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Sunday, November 13, 2005

England players had the last war cry

If you are not aware, the Argentinian players arrived at the Stade de Geneve in their team coach, chanting, dancing and allegedly singing derogative lyrics to a football song against the English team. Nice banter to boost the team for victory, though I'd expect with the talents of Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Juan Pablo Sorin, Juan Riquelme, Esteban Cambiasso, Hernan Crespo, potential youngster Lionel Messi, Maxi Rodriguez and Carlos Tevez, they needed to count on simple lyrics for confidence. Boost the team for victory, I said. Yes, they wanted to win this 'friendly'. So did England. I wish to forget about past matches, forget about the 'Hand of God', our victory in the WC2002, and the Falklands War, they have been well documented enough in the press. This is a friendly in terms of its status, no points, no competition, no knock-out stage, no trophy. Other than that, the game remains competitive.

The game began superbly, Argentina held most of the possession in the first 20-25mins, coming close and threatening well, though it was a bit uncomfortable to see England having to defend desperately when we could have avoided doing so if we kept a better shape at the back. John Terry started edgy but got better as the game progessed, Rio Ferdinand clearly an understudy, Wayne Bridge starting for the first time after his injury and looking some levels below the required fitness for such opponents. Wayne Rooney went on a run and brushed off by ayala, fairly so. Then he went closer still with a little dink to the far post. But he should not have been so deep over at the right wing in Beckham's way, giving away possession which led to Crespo's goal. Their dangerman was MOTM Riquelme, his pass across pitch found Rodriguez, who got past Bridge to square, the ball coming off Ferdinand's trailing right calf into Crespo's path. But Rooney was looking to make amends. England pressure kept at their opponents, and as Ayala inadvertently pushed the ball into the air, Beckham outjumped Sorin to head into Rooney's path, a fortuitous bounce found the ball past Roberto Abbondanzieri. The half ended an entertaining 1-1.

The main thing is that we came at the opponents, I wonder if it had anything to do with them being Argentina. Their players were said to have continued their chanting off the coach into the dressing room. Argentina staff members were said to have aimed insults at Beckham as both teams lined up to make their entrance. But we showed that when the going gets tough, we get going. We don't hang back stringing pass after pass to end up eventually breaking down, failing to thoroughly penetrate the defence. Thid time, we aimed to get back into the game, we were much better than before. Forget the Poland match, it wasn't fantastic while it served to stamp our Germany passage. This was much better, a better passionate response from the team. Argentina had a little more strength in their side while we were missing key full-backs. And I expected Sol Campbell to feature instead of Ferdinand, though to have done so may have effected the Man Utd defender's confidence.

For their threatening set-pieces, Riquelme delivered sweet crosses, from which we had no one designated to deal with and so they crept through, only to be averted from danger. Crespo had a goal disallowed from one when he shouldn't have had the opportunity in the first place. At times Riquelme dwelled on the ball with no fear, passes culminating from him to his teammates that put us under concerned pressure. Yet when we were under pressure, the defence aimed to block with vigour. Michael Owen had a quiet half despite having a header disallowed for offside. Steven Gerrard played the left-wing role with unease, didn't see him using that role to effect, for obvious reasons, and he welcomed the chance to bring Bridge into attack.

Come the second half, Argentina kept up the pressure. England had one change of Paul Konchesky for Bridge. A freekick some 30 yards out found Riquelme once again delivering a smart ball over to the right for Walter Samuel to head across, similar to Darren Fletcher's goal last week Sunday, the ball going in with Ayala making sure. At that time I felt we could buckle and see a 3-1 scoreline, but no, we kept up the pressure this time equal to the Argentinians. Ledley King was sacrificed for Joe Cole's introduction, and the Chelsea man was sharp on the left, meaning Gerrard came back into his usual position. Cole danced and stepped-over in front of his man and look more likely to break the defence. Argentina went very close to my predicted scoreline when a cross came over for Sorin to head, the sharp Paul Robinson keeping goal well by preventing the ball from just going over the line.

And we still kept going. Luke Young, who has done a good job deputising for Gary Neville, came off for Peter Crouch, with Gerrard now doing a right-back role. Mr Versatile, to think there were questions regarding his inclusion in the team after King and Frank Lampard's performance against Poland. Some 5mins of normal time remaining, Gerrard advanced into the Argentine half to send a cross over to Crouch and Owen, Owen moving behind the defence to purposely aim a downward header to bounce into the one space not covered. 2-2. And even after that, we still kept going. I felt we could actually win this, the way we kept going forward, Cole, Rooney, Gerrard, Beckham, Owen threatening. They must have sensed it too. 92nd minute, Cole chipped a ball into the box and Owen nodded a header into the corner. We had the final war cry.

If we had ended up losing, it would have been worth it to see us perform so much better, particularly in the second half, if not the whole game. This is a segment of the performance we can achieve with the current crop of players, and with the waiting talent on the bench and potentially lined up to come in, it can get much better. We are football fans, we know of the calibre England have, and a good deal of it can be put down to the influence of foreign players who have integrated into the football clubs, and foreign managers. There's a combination of foreign flair and English grit and yesterday it's influence combined well for the first time in a long time. Did we need to face stronger opposition in Argentina to play much better? We shouldn't do. We should want to get at sides from the kick-off but in the beginning of yesterday's match we still seemed concerned at gong forward and getting at our opponents for fear of failing and being criticised. The players have the talent, they should relax and play their usual game. It's why they are chosen. Currently the best manager in the top league, I would wager that even Jose Mourinho would be happy with a defeat provided his team played well and made chances at every opportunity.

I felt Lampard was not himself in the first half but he too became better the further he played. The same for Ferdinand. Our MOTM was a pick from Robinson and Beckham; one kept us in the game and the other kept going, inspirational to others. I would just shade it to Beckham. I don't know what it was but his game has improved much more, I hope he doesn't burn out leading up to Germany, that goes for the other players too. Yesterday, win, lose or draw, it was a good match with a better England response. The Argentinian side were mysteriously quiet on the coach from the stadium. God wasn't prepared to lend his hand, yet again.



Blogger T said...

Fantastic commentary Redsman, makes for excellent reading!

England players have been shamefully lazy and uninspired in recent months and owed everyone a committed performance. They have the players to be a strong team come World Cup time and it was about time they displayed the passion, energy, and commitment to really attack the opposition.

I expected it because of the excellent calibre of opposition. Sven can't motivate these players to perform against the likes of N. Ireland, Denmark, Wales, Austria, etc... these England players are only motivated by playing opposition that they feel are on a par or better than them.

Sven showed he's learning the game! He started with a holding midfielder in a diamond which is my preferred choice. When 2-1 down he took out the holding man and put on the skillful Joe Cole on the left wing. And then when things got desperate he sacrificed the right back for 'big man' Peter Crouch and aimed long balls in his direction hoping for a knock down. Both Crouch and Cole contributed to the England fightback- in particluar Joe Cole who I feel is not getting adequate praise for his consistent level of performance at Chelsea.

Riquelme went off when Argentina were ahead and they missed his presence and guile on the ball. He showed why he is preferred to the lazy Veron and I look forward to seeing him again in the World Cup alongside the missing Messi who I understand Capello said in the summer was the greatest young player he has ever seen!

If Rooney scored with that awesome chip in the final minutes would Capello change his mind?!?

This match has revved me up for the World Cup... I'm really looking forward to it. As it will be played in Europe the conditions will facilitate better football than seen in the extreme humidity of Japan and S Korea. And Greece haven't qualified!... so one team that relies on total defence and set-piece conversions will not take part!! If they use a better football than the atrocious Roterio ball (most of the players couldn't control or properly shoot the thing!) used in Euro 2004, it has the makings of a special tournament.... at last!

P.S. I look forward to seeing Riquleme and Sorin in their club shirts next week taking on Man Utd in a virtual knock-out Champions League group match.

11/14/2005 11:02 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Riquelme and Sorin avenging against Ferdinand and Rooney! Seriously, that game wont be personal, I sense Riquelme played a far more involved role for Argentina than for Villarreal. Veron's game featured on catching those defence-splitting passes and advancing late into the box whereas Riquelme kept his position in central mid and regularly involved others into attack.

With King behind a three of Beckham, Lampard, and Gerrard, isnt that more of a triangle shape than a diamond one? I envisage a diamond shape with someone also in front of the midfield 3.

The crux of the side involved Lampard and Gerrard together but not in central midfield. The change in bringing on Cole brought Gerrard back but then the holding player gone, we could have found ourselves peddling back to an attacking midfield with no sweeper. In keeping the pressure on instead of sinking after going 2-1 down, we hadn't given the opponents the time to try and inflitrate behind our midfield.

In bringing on Crouch, which T stated correctly unsettled the Argentine defence, Gerrard at right back enabled the option of Beckham in central mid with Rooney on the right, or Rooney behind Owen and Crouch, Beckham and Cole wide, Lampard sitting in the middle. The versatility at that time provided more options and aimed for a more varied attack.

I agree with T that England perhaps did view their opponents as so worthy that they needed to step up to participate. It's as if they get to penetrate previous opponents and then in the final third consider that getting to goal is too easy and then they break down! Bizarre but it could be true. It's either that or they were riled by the singing from the Argentinian dressing room.

Whatever it is, they clearly know how good they can be, we know it, Eriksson knows it. Keep it up.

To digress ever so sightly but remain on the international level, Luis Garcia scored a hat-trick against Slovakia with Fernando Morientes adding one himself. Djibril Cisse scored in France's friendly in Martinique. So that's in the European league and international duty Liverpool players have scored. It's over to you, Alan (Hansen).


11/14/2005 5:25 pm

Blogger T said...

Yes Redsman, don't forget that Arsenal's Swiss sensation kept a clean sheet and scored the crucial first goal in their play-off against World Cup semi-finalist Turkey!

A diamond with four midfielders I can understand?! A triangle with four midfielders is a whole new football concept!??!

How about calling England's midfield formation a 'squashed diamond'(my copyright!): where the front point of the diamond is pushed back so it is on a horizontal line with the two points to the left and right. I think this describes what Redsman saw on Saturday?!?!??

Re Hansen, I think the whole of the BBC team should be replaced by the whole Sky Sports team come the World Cup... comparing them is like comparing Nationwide with Premiership!

11/14/2005 6:24 pm

Blogger Abdul said...

good commentary on the game Redsman. It was easily the best friendly I have seen in a long time.

What I was impressed by is the spirit of the England team. In Japan, we saw England wither away against Brazil once they went behind with not even a token gesture of a comeback. Yet on Saturday we saw a real determination not to lose the match and a belief that England were the equals of Argentina. Joe Cole looks like he will be a great card to play in these kinds ofd situations because he really made a big difference.

Yes, it was a good performance from England, but I also question whether Argentina would have been more clinical in a competitve game.

Re the formations - for my part i thought it was neither a four sided triangle nor a squashed diamond. Nope, it was definitely the classic "upside-down-magicians hat" with King playing in the "point" position with Beckham playing "right rim", Gerrard on the "left rim" and Lampard at the "base" of the hat.

11/14/2005 8:06 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Ha ha ha! Squashed diamond! Magician's hat! Yes, they both fit what I saw. But for once the formation wasn't a main point, clearly the players had the desire and want to flourish in any formation. The main thing was the passion. I hope it can flourish moreover every match. In an ideal world, yes, but it's not impossible in this reality.

The 'triangle concept' has to be my copyright!


11/15/2005 3:46 pm

Blogger SKG said...

sven is finally starting to see sense. the right players; the right formation; the right substitutes; the right spirit.

we can win the world cup. this is the best chance we've had since '66.

11/15/2005 5:51 pm


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