Monday, June 26, 2006

Hanging in there...

England have made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, but their play is far from entertaining or fluent.

The game against Ecuador, which on paper was one of the easier last 16 matches for a seeded team, failed to raise the spirits of the populace at home and, realistically, on this showing, Portugal look like they might be far too strong for Sven's team next weekend.

Sven's team formation looked all wrong again for me. If Carragher was at fault for a Swedish goal, then he paid the price, but is Hargreaves really a better right back option? I don't think so. His passing is OK, but positionally he is suspect, and he is nowhere near the defender that Carragher is. Maybe Gary Neville will be fit this weekend, and any arguments rested if the Manc can return to right back.

The midfield vacancy created by moving Hargreaves back led to a first competitive game for Michael Carrick. The Geordie seemed to be the culprit of the swearing in the tunnel beforehand (unless it was another Northerner from the bench?) which meant he was up for it, but I thought the midfield was just too congested and Lampard and Gerrard crowded the centre circle area preventing Carrick from spreading play. The second half was better, when Gerrard moved wider, but still pretty poor.

Beckham went sick - all the excitement of getting a free kick past the wall? Maybe! Why wasn't he substituted when he was ill though, and allowed to stay on the pitch for twenty minutes doing nothing? Lennon looked good when he came on, adding pace and skill to a static team.

Why Crouch didn't play perplexed me. His height would have scared the living daylights out of the Ecuador defenders, who as it was couldn't cope with Rooney or Beckham in the air. And still no sign of Theo what's-his-name - I've forgotten him, a bit like Sven it seems...

Plus marks for Rooney getting a full game; nobody getting sent off; and nobody getting injured apparently. Portugal will be a different proposition though...

Even the crowd in the stadium went very quiet for the first time this World Cup - whether the Germans who went got bored or the English just deflated was hard to tell, as it wasn't a pretty match to watch. Back home, plenty of shirts and flags on show out on the streets beforehand, and 4pm kick offs certainly get the young Brits drunk by early evening...A shame that the dullness of the match makes some want our oppo to win!

The expectations of the country are still high, though lower than they were. If Big Phil succeeds in a hat-trick of knocking England out of major tournaments, then I think some poeple will be quite happy that the debacle and trauma are quelled. The media seem ready to crush the team when they return beaten - swords being sharpened as we speak - and Sven will bear the brunt of the attacks. But if we can win again - though how I don't know - the press will no doubt build the semi-final up into a massive, massive match, and laud the boys up to incredible levels from whence the only way is down. I wan the team to win; not just for England, Harry, and St George, but to stuff the media and prevent them from trashing our best players.

Come on England!

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