England Getting Better (World Cup Braindump #8)
England squeezed through. This was not an easy passage to the second round, and even if there were encouraging signs from yesterday’s game against Slovenia, England will need to step up considerably on Sunday against Germany. But we all know that, right? I mean it’s not as if England’s supporters are going to get carried away on a wave of jingoism and misplaced optimism is it? Oh. Well, anyway, here’s some more thoughts…
- Finally, the England players seemed capable of sticking to their position and to their allocated jobs. If you can’t be inspired, at least be organised. If this discipline can be built upon, maybe there is a chance.
- It was good to see a little more thought going into everything yesterday. It was as if the players were told to wait just that extra half-second when in possession, in order to make the right decision and not give the ball away cheaply.
- I was glad to see Rooney go off for three reasons. One – he appeared to be getting increasingly frustrated at not scoring, and so was shooting when there were far more sensible options available. Two – there was the ever-growing risk of the red mist descending. Three – he’d picked up a knock, and it really wasn’t worth risking a more serious injury. This was good management from Capello.
- Joe Cole is a good player, don’t get me wrong, but he isn’t quite the answer to all our prayers.
- Gareth Barry looked very rusty. He can’t keep giving the ball away like that. I’m hoping he’s getting fitter and that will resolve this.
- Stevie Gerrard is really growing into the captain’s role. He doesn’t need to bark orders or punch his chest, he just leads by example, and brings players into the game. If he has a good game on Sunday, England will be there or thereabouts.
- The Germans have been inconsistent, look a little shaky at the back, and have a few key injury worries. But, they are still one of the best sides in the tournament. However, if England can get their act together, they must be in with a chance. What price penalties?
- England were just one goal from first place in the group and a far easier route to the semi-finals. USA have Ghana, followed by either Uruguay or South Korea. England have Germany, followed by either Argentina or Mexico. I’m not too bothered though. If you want to become World Champions, you have to beat the best sides. No matter what route you take, you are going to come up against a top side sooner or later. And let’s be honest, the USA deserved to top the group. They just don’t give up, do they?
- I also have a suspicion that England may well play better against a stronger side, who are not reliant on keeping nine men behind the ball at all times. If the game opens up, England can take advantage.
EDIT: I just read this over, and I think it is far too optimistic. England just beat Slovenia. If Germany are in any sort of form, England are in big trouble. England need several players to improve – none more than the talisman Rooney. There are far too many ifs and buts to be confident right now.
There is hope that playing a team who are prepared to attack will benefit the England players. What no-one bar your good self has focused on with all of our group games is the fact that all three opponents practically parked the bus and made it pretty hard to break them down. I’m not knocking it, it’s clearly a tactic which is working – Italy and Spain have fallen foul of it too. I too think Germany’s defence can be suspect but so can England’s. Upson was quite dodgy for the first 30 mins. Carragher is inconsistent these days and, while I think all this nonsense about Glen Johnson not being able to defend is tiresome and innacurate, he doesn’t always get back from his attacking runs quickly enough, which players like Muller and Ozil will love. If I were Capello I’d print out Beckenbauer’s recent statements and pin them on the dressing room wall. And maybe let the players have a drink the night before, whilst they watch the Munich game from 2001.
I think the key tactic of the first two weeks of this tournament has been deep defending and the counter-attack. I’d expect that as the smaller nations are knocked out games will open up more. If the game is stretched then Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard are bound to benefit. However, England may struggle in the same scenario. So, a 3-3 draw on Sunday then?
(As an aside, I find it interesting that the bigger sides all look a little suspect defensively, so I can’t see Parking The Bus dominating so much in the knock-out stages. Hopefully we’ll get some high-scoring, entertaining games)
While I think organisation and discipline will be vital to England’s success, I don’t think there is any harm in firing them up somewhat. Capello needs to strike the right balance between players sticking to their own job, and creating team spirit and drive.
Apparently, the majority of England’s World Cup goals in recent tournaments have come in the first half. Also, England look better when they pick the pace up, although they can’t sustain that for 90 minutes. If England come out strongly and take their chances the game could be out of reach by half-time. Now, that is optimistic!