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England gather momentum with Mexico win
LONDON (Reuters) - England enjoyed a triumphant home send-off to the World Cup when an unfamiliar team packed with reserves outmuscled a skilful Mexico side 3-1 in their last home friendly at Wembley on Monday.
Manager Fabio Capello may have learned little that he did not know before a contest in which England recovered from a ragged first half showing to ensure victory.
But for the Italian, it was a night to ink over a few pencilled ticks against certain names and etch a line across others as he finalises the decisions that will cut his 30-man squad to 23 for the finals in South Africa.
"I wasn't too concerned. It was very important to know where we are now -- physically and mentally -- and I think when we play on the counter, we look really dangerous. But we can't just play on the counter-attack. .I won't.."
Goals from defender Ledley King, with a well-placed header, and striker Peter Crouch, with what appeared to be his right arm, put England 2-0 ahead before striker Guillermo Franco pulled one back from close range three minutes into first half added time.
England goalkeeper Robert Green made two outstanding saves and saw another Mexican shot hit a post before the interval as England struggled to survive against spells of good possession and sharp attacks from the visitors.
To seasoned England-watchers, it was a worryingly familiar scenario as their team were often left to chase shadows left by the swift movements of the visitors, but Capello left them in no doubt about their failings at halftime.
"The manager told us what he thought at halftime -- we had to be a lot more aggressive and get in their faces," said midfielder Steven Gerrard. "In the second half, we did that. We stopped them playing. We gave them too much respect in the first half."
It was a different story in the second period once England right-back Glen Johnson cut in and beat five defenders before scoring with a left-foot drive that effectively settled the outcome after just 48 minutes.
Though Mexico continued to provide most of the craft in a game that demonstrated contrast between the two nations' approaches, England were resolute, more organised and had opportunities to increase their winning margin.
"We weren't tight enough in the first half," said King, whose 17th-minute opening goal from a headed pass by Crouch was his second in 20 internationals. "He told us to get a lot closer and we did that."
If England did not dazzle with their football, they proved their durability and maintained their knack of getting results -- and several men did well enough to feel confident of their place in the final squad.
"My knee is ok. I am sure and I have played three times in 10 days this season so I am sure I can do it again. The medical staff are doing a great job," King said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond; to query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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