Wednesday, September 7, 2011

England back to their old selves

I never seem to learn from my mistakes when it comes to watching England. With the absence of club football I guess their matches fulfil my fix for the week, which is reflected in the media, who with pages to fill go a little bit England-crazy.

The problem is that the games – usually friendlies but also now competitive matches – prove to be turgid, frustrating let-downs. And so it proved against Wales on Wednesday.

The game was made worse by the fact expectations were raised following Friday’s convincing 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria, though in hindsight it appears they were a lot worse than we thought.

A lot was also made of the two side’s respective FIFA rankings –England 4 and Wales 177. Everyone knew that they were wildly inaccurate but on this display – as well as the football scores from Friday – suggests they are a lot closer together than previously thought.

Part of it I feel was down to Capello’s team selection. His desire to protect Scott Parker from picking up a second yellow card that would rule him out of the Montenegro game meant the Italian recalled Frank Lampard while also brought in James Milner to counter Gareth Bale. The midfield trio of Milner, Lampard and Gareth Barry for me is dull, defensive and uninspiring. Lampard is approaching the end of his international career while Milner and Barry do not have the mobility to drive England forward. The result is the attacking players becoming isolated, none more so than Wayne Rooney who came far too deep to claim the ball – a sure fire sign he is frustrated at the lack of service. Capello should go out and attack teams like Wales, not construct a plan around their one star player, make them worry about England instead.

The Wembley nerves that seem to permeate the team every time they play Live Football in their home Stadium once again grew as the game went on and the match fell into a similar pattern that we saw in qualifying draws against both Switzerland and Montenegro.

In turn Wales grew in confidence and you always thought that they would get once chance – in these sorts of games there is always at least one. Step forward Robert Earnshaw, Wales sub, who blazed over when it was easier to score and deny Wales a deserved draw (there is no way England would have scored again).

So in the end England were grateful for the win that pushed them onto the brink of qualification, they are good enough to grab a draw in Montenegro. However, problems still remain and the same old ‘its results not performances’ excuse can’t be used. Because in the past the problems have never been resolved and masked in the blinding effects of patriotism and mindless optimism when major tournaments come around.

They got away with against Wales; they may not get away with it next time.

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