Writer: J P Fear
Date:Thursday June 15 2006
60 minutes of dross but we still get the three points! As Gareth Southgate said, 'wouldn't be England if we didn't do it the hard way would it?' and he is so right.
I said earlier in the day that England would win by two clear goals, it took until late on in the second half for my prediction to come right. I'd actually expected us to turn it on and play with some style today but at least until the introduction of Spurs wonderkid Aaron Lennon, they did anything but play with style.
Now fair's fair, all that matters is that we got the three points and lets face it; Trinidad & Tobago were always going to make it tough, much like a Premiership team playing a lower league side in a cup, the lower ranked team will pack the midfield, raise their game and give 110%. This proved to be the case today.
What does worry me is the pedestrian pace we played at, the long ball tactics (reminded me of watching Villa play to be fair) and the lack of understanding between the players (definitely reminded me of Villa). We had wild shots from Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard and a sitter missed by Peter Crouch and if not for a goal line clearance by John Terry, England could have gone in at half time one down.
The second half started no better, even David Beckham appeared to lose the world class free kick ability that we know he possesses. Then, to a chorus of approval from the ever fantastic England fans, Wayne Rooney was brought on along with Aaron Lennon.
Rooney got little opportunity but will be happy to be back in the mix and in many ways it is good for us that he didn't come on and score the winner, because then the rest of the team might think he HAS to play in order for them to win.
What did make a difference though was the precoutious talent of Lennon, Spurs have a real diamond there by the looks of it. Once he got the ball the pace of the whole team increased, as did the pressure on T&T's goal. The more England pushed forward the bigger the risk at the other end but luckily Peter Crouch, following the first really great bit of distribution from Beckham (I forget whether it was a cross or a free kick), finally took a chance and buried a firm header into the back of the net with Shaka Hislop standing no chance.
That looked like it, game over. I turned to my mates and said how awful Steven Gerrard had been and within 30 seconds he cracked in a wonder goal from outside the box! 2-0, job done, all was well. But make no mistake, Gerrard and Lampard just don't seem to work well together - lets pray, for the sake of our hopes and dreams, that something clicks with them or that changes are made. Michael Carrick as the holding midfielder with one or other (Lampard or Gerrard) might make more sense, especially against the tough Swedes. (Nothing worse than tough swedes, apart from maybe soft carrots).
As the commentators said, maybe struggling to get the win will avoid the team getting complacent. But we've also got to be honest, we have the six points for two fairly average performances. We'd not swap those points for more attractive play BUT if we are going to progress then England will have to turn on the style and click as a unit. As is often the case, we also seem to raise our game more against quality opposition.
Joe Cole, man-of-the-match for many against Paraguay was virtually anonymous today. Gerrard, until his wonder goal, contributed little. Beckham appeared nervous and wasn't on top form. Crouch for me is still not a world class striker, Darren Bent with 21 goals in the prem last season would have made so much more sense, but fair play to Crouch, he did finally take a chance and you can ask little more of the striker (apart from maybe not missing easier chances early on when we play the more difficult teams especially, as chances like that will be at a premium).
Our defence looks well sorted.
The world class midfield have not played well in either games, so when they start playing well we can expect a more flowing team performance.
David Beckham provided a beautifully floated ball for the first goal AND managed an interview with only 22 erms and 12 y'knows.
Oh; and we have six points and will make the 2nd round and all that on average performances.
Is this the master plan? Maybe we are lulling the world into a false sense of security?
Either that or my beer was stronger than I first thought. Bring on Sweden next Tuesday, that will be an interesting test.
Date:Thursday June 15 2006
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