I ‘got my English on’ for what should’ve been a qualify inducing win; a microwave curry, German beer, even a hoody and tracksuit bottoms – all the things England is built on. But before I could purchase a horribly inbred Bulldog and complete the package, I noticed England’s lineup and my heart sank.
Montenegro are defiantly a team to treat with respect. Just Mirko Vucinic commands respect, let alone the away win against Bulgaria and the draw at Wembley. I think England gave too much respect with their starting eleven though, and that’s not the only thing that disappointed me about the team sheet.
I haven’t enjoyed England’s qualifiers thus far. Even when we’ve won comfortably it feels more like the caliber of the opponents controlling the scoreline, rather than our ability. The naive hope of an enjoyable game rose in me before this tie however, perhaps because it was to be the final step to qualification, perhaps because I knew there would be goals. This hope was given a open-handed slap by the lineup straight away.
It was the two men in the middle that saddened me initially. Look Capello, I know two holding midfield players are in vogue right now, and have been for a few years, but they aren’t for us – they are for teams who are capable of passing the ball, or endlessly attacking with it. The World Cup in South Africa demonstrated the value of the central two: Busquets and Alonso for Spain, van Bommel and de Jong for Holland, Arevalo Rios and Perez (or Gargano) for Uruguay – the list goes on in terms of international success, but not for us.
I don’t rate Barry very highly. He showed me all he’d ever need to when Germany beat England 4-1; Barry sticking perfectly to the 30 yards Oezil was in at all times without ever getting near him was impressive. I understand the need for a defensive midfielder with someone who supports the attack a la Gerrard or Lampard, but with neither of them starting tonight he is a bit meaningless, as is Parker. Surely Lampard, after a fantastic game for Chelsea against Bolton, deserved a game? Failing that, Milner (who actually has a future) would have been great to see.
Even though selection risks should have been kept at a relative minimum for such an important game, they were far too conservative. There was barely any sight of England’s future in the starting eleven. Joe Hart isn’t giving a chance to a youngster – he’s the only good English keeper! Walcott is there because Aaron Lennon forgot how to play. Yes, Young is moving into England’s eleven nicely but as opposed to who? In fact, I was desperately disappointed not to see Adam Johnson not used at all.
England Soulessly took a two goal lead in the first 35 minutes, Walcott and Young looking both like a promising partnership and individually impressing. This could be because they were the only attacking players; Rooney playing deep, and Bent pushing the line both disappearing into ball retention.
Phil Jones made his international debut which was a progressive move. Without being too cynical, I’d rather he didn’t though. In the end he played well, but there were some hairy penalty moments. I know United fans enjoy his marauding runs up field, but it’s something I would look to cut out of his game. That could be bitterness due to him being caught drastically out of position for Montenegro’s first goal.
Not that it mattered as Terry and Cahill decided it was acceptable to let the hero from Sofia, Zverotic, chest the ball down, let it bounce, then take a pop. After the game J.T said Capello blamed the goal on the first half being too easy for England. Well if it was so easy maybe the Three Lions should have scored a few more to pass the time.
Montenegro played well, never letting their head’s drop and playing good, probing football around England’s box, constantly testing the defense. With a man down (I’ll get there) the goal was coming, a combination of skill and drive forcing it in the net.
After a delightfully skillful turn by playmaker Simon Vukcevic, Cole decided the promising Man City youngster Stefan Savic didn’t need marking and left him to put in a cross. He didn’t let Ca$hley down, a looping backpost cross that left Hart looking incompetent, was headed in by a determined Delibasic.
I wasn’t remotely upset by the equaliser for several reasons. Firstly England were still going to qualify top so it didn’t affect that, and secondly because England didn’t deserve the win, and I wanted Capello and co to know that. But more importantly, I didn’t mind the goal because I was delighted for the Montenegrins.
As the players bundled into the crowd I saw genuine passion overtake sense. England celebrated like they expected it, Montenegro celebrated like they’d earned it.
The ex-Yugoslavs didn’t just trump England’s passion out of play though – just look at the way Delibasic wants to get on the ball more than Cahill for the equaliser. He knows to head the ball in he is going to hit the post at full speed, but was anyone else going to win that ball? Definitely not. Perhaps Paul Ince wasn’t far off the mark after all.
Eclipsing all these points in the headlines will be Wayne Rooney, whos old self resurfaced to ‘do’ a Beckham 1998. I cannot emphasise enough how big a fool he is. For me, he is one of the current greats along with Messi, Xavi and co. But to remain in their league he’s got to cut this petulance out.
I don’t mind his natural aggression and the odd yellow but he needs to handle his frustrations. I’ve seen Messi in Argentinian colours pounding the floor when decisions go against him, I’ve seen him express displeasure to team mates after failed passes, but I’ve never seen him jeopardise his team’s chances like Rooney has (2005 doesn’t count at all).
Despite Capello trying to stop me enjoying the game (switching to a defensive 4-5-1 after an hour? Are you fucking kidding me?), I did enjoy it and I hope that team do well in the Finals. Montenegro that is.