Capello: Euros tougher than World Cup
Fabio Capello will learn England's Euro 2012 fate on Friday admitting his charges face a stiffer challenge next summer than they did at the World Cup.
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In what Capello has confirmed will be his final tournament as England coach, there is a clear worst-case scenario.
It pits the Three Lions against one of last years' finalists in South Africa, Spain or Holland, plus Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and a resurgent French outfit, who won at Wembley just over 12 months ago.
If Capello's luck was really out, it would also involve a group based in the Ukraine and set up the potential for a quarter-final meeting with Germany.
Quite obviously, it would be a draw substantially harder than a pairing with the United States, Algeria and Slovenia which proved so troublesome in South Africa, leading Capello to his firm conclusion; the Euros are tougher than the World Cup.
"Absolutely," he said. "This time it will be stronger.
"It will be stronger because if you look at the groups and all the teams, particularly the three European teams who reached the World Cup semi-finals; the technical level is at the top, the organisation of the teams is at the top.
"Also some teams who didn't play well at the World Cup will now be back at the top.
"Portugal, France and Italy will be better. It will be a really tough tournament."
The FA's director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking may have caused a stir by refusing to rule out the possibility of Capello remaining in post beyond the end of his £6million-a-year contract next summer.
However, the 65-year-old Italian's mind is made up. Once England's Euro 2012 campaign is over, so is his time in the job.
"As an England manager, this is it for me," he said.
Yet Giovanni Trapattoni, who is 72, has already agreed a two-year extension to remain as Republic of Ireland chief, so the issue is not quite as ludicrous as it appears.
Capello has no intention of following suit. Neither, really, does he want to be in the adjoining dug-out to his illustrious compatriot.
"I hope not," he said.
"The countries are close and also it would be two Italian managers, so I prefer not to be drawn with them.
"We cannot draw Italy as we are in the same pot, but this would be the same for me to face another Italian manager."
Capello has taken the unusual step of not flying to Ukraine until the day of the draw, so he was in London to digest the news that the file into allegations of racism against John Terry has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service by the Metropolitan Police, bringing clear direction to the case one step closer if not an actual conclusion.
A bit like Wayne Rooney's three-match suspension, the appeal for which will be heard by UEFA in Nyon next Thursday, it is an issue Capello can do little about.
Nor can he affect the draw, although Capello's wish is clear.
"Spain and Holland," he said. "After that there is also Portugal and France. These are the teams I would prefer to avoid in the group stage."
After the debacle of last summer, Capello realises there can be no repeat, otherwise the reputation he has built will be tarnished forever.
Lessons have been learned, he insists.
Already, a delightful city centre location in Krakow has been chosen, in stark contrast to the austere surroundings in Rustenburg, which came to resemble a prison camp so cut off was it from the busier parts of South Africa.
Capello is also pledging preparation time will be chopped down, partly because there is no requirement for acclimatisation.
Most significantly of all, there will be no need to rely on quite so many familiar faces, and no last-ditch scramble for even older ones, now so many youngsters have proved their worth.
"The young players can play if they are good enough," said Capello.
"When we went to South Africa the gap between the older players and younger players was too big.
"Now the gap is closer and they younger players are improving a lot, they are playing with important teams at the top and in the Champions League and Europa League.
"In this situation you know something more as a player. It is really important."