In spite of the set back in the cobbled streets of Warsaw’s old town on Monday night, Fabio Capello made his way into a restaurant shortly before 7pm to take his seat in front of the television.
About 800 miles away in Donetsk, Roy Hodgson emerged from the tunnel at the Donbass Arena, walked along the touchline and into the dug-out for England’s opening Group D game against France.
This was meant to be Capello’s moment, the chance to put right everything that went so badly wrong when England were chased out of the World Cup in South Africa two years ago.
Capello prepared these players, taking them on an eight-game unbeaten run in the Euro 2012 qualifiers before he quit in February over the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy.
Looking forward: Fabio Capello gives his views on England, John Terry and the job he left behind
‘When England’s players ran out against France, of course there was an emotion — I felt it,’ he admitted. ‘England is part of me now, the job was an attraction, the chance to win something after so long. Everybody wants it for this reason.
‘That is why it is the job I wanted, that is why it is the job Roy Hodgson, my friend, wanted. It is difficult watching on television when you want to be on the bench of the national team. It is a big difference. The dream is to win trophies, to make people back home happy. I miss it. This is normal.’
Capello is in Warsaw as part of UEFA’s technical committee, staying in town and scrutinising every group game before heading to Miami a week on Saturday to manage Lionel Messi’s team in the World Soccer Masters Tour.
Four months after walking out on England on a point of principle, he spoke. He said: ‘This is my squad, they qualified under me and I know many of them so well. It is difficult to accept, but it has happened.
‘England is part of my heart, I worked with the players and the people in the country for four years.
‘The first game for England, against France, was so important because the pressure on the manager and the team is really, really strong.
On whether England could have gone on to win the game had James Milner converted his chance. ‘They have key players in important positions. Steven Gerrard is dangerous from long distance and free-kicks and John Terry is the spirit of the team. He drives the players in front of him.
‘They will qualify because I still feel like it is my job. I hope Roy is happy after the third game. I want them to win. ‘The problem now is the Ukraine result because they were not expecting them to beat Sweden, but Andriy Shevchenko is a different player for the national team.
‘I know a lot of the players in the England squad, I was pleased with the way they played because I worked with many of them for a long time.’
At times he is restricted, stopping short in certain areas as he considers the termination agreement he reached with the FA when he left in February. It is clear that issues such as Terry and Rio Ferdinand are off limits.
Rooney will be back in the team for the final group game against Ukraine on Tuesday, back at the Donbass Arena, a central figure for England’s plans to progress to the quarter-finals. Capello praised Rooney’s love of the game.
He was suspended for the opening two games at Euro 2012 after being sent off in the final qualification game against Montenegro, at a time when Capello was still calling the shots.
The Italian added: ‘During training I had to stop him, “Please, Wayne”. But he would say “Boss, I want to shoot, I want to practice penalties, I want to do this”. I would have to say again, “No! Wayne!”.
‘I like that about him so much, he had so much enthusiasm. His best position is the one he plays in for Manchester United, playing as the link man. ‘He can attack the space from there, but also he has the quality to score goals. He is a special player, he has certain qualities and he is one of the best players in the world.”
‘Technically he is gifted. For England he can be the difference and he can show that in the last group game against Ukraine.
‘When he got sent off against Montenegro, it was a really stupid or silly mistake because we were winning and there was no problem.’
When Capello talks like this, there is a glint in his eye, increasing the pace and adding even more passion to the conversation.
He wanted his teams to play at this tempo, bringing them up to speed with tournament favourites Spain, Germany, France and Portugal.
At the World Cup in 2010 they were paralysed with fear, barely able to get out of their group before they were systematically taken apart by Germany in Bloemfontein.
He added: ‘I knew the qualities of Germany, but we had beaten them before (2-1 in Berlin, in November 2008).
‘I watched them play Portugal and they are not the same team as they were in 2010. They are slower and not as exciting.
‘Spain are the model for every international team, but I don’t know if it is possible to play like them.
‘To play without a striker, as they did against Italy, shows a lot of confidence. I was also surprised by Russia. They were razor sharp in the first game and are a fantastic team.
‘They are dangerous, but they have been helped with a winter break. When England play Ukraine they will face the same problem. They are a really fast, attacking team. If you don’t win, it leads to problems.’
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Capello knows all about the issues that affected his thinking, struggling to cope with the demands of the language and the commercial opportunities that came his way in England.
He was criticised — and rightly so — for his poor command of the language, too reliant on his interpreter to act as a crutch during his obligations with the media.
Capello accepts it, but confides that it was triggered by insecurity, a fear of saying something that could either embarrass him or be taken out of context as he got to grips with the language.
It is obvious that, in company, he is perfectly coherent, capable of holding his own in conversation and very rarely asking for clarification.
He added: ‘With the media in England, the role of the national team manager was so important to them.
‘They loved the national team, but there was so many interviews: I had to do a press conference after the match, then the Sunday newspapers, then a briefing and then something for the Monday newspapers.
‘It was an interesting experience, a challenge and I began to understand why it means so much to the people working for those newspapers.
‘The culture in England is different. In Italy, there are sports newspapers, but the real drive is the TV. In Spain, it is not the newspapers or the TV, but it is ruled by the radio. But I accept this, it is not a problem.’
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He is eager for another challenge, waiting for an opportunity to get back on the touchline with another team.
His record at club level is remarkable, winning league titles with Milan, Juventus, Roma and Real Madrid during his illustrious career.
There have been offers, including the opportunity to speak with Liverpool during their chaotic search for a new manager, but he is not in the business of auditions.
Capello added: ‘I have had some offers, but some were too far away and my wife (Laura) does not want me to go so far.
‘If something interesting comes up at either international or club level then I am ready. If not, then I will be a television commentator.’