The group stages were rounded off last night with England winning their group and Sweden restoring some pride. In doing this, the Three Lions have perhaps achieved their only objective, indeed Uncle Roy said the players have exceeded his expectations. Whatever England do now they have been successful, right?
Of course not. Cue the enormous media hype and the intense pressure of the public crushing down with enough force to make a few diamonds. I know guys, I know. We can do it, with a bit of luck here and a magic moment here yadda yadda. We have Italy next, then probably Germany, then probably Spain. We need more magic and luck than Merlin skydiving without a parachute.
But let us talk of our accomplishment, group winners. England should always have got through the group but Sweden had proven a bogey before, France are better than us (just a tiny bit), and Ukraine have a few surprises here and there – so winning it is a great effort.
However for every up there is a down, a yin and a yang. So before we get carried away in our victory perhaps we should look at the yang. Or yin. Whichever one is the more negative.
I thought the game was alright, but I wouldn’t quite go as far to say I enjoyed it. England are one of the big dogs of European football but compare us to the others – Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Holland – and we seem a class below. ‘But the Dutch were rubbish this tournament’ you say stupidly, yes but it was just a bad patch. We know they can play very well, we’ve seen it. The same story doesn’t apply to England.
I think the problem is I feel I should write lots about the England games because that is who I support, but the fact is they are rarely interesting. If I was discussing games down the pub, it isn’t the England games that would really spark me into life. Nevertheless we’ll discuss a few things in a list format because that is what bad writers do.
1. Steven Gerrard is having an excellent tournament. He has played some fantastic passes in England’s three games and, although the riskier ones go a bit astray sometimes, has proved our biggest threat. There are very few players in the world that could have provided the type of ball Gerrard did for Carroll’s goal, likewise with his Beckham-esque delivery for Lescott. And although the breath of Lady Luck helped last night’s assist to Wazza’s brand new barnet, it was a nice piece of skill by the skipper to create the chance.
More than that he is playing with a passion and a drive that I think the other players are finding infectious. Everything England could want from a captain right now.
2. You can add John Terry, Joe Hart, and Glen Johnson to that too.
Glen Johnson provides a good attacking threat while remaining solid in defence – i.e he does his job (Kyle Walker). Sure he can be a bit loose in possession but we’ll forgive him all the while he makes those central covering runs for the others.
I’m not Hart’s biggest fan and I feel he was at fault for the French goal, and he has seldom been tested, but he looks confident and solid. Which is partly thanks to the monolith that is John Terry.
The many faceted story to Ukraine’s goal that never was goes thus: the defending looks bad because Terry played the Ukrainian forward offside (and it wasn’t given), he then tracked back and reacted excellently to read the scenario and clear the ball away. Regardless of whether it was technically in or not, had Terry not done what he has made a career out of, it would certainly have been given.
3. England’s team is in a luxurious position. Take our established (and best) back four and add to that the two center mids, Gerrard and Parker – we all going to call this the ‘Flowerpot’. It is the flowerpot because it is settled, solid, and able to hold up the ‘Flowers’. Now ‘Flowers’ refers to the two spots wide of Stevie and Scotty and the two spots in front of them. These are chop and change.
You fancy some nice, small, exciting Bizzy Lizzys? We got that, on go Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. You want a more hardy English Rose? Sorted, put on Milner and Young. Up front you always want Rooney (perhaps he’s a stem?) but you can combine him with a massive Sunflower in Carroll or a slightly shorter Tulip like Welbeck. Floppy Daisy? Downing’s your man.
Keep that ‘Flowerpot’ healthy (that analogy doesn’t work shutup) and England have a wealth of tactics and threats at their disposal.
4. If only we could pass to them though. Walcott, Carroll, and the ‘Ox’ came on for between 20-10 minutes and only recorded five completed passes. That isn’t because they had the passing shoes of Christian Poulsen on, it’s because they didn’t get the ball. It mattered less in the Ukraine game because England had settled for the result, but still, five.
5. During his brief appearance, Oxlade-Chamberlain was released by Gerrard with Walcott in support, against a panicked few defenders. One simple pass and Theo was free and through on goal, put him in an Arsenal shirt and the ‘Ox’ would have made it, but he didn’t. Let’s just hope the hype doesn’t got to his head too much.
I’ve spent too much time bleating on about flowers and England to talk about the other game but, haha France, you lost to Sweden and they didn’t even score with their lethal striker Mellburg. Let’s just admire Zlatan’s goal.