Capello and his team ready themselves for a Rustenburg opener they simply must win.
England manager Fabio Capello has revealed Gareth Barry could be fit to play some part against the United States in Saturday’s Group C opener.
Manchester City midfielder Barry suffered an ankle injury on 5 May and was thought to be definitely ruled out of the match in Rustenburg.
But Capello said: “He has been training normally for three days and is fit.
“He will be on the bench, but a start? I’m not sure. I think no. I will name my team two hours before kick-off.”
Barry was a key player in Capello’s England side throughout qualifying, providing a welcome balance in the centre of midfield alongside the more attacking presence of Frank Lampard.
The City star’s absence prompted the Italian boss to try a number of options in the centre of midfield during England’s recent World Cup warm-up matches against Mexico, Japan and Platinum Stars, but it is thought that captain Steven Gerrard will be deployed in midfield should Barry not start, though Michael Carrick has been touted as a possibility as well.
Either way, Capello has insisted his men are ready for a “hard” game against the US.
“Usually the first game is hard because the expectation and pressure is really big,” he added. “But we’ve been here for eight days, trained very well, and I thought our best training session was this evening [Friday].
“I think the players are really happy at this moment – physically and mentally. We’ve had nine days of real focus on this game and we’re sure we will go forward in this competition.
“On Saturday, more than anything, I want to see the spirit of the team – the English spirit – that I saw during qualifying.”
It is not yet clear who will play alongside Wayne Rooney, one man guaranteed a start, in attack.
Reports suggest Emile Heskey is the favourite, but Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe are also vying for a start, while many analysts would like to see Gerrard deployed behind Rooney in a support-striker role.
And Rooney admitted in an interview with BBC pundit and former England international Alan Shearer that a lone-striker position would suit him perfectly.
“I’ve played at United on my own and I’ve enjoyed being in the box poaching to get goals,” said Rooney. “And when I’ve played for England I’ve played in ‘the hole’ and I’ve enjoyed that too.
“So I think when you play off a striker you’re involved in the game a lot more and you enjoy it, but you maybe don’t get the chances you do when you’re up front on your own.
“If I’m being honest I probably enjoy playing on my own more.”
Talk has also surrounded the 24-year-old’s ability to curb his temper, with World Cup officials promising a crackdown on player outbursts.
But Rooney played down talk that he will be a target for opposition players, saying: “I think as a forward player, defenders always try to stop you any way they can so it’s part of football.
“I’ll have to bite my tongue and get on with it.”
Midfielder Lampard, meanwhile, believes the team’s experience in previous tournaments could prove to be a decisive factor in South Africa.
According to Infostrada, England’s will be the second-oldest squad at the World Cup behind Brazil with an average age of 29 years and 56 days.
And Lampard, 32, commented: “The confidence in the squad is similar to 2006, maybe even more because of our experience.
“But while people can fancy our chances, we have to go and perform.”
In 2006, England went out at the quarter-final stage, losing 3-1 on penalties to Portugal after the match, during which Wayne Rooney was red-carded, ended 0-0 after extra time.
But Lampard has stated that memories of that heartache, combined with the weight of big-match experience at club level among the squad, will inspire England this time around.
The Chelsea midfielder continued: “I certainly feel better now for my years of experience in club football and at international level.
“But, by the same token, we know how difficult a difficult a competition this is.
“That last World Cup wasn’t great for me personally, and wasn’t fantastic for the team. We got knocked out in the quarter-finals yet again. You don’t get that many World Cups in your career and this could possibly be my last, in fact probably my last.
“I want to look back and say I was part of a team that was successful and have been personally successful as well.
“If it is the last one I play, we’ll put everything in there to make sure it’s as good as it can be. We’re very settled in our minds.”
Getting their campaign off to a good start against the US, however, is not the “be all and end all” for England, stressed Lampard.
“It’ll be a tough game. The first one always is,” added Lampard. “Considering we’re playing the strongest team in our group, other than us hopefully, then I think it’ll make for a tight game. (BBC Sport)
Rustenburg is the setting for England’s opening match of the 2010 World Cup and it promises to be a far tougher prospect than many would have you believe. England haven’t had the best warm up form but did of course qualify with aplomb. The United States come into the game off the back of some decent performances against Turkey and Australia.
Obviously England will be without captain Rio Ferdinand and that leave Steven Gerrard to lead the side into this Group C encounter knowing that anything other than a convincing win will be considered a failure by the press back home. All the pressure rests on the Three Lions as the United States enter the fray knowing that they are expected to lose and anything they garner from the game would be a bonus before they go into the easier battles against Slovenia and Algeria.
Highlights of the two sides recent performances
England 2-1 Japan
England 3-1 Mexico
United States 2-1 Turkey