The future of the England manager, Fabio Capello, was left hanging in the balance last night as he was put through the indignity of announcing that the Football Association will take two weeks to decide whether it intends to retain him.
Capello declared after the 4-1 defeat to Germany that he wanted to know whether the Club England chairman, Sir Dave Richards, "has confidence in me or not" but he did not secure the vote of confidence he was looking for in a meeting with Richards yesterday and was instead pitched into a chaotic press conference in which he said that he "respected" the decision to delay on his future.
Capello's uncertain future is mirrored by that of the England players, with several senior members of the squad now left to weigh up whether to continue at international level. John Terry appears to be ready to go on, although he feels the need for a break, during which he will weigh up his future. The England players are understood to want the uncertainty over the manager's position resolved.
Frank Lampard and the captain, Steven Gerrard, said after the defeat to Joachim Loew's side that they wanted Capello to stay on, although there are understood to be grave reservations among some within the squad about Capello sticking to a 4-4-2 formation that looked static and one-paced against the Germans.
Capello's own uncertainty was compounded by contradictory messages about the time-frame involved. Although he said Richards "told me that he has to take two weeks to make the decision", Club England managing director Adrian Bevington said in the 64-year-old's presence that he was "not putting a time limit" on the decision, which would be reached "in a few weeks".
Richards' deliberations are complicated by his own decision, announced on the day England flew out to South Africa, to remove the break clause in Capello's contract, which enabled them to part company with him after the tournament. This means that the FA would have to pay out at least £10 million ($21.5 million) to terminate a deal which runs until the 2012 European Championship.
It means that Capello can leave Richards to sweat on the decision over whether to keep him. "Look, I received a lot of offers to be a manager at other clubs," Capello said. "I said that when I spoke with Lord Triesman [who hired him] and I decided to stay here because I like being England manager and also I will accept whatever the FA decides."
Bevington said the two-week hiatus was needed to prevent the FA "snapping and knee-jerking into decisions within 24 hours of the [Germany] game concluding". Capello revealed that he had also discussed with Richards the problem of taking forward an ageing England side - the second oldest in the tournament after Italy - which was in need of "two to three new players" now. He defended himself when asked whether he was worth his large salary. "When they decide to pick me as manager, I spoke with the people who give me this money," he said. "But it is not the money, but the value of the man."
Capello said he had the appetite to rebuild the team, citing the lack of a winter break as a reason why the side entered the tournament looking so jaded when the Germans, who enjoy a seasonal rest, looked far fresher.
"Yes, I have the appetite," Capello said. "But I understand one thing which is really important and why England did not win before. The England players arrived at the end of the season tired. I never saw the players that I see before the heavy Christmas spell, or two months after Christmas. They trained well, were focused on everything but they are not the same fast players that I know."
Asked if his ego would allow him to sit around and wait for the FA to make a decision, he replied: "I respect the decision of the FA."
Capello steadfastly refused to admit to any mistakes in terms of personnel and tactics, despite saying his players' mistakes had made him "angry". He said: "Always, if you win, when you lose they find mistakes. I prepare everything well, I choose the best players in that moment and also the first XI always the best."
But he did apologise to the English nation and their travelling support for the manner of the exit. "I'm disappointed for the fans who follow us, they are really, really committed, they follow hard and spend lots of money," Capello said. "My focus was to arrive at the final and [I am] sorry for the result."