CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — After a lengthy honeymoon with England, Fabio Capello is starting to feel the kind of pressure he got used to when coaching Real Madrid and AC Milan.
Capello goes into Friday's World Cup match against Algeria with his decision-making under serious scrutiny for the first time since taking charge 30 months ago.
Just a month ago, the public in England was gushing about how the no-nonsense coach resuscitated a team that slipped to a lowpoint by failing to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.
The bubble burst when England was held 1-1 by the United States on Saturday. That came after unimpressive displays in warmup matches that left Capello seething.
"Maybe after the (U.S.) game there was a little bit of negativity and bit of disappointment that we drew," England defender Jamie Carragher said. "But top managers like that have been there before and know how to deal with things like that. He has been one of the top managers over last 15 to 20 years."
The pressure is now on Capello on his 64th birthday to mastermind a win in England's second Group C match. Pressure is nothing new to the Italian, who was fired by Madrid in 2007 despite delivering the Spanish club its 30th league title.
"We always think England is big pressure, but managing AC Milan and Real Madrid is also big pressure on a daily basis," Carragher said earlier this week. "He has dealt with that and been successful. There was always going to come a point where he was going to be under pressure. That is part of being a manager. It can't always be rosy."
Capello has been respected for ruling with an iron fist, but some now ask why he is so strict with his players.
He kept them in the dark about the starting lineup until two hours before kickoff against the U.S. team, a move that has been blamed for contributing to Robert Green's goalkeeping blunder against the Americans.
"Capello might be a real disciplinarian. Absolutely meticulous, as reports from inside the camp suggest, but he overlooked the fact that the best managers earmark their No. 1 early and let him develop," former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson wrote in the Daily Telegraph. "It allows him to develop the belief that his players have faith in him."
Carragher defended Capello, arguing that delaying announcing the team is not an unusual move.
"Every manager I've had at Liverpool has told us the squad two hours before the game," Carragher said. "A lot of the managers don't like to give the team away for fear of the opposition finding out about the team. Why should you let the opposition know your team?"
But Capello's strategy appeared to be an illusion when the final 23-man squad gradually became known from various sources in the hours before its official release.
Capello's personal judgments have also come under fire.
The Italian put his name to an online rating system in which he would appraise the performance of players, including his own, within two hours after the conclusion of every World Cup match. The scheme was eventually put on hold until after the tournament.
The next out-of-character decision was Capello asking players who had no part in qualification and had long been absent from the international scene to return for the World Cup.
The 32-year-old Carragher, after three years in self-imposed exile, agreed, but Paul Scholes turned down Capello.
"I didn't want to take the place of someone who helped get England to South Africa," said the 35-year-old Scholes, who last played for the national team in 2004. "The idea just didn't sit comfortably with me."
Capello also previously said he would not take any injured players to South Africa, but selected Gareth Barry despite knowing the midfielder would play no part against the Americans due to damaged ligaments in his right ankle.
"It's ridiculous to think we're in crisis," defender Glen Johnson said. "(Capello) knows how to get the job done and is definitely a manager at the top of his game."
The proof will be in the Algeria performance.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects to 2008, 3rd graf)