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Page last updated at 06:57 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 07:57 UK

Capello hails England 'courage'

Fabio Capello
Capello feels that England have finally shown what they can do

England manager Fabio Capello said the secret to the 4-1 win against Croatia in Zagreb was that his side played with "confidence and courage".

He saw Theo Walcott, 19, become the youngest player to hit a hat-trick for England as they inflicted a first competitive defeat on Croatia at home.

"We played with confidence and no fear from the first minute," said Capello.

"The players played like they do in training - technically well and with courage. This is the start."

The Italian singled out Arsenal winger Walcott, who set England on their way with his first international goal - and later added another two to cap a superb individual display.

"I decided to put Theo into the first XI because I saw the game against Andorra at the weekend and also how he was in training - and at this moment he is fantastic psychologically and physically," added Capello.

"He is young and so dangerous for defenders. He is one of the most important young players in England. At this moment, he is difficult to contain.

"I hope he doesn't get any injuries because he is so fast and so dangerous.

"Of course, he is a young player and I said after the Andorra game that he will play fantastic games - but also that he will not play the same level in all of the games.

"When he plays like against Croatia, it is fantastic, but when he plays not so good, we have to support him. This is very important."

And Capello's assessment of Walcott was echoed by Croatia coach Slaven Bilic.

"He is lightning quick and a great finisher," stated Bilic. "He scored two goals from not so easy positions, he just hit the corner.

"It is hard to mark him. That is why he is an England international and why he is at Arsenal."

Capello revealed the result in Zagreb was "better than I expected" but added that there is still a long way to go for his side.

"We played well, we played like a team, very compact and with no problems," he commented. "We studied the style of Croatia and we tried to make it difficult for them to play their usual style.

"But let's not get carried away. We have just started. It is the second game of the qualifying round. It is a good performance, a good result, but it is nothing.

"It is only one game. There is much still to do and games like Belarus and Ukraine will also be tough."

Capello believes that having his team together for over a week helped them to develop a greater understanding.

"We stayed together for 10 days and I said that step by step we will would get better," continued Capello. "We have all worked very well in that time.

Terry hails awesome Walcott

"I'm not surprised by the performance because I know the players and I know what is possible. The score is incredible but the performance of the team was very, very good."

Walcott agreed with his manager's comments and believes the victory is proof of how together the players are as a group.

"We have showed everyone how strong we are as unit," he said. "The football we are playing is absolutely brilliant and we can do that against anyone."

Walcott struck the opening goal with a cross-shot from the right side of the penalty area and notched his second with a virtual replica of his first.

"My first two goals were quite similar," he added. "I tend to cross the ball a lot but I thought I'd be a bit more greedy. Wayne Rooney gave me a brilliant pass for my third.

It's absolutely brilliant - Walcott

"I am grateful that Fabio Capello has given me the opportunity and I have to take that and keep on improving."

And Walcott added that he played with one stud missing during the game at the Maksimir Stadium.

"I played with one less stud," he said. "My boot went to bits and I was going to change but the boots wouldn't have suited me. The lads said they were glad."

Bilic, meanwhile, insisted the dismissal of Robert Kovac for an elbow on Joe Cole was the turning point of the match.

"We started well but after that red card we looked like a broken-down army, both mentally and physically," he conceded.

"I always said that England have phenomenal players who sometimes do not perform. They showed they are a mighty team, probably the best in Europe."

see also
Croatia 1-4 England
10 Sep 08 |  Internationals
World Cup qualifying photos
10 Sep 08 |  Football
World Cup qualifying as it happened
10 Sep 08 |  Internationals
England Player Rater
28 Mar 07 |  Internationals
Pick your England XI
31 Aug 07 |  Internationals
Capello angry with Cole & Rooney
07 Sep 08 |  Internationals
England role frustrates Gerrard
07 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Andorra coach hits out at Capello
07 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Andorra 0-2 England
06 Sep 08 |  Internationals
England 2-3 Croatia
21 Nov 07 |  Internationals
Croatia 2-0 England
11 Oct 06 |  Internationals

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