Amid a whirlwind of chores I and my Significant Other just about managed to sit down in front of the television for last night’s Croatia game. Unlike some international friendlies, I wanted to catch this one, and not just because England were in a position to qualify for the World Cup with a win or a draw.
With a 100 per cent record, the result last night didn’t really matter that much as far as I was concerned. Nothing short of a major meltdown over the last few qualifying games was going to stop England going to South Africa next year. I think what I was more interested in was how Capello’s version of England would perform, within a competitive environment, where both sides would be holding nothing back.
So, on the surface, it was a striking performance. A 5-1 victory against a team of Croatia’s standing is impressive. However, I feel uneasy, as this sort of result just fuels the England hype. Sure, England have a chance next year. But let’s not carried away just yet…
- Croatia were particularly poor, from giving away a soft penalty at the start of the night, to giving away a gift of goal for Rooney at the end. England will be lucky to face such accommodating opponents next year.
- Big wins in qualifying do not necessarily lead to winning tournaments. Remember the expectation following another 5-1 victory – against Germany in 2001? England can’t afford to go into another tournament brimming with over-confidence as they have done in the past. Hopefully, Capello will not allow complacency to creep in.
- Freak results happen. No doubt about it, England started incredibly well, and essentially had the game sewn up after 20 minutes. Once Croatia had to chase the game England were always going to be a danger. Goals led to more goals as Croatian heads dropped.
- The real test for England will be when they concede an early goal (or two) to a quality side. Have England got the skill, concentration and character to beat a Spain or Brazil? Maybe. But we haven’t seen it yet.
So, a rather dour assessment of a 5-1 demolition? Perhaps. There are obviously a lot of positives to take from last night’s game. But, there is still a lot of work to do before we can genuinely call England ‘world-beaters’.
What was your assessment of last night’s game?
Photo by Jon Juan.