England vs. USA.

Putting behind them the weeks and months of hype and build up England’s footballers will be fairly disappointed that they only managed a draw against their Trans-Atlantic cousins last night.

In truth, America is deemed to be the toughest test in England’s group so a draw is by no means the end of the world. It is certainly not the calamity the media in the States have made it out to be. Some American papers have proclaimed the draw to actually be a victory for the US, calling it the biggest victory since they saw off the British and gained independence. Utter nonsense if you ask me. Then again, the Americans are the country who compete amongst themselves in Basketball and Baseball and then claim the victor is the World Champion so I guess it is no surprise really.

Yes, on paper England has a better team than the Americans. Yes, on paper England should have won comfortably. Football is not played on paper however, which is why it is a game we all love. Had it not been for Robert Green’s error, England would indeed have come away with a fairly comfortable 3 points. Whilst England were not at their best you have to say, aside from the goal and Green’s second half save from Altidore they never really encountered any problems. The US did not look like scoring whilst England carved out a few chances. Gerrard’s early goal was well contrived, the skipper being played in by Emile Heskey. Wayne Rooney went close, Heskey should have done better when through with just Tim Howard to beat. Later on the States’ keeper did well to push a Frank Lampard effort over the bar.

There were definite positives for England. Glen Johnson and Aaron Lennon looked threatening going forward down the right. With a slightly better final ball the right hand side could be a rich source of chances for England. Gerrard rose to the occasion and was arguably England’s best player. He calmly stroked home the goal after 4 minutes and looked driven and energetic throughout. Emile Heskey played his captain in nicely for the goal and won a lot of ball in the air. England, save for two moments, looked fairly comfortable defensively. All of this without actually playing very well. Not too bad then.

Sadly, as is always the case with England, there are a lot of questions too. Firstly, who will play alongside John Terry at centre back? Having lost Rio Ferdinand before the tournament there was some cause for concern. We were given assurances as to Ledley King’s fitness, and given his form during the season Ferdinand’s loss was not seen to be such an issue. Having lost King at half time during the opening game however, England’s back four looks decidedly shaky. As good as Jamie Carragher is, he alongside Terry is not an ideal pairing. Both are lacking in pace and so cannot play as a pair at this level. Ferdinand, and then King were seen as the pace to compliment Terry’s robust last ditch style. You’d hope that King will recover or else we are turning to Matthew Upson or Michael Dawson. Good players, but hardly world class alternatives.

James Milner was unwell and off the pace. Capello quickly addressed this. However, was Wright-Phillips the correct man to replace him? You’d have to say after that showing that he is not. One wonders why, after Joe Cole’s form in the warm up games, he was overlooked in favour of the Man City man? Wright-Phillips kept running up blind alleys and giving the ball away. Surely against Algeria, Joe Cole is worth a look? If not, why has he been taken to the tournament in the first place?

Whilst I am loath to get involved in a debate as to whether Gerrard and Lampard can play together, you’d have to say, on this occasion it didn’t quite work out. On the USA’s goal both were quite far forward. Whilst Gerrard got back to try and deny Dempsey a shot at goal, he was unable to do so and a goal was scored. On a few occasions, the US found space between the midfield and defence. A better side may well punish England if afforded a similar licence. You would think that if fit, Gareth Barry would come in as a holding midfielder, leaving one of Gerrard or Lampard to push on forward. On the evidence of this game, Gerrard would surely keep his place and Lampard would miss out. Is Capello brave enough to make this call or will he change the system in order to accommodate both Lampard and Gerrard? He may even shift Gerrard out wide left, meaning the issue is fudged once more and Joe Cole misses out again.

And so to that moment: Robert Green can blame the new ball (it moved apparently. How odd.) He can blame the pitch or whatever else. The simple fact is there is no excuse for it. He made a mistake on a huge stage and it cost his team a comfortable win. Green atoned a little for his error with the second half save from Altidore, however you have to wonder about his future participation in the tournament. Reports suggest that Joe Hart has been exceptional in training, whilst David James was left out due to a lack of fitness. It is thought that James will be fit for the next game, whilst if Hart carries on showing such form in training he has to be there or thereabouts for a start. I am not a man for knee-jerk reactions. I do not believe Green alone cost England the three points. Yes, his error went some way to doing so, but if Emile Heskey had shown composure in front of goal would we even be making such a deal about Green’s aberration? If his team mates had performed better would his error have been so costly? This is hypothetical and ultimately moot. Unfortunately for Green, his error did count. Heskey did miss; his team mates didn’t perform better. Such is the life of a goalkeeper. End of story.

What now for England and for Robert Green? Most of the papers seem to be suggesting he will be left out. It would be a shame if he was punished so harshly for one slip up. That said, if the noises from the England camp are true as to how close the decision on who to play in goal really is, such a moment can make or break a player’s tournament. Green looked jittery and nervous in the tunnel before the game and even more so in the concession of the goal. A nervous goalkeeper translates to the rest of the team and on a couple of occasions both Carragher and Terry cleared hurriedly when they could have allowed Green to come and collect. It is harsh to think, but if the defence has lost confidence in Green, Capello has no choice but to replace him. (Incidentally I always backed Joe Hart but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. https://bonerthebrave.wordpress.com/whos-number-1/ just in case you doubt me.)

Yes, there are changes that need to be made. Yes there are a few problems to iron out. However, England did not lose the first game. That is a key fact in tournament football. Judging from today’s other game in the group; they should come through the remaining games and still qualify for the next round. If they do not, they have done something seriously wrong. Capello has been rightly praised for the ease with which England qualified for the tournament. I guess now is where he will really earn his money.

The good thing is; if we are struggling, Algeria’s keeper also seems prone to the odd “Green moment” maybe we’ll be alright after all.

Incidentally, my team for the next game would be: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Upson, Cole A, Lennon, Barry, Gerrard (C), Cole J, Heskey, Rooney. Now watch Capello change it completely and expose me as a rambling know-nothing malcontent.

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6 Comments

  1. Well, some interesting points. I agree with a lot if them. Not all. Gerrard was outstanding. Johnson was good. Lennon could gave done better at times but showed enough to justify his place and will hopefully grow as the tournament goes on. I thought Heskey was pretty much England’s best player other than Gerrard. Shame he missed his chance, but Lennon and Wright-Phillips missed good ones as well and get little mention. Agree that Cole should probably have replaced Milner, but wouldn’t it have been nice to have had the option of Walcott off the bench? Don’t think it’s an option to drop Lampard. He’s been consistently England’s best midfielder for 2 years and one swallow doesn’t make a summer. In fact, I don’t think there is much doubt on the starting line up other than centre back, as Capello will just pick his favourite starting 11 (other than Ferdinand) and formation. Barry will replace Milner and Gerrard will move to the left and further forward. If James is fit, he will replace Green. Carragher is too slow. I would play Dawson, but he may will plump for the more tried and tested Upson.

    Starting XI: James, A. Cole, Johnson, Terry, Dawson, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard (c), Lennon, Heskey, Rooney.

    ATS.

  2. Firstly may I commend you for the use of “football is not played on paper”?!
    I agree with a number of points, I think Capello has no choice but to stick with Green for the Algeria game. Dropping him now will all but ruin him; keepers make mistakes and at least Greens’ “clanger” happened in the opening game (the only positive that I can take from this).
    Capello placed too much emphasis on Ledley King as a regular, instant replacement for Rio Ferdinand. If he is missing for the next game or so, we will have to restructure the side to provide adequate cover for the sluggish defensive pairing (namely Barry to screen and maybe a 4-5-1 formation).
    Obviously the performance WAS under-par and although the USA was our hardest game, we should be looking to beat such teams if we have aspirations of winning the tournament as a whole. However, for me, Heskeys miss was nearly as bad as Greens error and I am sick of hearing about his all-round contribution and how strikers love playing for him. Yes he played well BUT will we remember the performance in the quarter-final stage if we are losing and the ball breaks to Heskey in injury time only for him to miss??
    Incidentally, I feel that Rooney’s poor showing has gone a little unnoticed and has been overshadowed by the obvious.
    Still, time to end on a high… Gerrard looked like “Stephen Gerrad: Liverpol Captain” for a nice change, Glen Johnson proved to be a real attacking asset and although we played slightly poorly: we didnt lose and can learn from the performance!

    Starting 11:

    Green, Johnson, Upson, Terry, Cole, Lennon, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard (c), Cole, Rooney.

  3. England will not win the world cup. The end.

  4. Capello has to be ruthless and drop Green for the next game. He may be a good professional and honest person for coming out after the game to talk to the media, but a mistake like that is inexcusable. At club level, you may be given a run of league games to get your confidence back, but at a World Cup, the stakes are so high and individual mistakes are magnified. The fact is that Green made the most errors leading to goals last season in the Premiership, which should have alarm bells ringing. For me, James should start if fit and Hart a close second choice.

    Outfield wise, we all know Lampard and Gerrard cannot play together in midfield and i’m looking forward to Barry’s return. Although, having another player coming back from injury short on sharpness and form is a concern.

    Joe Cole should definitely have come on instead of Wright-Phillips who I think is very lucky to even be there. Can’t help feeling we will regret not having Walcott on the bench to change things up. Granted he hasn’t performed well this season and has only one trick, but in games where the opposition is tiring he would be perfect. His best performances for Arsenal have been as an impact player. Other teams will have defenders like Carragher or Terry’s who legs have gone.

    My starting XI (4-4-2): James, Johnson, Dawson, Terry, Cole, Lennon, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard (c), Heskey, Rooney.

    If that doesn’t work, bring Cole on for Heskey and play 4-4-1-1 with Gerrard supporting Rooney.

  5. Plenty of fair points there; I do feel sorry for Green, shocking mistake though it was (although not as shocking as whoever decided to give James Corden a live post-match show) – individual errors will always happen and he did make up for it to a certain extent with a fine save from Altidore in the second half. The big issue for me is finding a system that accommodates both Gerrard and Lampard while getting the best out of Rooney; Lampard hasn’t been at his best for England for a fair while, but has scored so many goals for Chelsea that you’d have to be crazy to leave him out. Rooney, however, is the best player by a considerable distance and anything Capello does must help rather than hinder him. Heskey’s supposedly in the team because he brings the best out of Rooney; sorry, but that’s not enough. He’s a striker who doesn’t score – that’s it. Rooney is capable of playing on his own up front, especially in a 4-5-1 with close support arriving from midfield. That would help stop England getting overrun in the middle of the pitch, as happened too often on Saturday and in the warm-up games for comfort.
    Also, I think the imbalances in the squad are (already) there for all to see. Why start Milner on the left, a position he’s never played for his club? Why then replace him with a Manchester City reserve – having left the player keeping him out of the City first team (on the right of midfield, fact fans) at home? Adam Johnson isn’t perfect, by any means, but selecting a squad with no left-footed attacking players was asking for trouble.
    That said, it’s not a disaster. Algeria and Slovenia both look limited at best, poor at worst, and there’s every chance England will beat both of them comfortably. That’s when they could run into more trouble – anyone fancy playing Germany after yesterday? I don’t think they’re great – but you don’t want to have to play a team like that in the last 16.

  6. When England produce a player who can do everything Heskey does AND finish brilliantly, they should drop Heskey. Until then, he should play every game. England are poor without him.


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