RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — England fans preparing to witness soccer with a flair from their World Cup team may be disappointed, with midfielder Joe Cole cautioning that winning the tournament could require dull displays.
Cole believes the key to capturing the country's first world title since 1966 could be by stifling opponents — emulating the tactics Jose Mourinho, his former coach at Chelsea, employed as Inter Milan won the Champions League last month.
"It might not be pretty," Cole warned ahead of Saturday's World Cup opener against the United States.
The performances leading up to the tournament provided little evidence of England being an attacking force in South Africa.
Mexico was beaten 3-1, but England relied on two own goals to overcome Japan 2-1 and then put on a slack display against South African side the Platinum Stars that provoked the wrath of coach Fabio Capello despite a 3-0 win.
"These games are always difficult — before the last World Cup we beat Jamaica and Hungary and we were brilliant," Cole said. "So maybe it is not a bad thing that we are not firing on all cylinders. We are not going into the World Cup thinking we are going to steamroller everyone.
"The way that we set up to play is try to play the pressing games. You have to think that, just because the other team has the ball, it doesn't mean that they are doing anything."
And following Mourinho's game plan should serve England well at the World Cup, Cole said.
"Look at Inter Milan, they won the Champions League, but I don't think they had the ball more than any team from the quarterfinals onwards," he said. "Even Bayern Munich had 60 percent of the ball (in the final), but you look at the game and Inter Milan were comfortable.
"There was no danger from Bayern at all apart from Arjen Robben every now and then. So you don't have to have the ball to control the pace of the game."
So while Cole is in awe of some of Spain's soccer — quipping "you are trying to scare me" as reporters showed him the highlights of Tuesday's 6-0 warm-up win over Poland on a laptop — the 28-year-old midfielder doesn't see it always providing the route to glory.
"That team there is the most talented in the tournament, but as we all know it is not always the most talented team that wins," Cole said. "Spain are a different class ... but there are a lot of other factors — discipline, strength of character, a little bit of luck. Everything will all come into play at this World Cup."
Including the colder weather, with evening kickoffs in South Africa that are more amenable to the England players' performance.
"What has probably let us down in past tournaments is the weather — playing in the sun," Cole said. "We are playing night games and it will be quite chilly and that will be a massive difference for us. I think you'll see an England that is going to play more of the pace of the Premier League because we won't be in the sun."