England are proving popular choice of opponent ahead of Euro 2012 draw

England manager Fabio Capello. PA
England manager Fabio Capello. PA
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Italian duo Fabio Capello and Giovanni Trapattoni fly into Kiev today to discover their Euro 2012 fate, with England apparently the opponent of choice for continental Europe.

Following the declaration of striker Ola Toivonen that he would like to find England in Sweden’s group for next year’s finals in Poland and Ukraine, a more familiar name has said much the same thing.

Vladimir Smicer, part of Liverpool’s Champions League comeback in Istanbul six years ago, is Czech Republic’s general manager.

“I would like to have Holland, England and Sweden in our group,” Smicer said.

A similar sentiment was expressed by coach Michal Bilek, who also went for Poland and Greece.

England feel they have progressed significantly since the last World Cup, especially now Capello has blooded so many youngsters.

And the England boss can only hope any teams wanting to face his side are made to regret it.

After all, how the draw unfolds in the ornate ‘Palace of the Arts’ is of critical importance to Capello.

Even though the Football Association’s director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking yesterday rather talked around the idea of Capello staying in his job beyond next summer – when the 65-year-old’s present £6m-a-year contract expires – it seems almost certain to be his swansong.

The Italian has tended to brush off any suggestion he may be persuaded to stay with England.

However, with the number of English candidates few in number beyond present favourite Harry Redknapp, who has a court case for tax evasion looming in January, Capello might suddenly look like the best option if England perform as hoped next summer in Poland and Ukraine.

Although Brooking insists the present “mindset” is for a homegrown coach, particularly as the National Football Centre at St George’s Park in Burton is due to open next year, he did not completely rule out the prospect of Capello being asked to stay on.

“Let’s worry about that when it happens,” Brooking told BBC Radio Five Live.

“Fabio’s contract ends in the summer and the mindset is for change but you never say never.”

FA chairman David Bernstein has vowed not to make any decision until after the European Championships in order to ensure England are not distracted.

Given they have barely five weeks from the end of the European Championships until the first friendly of the new season, it is dubious that there will be no intense discussions on the matter among the Club England hierarchy, who will be responsible for making the final decision.

“If we could get someone homegrown it would send out the right message,” said Brooking.

“It would launch a new era and we do want a system where we have an English coach.”