Improvement sees England through but now the real test begins
June 24, 2010
So after all that, Fabio Capello stuck to the same tried-and-tested system. The same 4-4-2, with Gerrard still out wide on the left, with Rooney still in the side, and with Lampard under performing. And Joe Cole, the player many fans and pundits almost begged to see, was still stuck on the bench.
Nevertheless, the England side of the qualifying campaign briefly showed itself for the first time since the World Cup began 13 days ago. A reasonable performance by the side was enough for England to sneak through, but now the real competition begins.
Before I go on, I must say well done to the USA. As much as England fans would have preferred the route provided by winning the group, quite frankly England wouldn’t have deserved it. The USA were robbed of a winner against Slovenia for no reason at all, and had another perfectly fine goal chalked off against Algeria before they got their winner. So good luck to the USA.
On to England, then. I personally believe that facing the more difficult route may actually be beneficial to the England squad. OK, so Germany will be a tough nut to crack (and I’m not going to fall into the trap many mainstream media outlets are by describing who England WILL play, it’s very much a ‘one game at a time’ philosophy here) but they are certainly beatable. Indeed, they have already been beaten once in the tournament, as well as their defeat in Berlin by England last year. So make no mistake about it, Fabio Capello and the England squad will certainly fancy their chances.
However, if England are to get through they must get that ruthless streak back and take chances when they arrive. OK, so England played infinitely better against Slovenia than they had against Algeria, but they still missed far too many chances. England could (and perhaps should) have won the game by three or four clear goals. Jermain Defoe could have put the nerves of every England fan at ease by scoring within seconds of the restart, not to mention the chances missed by Lampard and Rooney. When those kind of chances come against the Germans, they simply must be taken, or the likes of Podolski and Klose will punish England for their profligacy.
One thing that has certainly got my attention though is the words of “the Kaiser”. Franz Beckenbauer has been busy doing Capello’s team talk for him. I hope the England camp retain a dignified silence towards Beckenbauer, and instead simply collect the clippings of his comments and put them up on the dressing room wall. Indeed, I’m certain this will be the case.
As for the starting side against Germany, I now fully expect Capello to play the exact same side. Upson came in at centre-half and did well, and I’d expect Carragher to be unable to oust him from the starting 11. Jermain Defoe has certainly stated an excellent case to start by scoring, but the real star was James Milner. After a nervy opening, Milner was always dangerous for England, and I’d expect him to now be head-and-shoulders above Lennon. There is still a case for Joe Cole to play (especially as Lampard still looks a shadow of the player he is for Chelsea) but I won’t hold my breath. Still, on paper, England have more than enough quality to progress.
Fingers crossed then that Monday morning’s hang-over is one caused by celebration, and not commiseration. And please, no penalties….