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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 10, 2008

Capello: We must support Walcott

England coach Fabio Capello saluted Theo Walcott after his stunning hat-trick against Croatia - but warned not to expect the same high level of performance every game from the 19-year-old.

Walcott was preferred on the right flank to David Beckham and he scored England's first competitive hat-trick for seven years since Michael Owen's treble in the 5-1 win over Germany in Munich.

It enabled England to take control of their own destiny in the bid to reach the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

But Capello has urged for caution in terms of what to expect in the future from the Arsenal player who still struggles to retain a regular place under Arsene Wenger.

Capello said: ''I decided to put Theo in the first XI because of what I saw against Andorra and what he did in training during this past nine days. He has been fantastic psychologically and physically.

''He was very dangerous for their defenders. When you are facing someone like Walcott, it is not easy with his pace.

''But he will not play that level in all games. He is still very young.

''When he plays like he has this evening, he is fantastic, but when he does not play so well we have to support him.''

Wayne Rooney added a fourth goal for England to put the icing on an excellent all-round team performance - in stark contrast to the shambles under Steve McClaren in the same stadium two years ago.

Capello said: ''The result was better than we expected but I have seen a lot of confidence in my players during this last nine days.

''That has been evident in every training session and it's very important when you go into games. But I must stress this is only one victory. We are only in the second match of our qualifying group and there is still a long way to go.''

Croatian coach Slaven Bilic felt England were always capable of this performance if their players translated their club form to international level.

He said: ''People will say this is progress for England but you have to remember they had seven players who have appeared in last season's Champions League final.

''We always said if they played at the level that they do for their clubs then they could become a great team, one of the best in Europe, and they have shown that tonight.''

Croatia were reduced to 10 men early in the second half after Robert Kovac was red-carded for a challenge on Joe Cole, who required 10 stitches to his forehead.

But Bilic believes it was harsh for a red card to be issued even though Cole had to be taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Jermaine Jenas.

Bilic said: ''I have seen the incident three or four times on television and it does not look like elbowing to me. Joe Cole had blood on his face and I think this influenced the referee's decision to send Kovac off.

''But it is apparent from replays that what happened was not deliberate.''

Bilic again reaffirmed his commitment to Croatia amid speculation that he could now become Kevin Keegan's replacement as Newcastle manager.

He said: ''My future is with Croatia. I am not interested in Newcastle. We have lost a big game but this group is far from over.''

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