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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Cool Capello: Bring on Group of Death

Fabio Capello admits the World Cup will be his hardest test as a manager but insists he has no fear of any team or even a potential group of death since England have to beat the best to be the best.

• Warshaw: World Cup draw preview

Friday's draw will make the picture clearer for Capello and the other 31 team bosses, but for now, Capello is just relishing the experience of being a manager at a World Cup, and the unprecedented levels of preparation required of him.

He said: "It will be a great test, the hardest test of me as a manager. For me it's the first time I've breathed this atmosphere of the World Cup, the sensation. I can taste it. The airport, the people, the FIFA World Cup, Bafana Bafana, it's exciting.

"It's new for me. As a player it was different, because you think for you, now you have to think of more things, decide more things, check more things. The next five months will be really important to decide everything.

As a seeded team, England avoid six of the heavyweights for Friday's draw, but France and Portugal are still lurking in Pot D, with African powerhouses such as Ivory Coast also a possibility.

"I don't worry about [a group of death]. You have to play against all of the teams at some point, but of course if you play against the best teams it's not so easy to pass the first round. If we want to win you have to play against all of the teams. It is not important which team we have to play in the group.''

Capello believes an African side will make it to the semi-finals in South Africa next summer, in what is the first World Cup finals to be played on the African continent.

He added: "I think about the Africans and I believe this will be one of the most important World Cups for the African teams. I believe one of these countries will get to the last four. I saw the Ivory Coast play against Germany and they are a very strong team.

"They impressed me very much. The spirit of this team is to go forward, all the players are really good technically, and they surprised me because they play a lot of touches and they found the space to attack the space really fast. But it will be really important at the end of the season to see which players arrive fresh or fit. A player like Drogba is important.''

Capello insisted one of his own important assets in Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has plenty of time to shake off his nagging back problem.

"It's not a worry if he's not fit even in January,'' said Capello. "An Italian example is Alessandro Nesta who was injured for one year, now he's the best, and people are saying please come back into the national team. I cannot say he will be fit or not but I hope so - I hope the best England players will be fit.''

Football Association chairman Lord Triesman predicted England "will sail through'' the group stage if they keep to their qualifying campaign form. In a rehearsal for the draw, England were drawn with Australia, Slovakia and Cameroon, which Capello would no doubt settle for.

David Beckham, who will become the first Englishman to play at four World Cups if he appears for the national side next summer, echoed Capello's sentiments about not worrying who England end up with.

Beckham said: "It's always good to be seeded and be up there with the best teams in the world but in the World Cup it's not about staying away from certain teams.

"If you want to go all the way in the competition you have to come up against them at some point. You are going to have to beat the best teams and the best players so it doesn't really matter when you come up against them.''

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