England make the WC2006 quarter-finals
This is about the minimum of what we expected from England, the quarter-finals. Some will say we were not that good, others say we have won and that counts. I say we could have held Ecuador accountable for a number of goals, while they had two chances. Another uncharacteristic move by John Terry misheaded the ball in the path of Carlos Tenorio and he took long enough for the impressive Ashley Cole to run up and stick his leg in the way, deflecting potentially a goal onto the crossbar, Paul Robinson with little chance.
Playing the 4-1-4-1 left Wayne Rooney so isolated it was equally as frustrating to see him amongst four defenders as it must have been for him. A number of passes he couldn't make in time, other times he had the ball and on the turn was content for a tackle to come in and the ball go off for a throw or corner. Other than to speak of Tenorio's chance, England held good possession and having Michael Carrick encouraged more passing forward and movement in the Ecuadorian half. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard had gotten forward but not enough to support Rooney.
The second half brought Rooney to life, and the more he came onto the ball the more productive he became, and it gave some vigour back into our play. Beckham had taken a freekick earlier in the first half and missed the near post by some inches. So when the opportunity arose again, via a foul on Lampard, England lined up. You could see Gerrard at the back of the pack, arms in the air gesturing to Beckham, and it was as if Cristian Mora spotted this and expected Beckham to bend it over to Gerrard. Instead Beckham went for goal and curled it towards the near post, with Mora spotting the change a fraction too late and diving to his right, only getting a palm to the ball before it bounced in.
It is questionable whether Beckham was right in not mentioning ill-feelings within himself, he could have collapsed out there in the heat. This may explain the corners that did not make it past the first man, though he was there in presence when England went forward.
Lampard went close with a left-foot low shot after Gerrard set him up across the penalty box and then he picked up on a lapsidaisal pass across the back by captain Ivan Hurtado and ran at the only nearest defender Giovanny Espinoza, with Rooney free to his right but the pass came a fraction late and caught out Rooney, Hurtado recovering to clear. Clearly Rooney was building up his determination, running for a high ball that appeared to head for the touchline but as Hurtado gave up on it, Rooney didn't and controlled it before it went off. Touching it once and then poking it through Hurtado's legs, Rooney went on to gather the ball and cut it back finely for the advancing Lampard, who unbelievably skied the ball from some 10 yards.
It was as if it was not to be for Lampard, adding to his chances in the first half but in this mood that ball must go in much sooner than later. We lack the killer instinct, Rooney must be that instinct when he drops off in a 4-4-2. A reminder that we were not to get relaxed at all came through Ulises de la Cruz gaining the ball on the England right and then passing to Luis Valencia, who aimed a drive at Robinson's near post, the Spurs keeper touching away for a corner.
The formation bode well for this game but I wouldn't employ it against the Portuguese. I hope for Gary Neville back though I felt Owen Hargreaves was again a better player since Sweden. Michael Carrick did little wrong holding but it was meant to encourage a rampant surging from Gerrard and Lampard, which was hampered by passes that were just not accurate enough. Other than the header that put through Tenorio, Terry was good and so was Rio Ferdinand, no re-occurrence of injury there. Terry's booking was for nothing, and while I'm for sticking to the rules but the bookings of Robinson and Jamie Carragher for time wasting were unnecessary, Carragher's came five minutes after coming on! Ludicrous. Couldn't the referee whistle and indicate for them to hurry up?
So onwards and upwards, it's a return to the Euro2004 quarter-final with Portugal. This time it must be personal.