Writer: J P Fear
Date:Sunday June 11 2006
World Cup Site
You have to look at the positives. England needed a win today and nothing else really mattered.
They got that win in extremely hot conditions and with a mad referee seemingly gifting Paraguay every decision throughout the match. That is the last day time kick off for England, the next two games are late afternoon or evening kick offs, so at least they won't have to face temperatures of 29-30 degrees again.
The first half we dominated possession and could have - with a bit more thrust - have taken away any doubts by adding a goal or two. The first goal had a touch of fortune with a beautifully floated free kick from David Beckham being knocked in by Paraguayan skipper Carlos Gamarra, at that point (3 mins in) it looked like England might go on to thrash the South Americans but in the end that didn't prove to be the case but thankfully England doggedly refused to give up the lead.
You knew that Paraguay would come and try more in the second half, in fairness they didn't have to do much to be better than their first half performance but despite England fading very quickly in the heat and a mystifying substitution by Sven (who brought off Michael Owen and replaced him with Stuart Downing) England refused to give up the lead and if not for a bit more luck, might have got a second as Frank Lampard shot from distance.
Sven-Goran Eriksson said: 'I'm pleased to start with a win. We suffered a bit as it was a very hot day but the most important thing was to get the win and we did that. We found it difficult to keep the ball in the second half. We will get better in the next match but it was important to open with three points.'
Make no mistake, this was an average game and England were at points distinctly below par BUT we got the win and the points are the main priority. Play like that against the classier teams and we will lose though, so hopefully England will raise their game as the tournament goes on.
The mad decision to choose Theo Walcott, a player that Sven has never seen play, was shown to be wrong today. With Michael Owen being brought off, apparently for tactical reasons, Peter Crouch was left up front as a loan striker. As a Villa fan, I can tell you that playing Peter Crouch up front and hoofing the ball to him will never work. He is not that sort of a target man, he is - especially considering his height - a far more cultured player. If you are going to do the long ball to him he will always need a quick striker to flick the ball on to, he will never be able to hold the ball up and that proved to be the case.
With Rooney not fit and no other options on the bench, you couldn't help but wonder what Darren Bent (top scorer in the Prem last season with over 20 goals) Darius Vassell (who always played well for England and gave them obvious pace) or Spurs Jermain Defoe (an experienced and pacey striker) would have brought to the party. I fear this will be England's downfall as the tournament progresses but at the moment the dream is still very much alive, the midfield is World class and as they gain momentum, we could prove to be a very difficult team to beat.
Bring on Trinidad & Tobago.
Man of the Match: Joe Cole.
Moment of the Match: A Paul Robinson kick hitting those stupid tv screens that were suspended from the top creating an amazingly stupid shadow on the pitch, shame he didn't break the bloody things!
Interview of the Match: Freddie Flintoff interviewed before kick off who was already three sheets to the wind.
Date:Sunday June 11 2006
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