanding, England has spent 40 years away from any podium, as the Three Lions followed up their 1966 World Cup win at home with a third place finish at the 1968 EURO.

Capello's signing came at a critical time, one where England could not afford to gamble on a relatively unproven name, and thus, English national be damned, hitched its hopes on a proven winner, and look to come back in a big way at South Africa.

So far, so good.

Capello's 80 percent winning percentage through 10 games managed is the best in England's history, thus far obtaining every possible point from its rivals in Group Eight of World Cup qualification, including a 1-4 pounding of Croatia that served as payback for the Croats' victory that kept England out of Euro 2008.

A heavy, sometimes cynical press and perennially high ambitions from fans aside, their honeymoon with the Italian seems to have prolonged itself at least for now. With qualification far from being wrapped up, but looking progressively accessible, one dares to ask:

Will the honeymoon extend itself to the middle of 2010, with Sepp handing the Jules Rimet to England's foreign manager?

I wonder how you say "eat your words" in Italian.

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