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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

England v Sweden - review

As has been the case with the previous two games, England had done that which was expected - they have qualified for the 2nd round. The next expectation is they should beat Ecuador but again we have pundits and presenters who will say Ecuador can be beaten and so we should bear in mind the quarter-finals. Terry Venables said not to underestimate the Ecuadorians, and quite rightly too. Ecuador rested five players for the match with Germany and it made a difference as Ecuador forgot to defend in numbers and man-mark but that's immaterial.

The Ecuador of yesterday won't be the same come Sunday 4pm in Stuttgart. Captain Ivan Hurtado, defender Neicer Reasco, midfielder Segundo Castillo, and forwards Augustin Delgado and Carlos Tenorio will return. I said we will be tested by Sweden, we were and we should analyse ourselves and Ecuador for we were exposed. Set-pieces enormously but it was a big contrast of the two halves that featured significantly. England had a neat structure, Steven Gerrard on the bench allowed Owen Hargreaves to hold back, Frank Lampard going forward. The passing was neat, chances were being created well, they only lacked that 'killing instinct', that execution, putting the ball on target, but nonetheless we were the better in the first 45mins.

Michael Owen has had a personal turmoil of a World Cup performance. He has not been as sharp as before, he has been in good positions but could not make the most of them, and yesterday he suffered a tweak of the right knee that looked very serious. I fear a torn ligament. He was passed to on the right and went to pass onto another, and having done so his left foot did not move accordingly to help his balance therefore he was overstretched with his right foot and caused an awkward stance. Immediately Owen went into a freefall to cushion the tweak and not have so much weight on his right knee, and then rolled onto his knees afterwards to crawl over the touchline for immediate treatment. Under some discomfort, Owen was assessed and taken away on a stretcher, replaced by Peter Crouch.

We have four days until the Ecuador match and if we win that, the quarter-finals is July 1st, ten days from now. I hope Owen's reaction was just cautionary, that it is a twisted knee and develops slight swelling that will go down within 3-4 days, therefore Owen would be out of Sunday's game but he would have 6 days training to be fit hopefully for the quarter-finals. I sincerely hope.

Seeing a major player go down like that would have affected the players so for awhile our play was one during shock but it was not for long. Joe Cole and Frank Lampard laid assault on the Swedish goal, Wayne Rooney was busy getting himself about, David Beckham delivered superb crosses. Sweden almost gained the advantage from a corner with Teddy Lucic creeping behind the play unmarked and his shot was blocked by Lampard. We should have heeded that moment. On 34mins, a Beckham cross was headed back by Crouch but out and away by Niclas Alexandersson, Joe Cole picked it up some 35 yards out with chest control and then volleyed across the ball to send it high and spinning towards goal, looking ambitious. But the ball took its dip and although keeper Andreas Isaksson got a hand to it, it was too late to stop England taking the lead. It was a superb effort and big contender for Goal Of The Tournament.

As the first half ended, I was expecting more of the same from England, for we could only go further and increase the lead, keeping Sweden pegged back, reducing their chances to virtually two through Lucic and a great tackle by Rio Ferdinand to stop Freddie Ljungberg in the box, Ljungberg still playing his theatrical 'that's a penalty!' stumbles. Yet six minutes into the second half spelt for an uncomfortable 45mins. Sweden came back at England, which should not have been allowed, with Ljungberg down their left causing problems to Jamie Carragher, cutting inside and shooting for John Terry to head away for a corner. Tobias Linderoth delivered and Marcus Allback jumped unimpeded at near post and glanced a header over all, including Ashley Cole on the far post for the equaliser, the 2000th goal in World Cup history. Beckham was the nearest but Allback had moved at the last moment in front of him. Panic had settled in.

Sweden began to up their tempo and England had gone down in theirs. The Swedes sensed we were not alert and poured forward, gaining again another corner. Beckham took the position behind Henrik Larsson with Carragher behind Beckham but as the corner swung over, Carragher bumped slightly into Beckham as Larsson glanced his header that came off Carragher's arm on it's way to Paul Robinson, who instinctively parried it away from goal. Would have been harsh to give a penalty when the ball was moving too fast to register. Ferdinand went off for Sol Campbell, probably due to a little twinge that should be OK come Sunday, but defensively there was no improvement. Another corner, this time it went far post, Lucic headed it back and captain Olof Mellberg of Aston Villa hit a half volley off the cross bar. We were leading a charmed life.

We were being exposed from the type of corners the EPL endure countless of times yet we found it very difficult to defend them. Gerrard came on for Rooney on 69mins, much to Rooney's frustration on the bench, chucking down boots and ripping off tie-ups, mostly, if not solely, due to not having more of an influence on the game when we needed it. The defensive frailties continued. A long ball from defence went over all to Larsson and he was onside, to be denied by a timed intervention. The resulting corner came across and was headed out, yet Kim Kallstrom struck a low shot that went past all with Robinson beaten, but for Gerrard's positioning on the post that allowed him to kick the ball out.

After eventually riding the storm, we began to hold possession, thus cutting Sweden's attacking impetus and we gained from it. Beginning to thread passes to control the play, Crouch collected to return to Joe Cole, Cole moved towards the right looking to release someone, the eyes on the play allowed Gerrard to jog behind the defence. Cole looks up and then chips a sweet ball over to Gerrard and the Liverpool captain headed over Isaksson for the lead. That was 86mins and I still did not feel comfortable about it, I know Sweden never give up and if we were to sit back and ride the storm again, we could be found susceptible. We had defended leads before, recently the 1-0 against Argentina in 2002, but this was different. The Swedes were determined with Paraguay. I was right.

Under attack, Carragher headed out for a throw. Erik Edman went to take it and the moment he did, you could see Beckham on the edge of the box focusing on Edman. Carragher and Lampard were to the right of Beckham, almost by the near post. Campbell and Terry were marking, Hargreaves by the penalty spot, Ashley Cole near far post. As the ball came high and into the box, Lampard remained stationary, not marking, Carragher was catching a breather with hands on knees. The ball was challenged by Kallstrom and Terry with Terry looking the winner but he missed. The ball then bounced over Campbell, who turned to aim a foot at it and missed and at that point Mellberg and Larsson came to make contact, the ball directed off Larsson's studs, away from Robinson's dive. Cole moved to defend on the line but was positioned acutely behind Robinson, the ball bouncing past him to the inside of the far netting.

For the first time since May 1968 we were close to beating Sweden. Yet again we have thrown it away, literally. The onus is fine as we won the group, avoiding Germany who seem in good conquering form but I do not fear the Germans. If we are to be world beaters we face up to whoever we meet, otherwise there is little point in playing. You cannot make claims if you fear stepping up and proving them. We are good, good enough, but twice now we have had second halves in negative contrast to our first. Once the job is done, it is fine but the job is not done during the second 45mins, one cannot foresee England prospering until the final whistle. The point is we keep the opposition busy thus preventing them possession and time to create, we put the fear into them. If we don't get a grip on the play and dispossess quickly, we continue to run the risk of being caught out while back-pedalling.

We need the 'killer instinct', more accuracy on goal. Practice it, think it, do it, but we need it. The chances we create, we should be ahead by three goals before the opposition can know it. We have to try harder, making the effort to be in position is not enough, focus on keeping the ball accurate is key. We cannot afford to squander chances. If we are accustomed to sitting back then we should do so as a backdrop when we are ahead by two or three goals, IF need be. Sven-Goran Eriksson now should play the 4-4-2, Gerrard and Lampard deciding between themselves to does what. They both should interchange, and for me Gerrard is key when England break forward, more so than Lampard. Joe Cole is on great form, Beckham is standard despite not being so good in last night's second half. Rooney was frustrated and can take it out on the Ecuadorians.

I don't think Ecuador can expose us at set-pieces, more so from quick movements into the box like throw-ins as they did against Poland and Costa Rica. We keep them out and break them up on the counter, we can hit them quick. Keeping Crouch deep upfront means Rooney will drop off, therefore high balls for Crouch to nod on will not work. Crouch will need to hold up and pass quickly and then move into the box for a cross. Ecuador will look for us to use Crouch at all times, therefore a contingency should be our movement off the ball, making good use of our set-pieces, our height and heading ability, and our shooting as Cristian Mora is not that good a keeper while we have in Gerrard, Beckham, Joe Cole and Lampard four good shooters.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says...excellent analysis Redsman. Deep down we all knew what faults this team has, but we also knew that Sven is NOT a tactician ( it also shows us that Mclaren is the same).

As I saw it we were guilty of mundane actions throughout the match. We also suffered from very good players suffering big match nerves. Never has Terry, Carragher, Lampard, Robinson, & Bekham played so naively. We were only saved the humiliation of defeat by the skill of the two Coles, and the presence of Rooney, which meant that in certain areas, the swedes had to have more players back that they really needed.

My real doubts about Sven's squad were proved sadly correct...again. Because he took too many crocks, he has had to use up all his subs replacing very important areas, and by taking two too many midfielders, we are lightweight in attack. My own feeling is that if when Owen went off he had moved Cole to partner Rooney, and bought on Walcott, the swedes would have had pace to cope with. As it was he used Crouch, this meant that the ball from defence kept coming straight back, so creating a false sense of Swedish preasure. And what team would not have looked good against a defence that did not mark anyone outside the six yard box ??

I dread a tense boring 0-0 against Equador, and unless Sven shows some guts AND REALLY GOES FOR IT, we could be home soon.

My team would be:-


Carragher Campbell Terry Cole

Beckham Carrick Lampard Cole



More balance and steel. I would also replace Beckam after 60 mins for Lennon, and Rooney, if tired with Walcott.

Crouch would only be on if we need to change the mode of attack.

Now we that wait again.

6/21/2006 11:04 am

Blogger T said...

Excellent commentary Redsman, and spot-on points GunnerPete.

I agree entirely with GunnerPete talking about how naive and nervy our supposed big name players looked in the second half. They should have been focused and up for the battle in the second half but instead looked powerless to concede the initiative to Sweden. For me this is symptomatic of a fragile collective belief which I believe stems from the way they are struggling to play good, passing football.

To be frank, it was another disappointing performance lacking any sense that the England players are comfortable playing football together. I relate to seeing Arsenal going to the Bernabeu earlier this season and recognising almost immediately that every player looked fully comfortable of his assigned position and in the way they were to link up as a team both defensively and offensively. When I watch England I don't sense this level of team cohesion and individual confidence. And the responsibilty for this must be Eriksson's. For me, if the player's really believe in him and his methods I'm sure they would be playing better as a collective unit.

Like you GunnerPete I would play a 4-5-1 and stick with this as the plan A formation for the rest of the tournament. Rooney would be my front-man and I would allow Gerrard and Lampard full license to attack safe in the knowledge that Hargreaves - England's version of Makalele/Gilberto - will anchor the midfield.

For me, the problem with Crouch is that his height means that England too often fall for the temptation of hitting the low percentage high balls to him. Further, when England play the ball to feet to him he is not mobile enough to attack a defence with pace and skill. So, to be frank again, I would continue to leave him on the sub's bench despite Owen's horrendous injury.

All this being said, I would still expect to see England beat Ecuador... if we don't the uproar in England would reach new levels!

6/21/2006 2:22 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks GunnerPete. I don't know why it is but our resolve come the second half is a different thing when not under pressure, or we presume we're not. So far, against Paraguay we had the heat in the second half so we had not acclimatised yet while enjoying a 1-0 lead. We were the first to experience the 2pm weather and it can be argued the following 2pm kick-offs were not as hot as that we endured.

Against Trinidad & Tobago we couldnt break down their 10-man defence until we introduce Lennon on the wing that moved Beckham into an ad-hoc full-back and Gerrard emerged at last further forward. In that game we had not let up our tempo but it seemed with the substitutions we opened up their barrier.

Last night, it was said we felt we were in a winning position at half time, which in truth we were but only by the scoreline. How we decided to sit and let the Swedes come at us is bewildering but they were chasing as they have done in their previous games, so we should have learnt from that.

Someone has said Linderoth should be applauded for his delivery for Allback's header, for if it was Beckham the English would be hailing the corner as one 'that couldn't be defended against'. The point there is we did not defend that near post properly and we have done before. Kaka did the same header against Australia and it came off the crossbar. Allback went for it and it came off more so than being a smart set-piece delivery from practice.

Yet the corner from which Lucic had an effort blocked showed that through luck Lampard was there to block but also showed we were gazing and had not focused on everyone in the box. That for an England side of such quality is ludicrous. I wonder if a main point for training on is their fitness, mentally and physically.


6/21/2006 2:37 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I'm not sure Rooney is happy as the lone striker for it forbids him from dropping back and attacking on the run, I cant see Eriksson doing this why Crouch is employed with Rooney. But I feel that if Crouch has not scored with 0-0 and 60-65mins, bring on Walcott, for pace and let him drift with rooney dropping off and threading him through. Rooney wants to give this World Cup a boost England-style so I cant foresee him coming off. He's had a taste and I hope he can rumble the Ecuadorian defence.


6/21/2006 2:41 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

I like all the analysis guys (& gals if pseudonyms are in use!)! I would assume that Sven is now bored of taking risks...after taking Walcott (being 0.5 of 2.5 strikers taken to the World cup...(1 fit 2 unfit and 1 untried). Almost everybody assumed that Walcott would come on for Rooney...but oh no...throw on another player who has a yellow card (Gerrard)...luckily for turned out to be some kind of masterstroke to take the lead. doesn't help Walcott if he is needed in the second round! Poor Owen...worst injury luck...(apart from Cisse)!

Sorry...need to make it quick back soon!

6/21/2006 3:50 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Owen being out of the World Cup is not that much of a hindrance, but the side is down to three known forwards, one of whom has not played in the Premiership as yet. Is this enough to proceed through the World Cup? It is time for Rooney and Crouch to get a vibe going, an understanding without hesitation and let it flow against Ecuador. Perhaps then I will be confident of our chances. This situation now highlights the argument for an extra striker and less of a midfielder, Jenas staying at home and one striker joining up, and Sven had knowledge of Rooney and Owen prior to leaving for Germany.


6/21/2006 4:04 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

I think England will play better. Sweeden are a good side, so let's give them some credit.

6/22/2006 12:33 am

Blogger EL said...

Oh for goodness sake Skippy! Maybe in the context of ALL of football Sweeden are a 'good' side but then in that case so are Lincoln coz they'd sure whip Eastbourne town. In purely world cup terms Sweeden are decidedly average. Look at their team and who they play for then look at ours. So thus far Engerland have beaten two poor sides and drawn one average side. If Sven doesn't at some point realise that part of good defence is having someone on both sides who can go past fullbacks, therefore forcing central defenders over to cover and creating gaps in the middle, bending the opponents defence out of shape and by giving them something to worry about stopping our midfield from being dominated for large chunks of the game, then when we do play a good team we'll go out of the world cup looking like a bunch of 'steely' tough, workman-like, inflexible, creatively unambitious plebs. We're making it far too easy for teams to push up against us. For all his quirkyness and the odd goal Crouch isn't good enough and Lampard is off form. I'd go one up front (we all know who that is), Gerrard & Becks in the middle, J. Cole & Lennon either side and Hargreaves or Carrick in front of the usual back 4.
I don't know about you fellas but I'm finding this world cup unbelievably frustrating to watch as far as the England games go. I sometimes wonder what the player privately think of Sven. I know what I think.

Great job Redsman, here's to a vast improvement.


6/22/2006 10:25 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says...glutten for punishment that I must be, we watched the Highlights of the Sweden game again last night & blimey were we depressed after. Not because of the draw, but entirely because of the stupidity of our back five throughout.

I would suggest that anyone else with too much time and little sense watches just our defensive movements from free kicks to corners. It was appalling, and George Graham would have sacked the lot.

I will give Sweden credit for taking advantage of overrated & overpaid 'superstars', but they were no better than an average Preneirship team. But thats the word 'team'. Sven has blended a team of individuals into a team of strangers.

At every corner you will see three Swedes take up an @old Leeds United ploy' of surrounding the goalie. This means he begins to pannick, hence Robinsons poorest display yet.. His panic was reflected in Terry, Carragher, Beckham & Lampard. Terry made more simple errors in one match than he has all year at Chelski. Lampard looked lost, and Beckham made no contribution to attack or defence, without messing up. For some unknown reason Carragher suddenly tried some long passing none of which cam off, and gave away some realy stupid fouls near our box.

Now if you were a swede who plays in the UK, you would have thought Christmas was here early, from all thos gifts, but in the end their quality or lack of it meant they had to rely on an unmarked near post header froma very ordinary player & a fluke, caused by our bunch of ball watchers forgetting basic defending laws.

I am not a Ferdinand fans but when he left the field, Im afraid Terry was exposed as a very good centre back, but lacking in a lot of technique. His misstiming of the long hopeful ball that lead to their equaliser was 'Sunday Park stuff'. Finally, when the pressure was building we had the incredible sight of ALL our team back in our box,but marking no one ?? and when the ball was eventually cleared, who was waiting to break away at top speed......NO ONE....that is not worth the £4 million our FA continues to pay Sven. I read somewhere the Swedish FA stated that Sven was 80% overpaid. I think that is generous.

6/22/2006 10:38 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

El, is that an improvement on my articles or on England?? If the former, thanks, I'll continue to strive to give as accurate an account of what I've seen, especially if it is live. If the latter, it is words best to be heeded indeed. England need improvement and while I did feel we wouldn't lose, I just hoped we would be composed enough to win without conceding. The occurrence of being in charge and then throwing away the potential to win has been quite common. I reiterate the appearances in the World Cup against Argentina (OK, rectified in 2002, somewhat), against Germany, against Portugal in Euro2004.

Nothing to add to GunnerPete. Why had we settled well in the first half and then sat back in the second, looking as if we lost sense of our abilities, our duties? We invited the Swedes onto us, as if we have a hereditary trait or curse that occurs when we sit back. Countless of times the likes of Campbell, Carragher, Terry have come to defend balls into the box, whether they be throw-ins or corners or crosses and dealt with them without fuss. To think we have an excellent header of the ball in Terry at set-pieces but we have not fought to utilise it enough, win free-kicks near the goal (legally) and deliver that ball, we have a number of players who can deliver the ball into the box but it's standard for Beckham to do it every time. Ferdinand likes to head, Campbell if he is on, we have many outlets of ability to score and England do not use them enough. Lampard should be the top scorer with his shots.

If Gary Neville is not fit for Sunday, and I hope he is, Carragher has to be urged and focused on coming forward to cross, just like Neville, we miss those runs. Neville coming forward gives Beckham the room to move about instead of having to take lead all the time on the right for crosses. Gerrard is a six footer, get on the end of those crosses. I said before, Koller's goal against the USA was textbook for Crouch. I tell you something, I would pore over the games on tape and analyse them in front of the players. You could forget about the wives coming too, wouldn't have that happening, too much a distraction. And labelling them 'overpaid' superstars is somewhere on its way to being correct.

England is about grit, work rate and never finish until the job is done, not about job not done but there's always tomorrow. We got through a relatively simple group. The hardest group was Group C and the Argentinians are looking like world champions. A number of players rested, the team still pushed Holland to the core and Holland did very well to push back. But when you have a good side in Argentina and good players who can come off the bench and instantly replace, THERE is stability. Right now, as we look on the niggling point of not carrying another striker of experience and taken too many midfielders, we look to how we can structure ourselves properly. Rooney will play behind Crouch, the midfield four remains, so does the back four. Like this, it is improbable to consider Carrick will get to play. Where Crouch cannot deliver in 60-65mins, as long as Rooney is OK and doing well, then bring on Walcott. Maybe Crouch could be a target man with Walcott up with the defence. Maybe. Maybe Carrick will come on with Crouch or Rooney off, urging Lampard and Gerrard to let rip.

But with the frustration that comes with the recent performances, I look on Sunday's game as a 2-0 or 3-0 win, I'm serious. For England. Week in, week out our players have played to great standards, and if they do that on Sunday we are looking serious. Ulises de la Cruz has a faint hint of what we are capable of, and for Ecuador to look at the Sweden game and say they have a decent or good chance of winning, kudos to them. I think we can prove otherwise.

I'm also fed up of ITV. I dislike their coverage with some venom. I like the panel of Venables, Allardyce, Pearce, didn't know Steve Rider moved from the BBC. Gabby Yorath made a gaff and talks as if she is imminent in getting out her points and makes wry humourous comments. But I think it's the constant breaks that annoy me the most. Broadcast begins, breaks, comes back for little chat, break, teams line up, national anthem, break, and it cuts the initial enthusiasm. I know the adverts pay a long way but it still bugs me.

I also tire of talk that features on England v Portugal, England v Germany, England v Argentina, when we jolly well have to beat Ecuador first and foremost, let's deal with that. Rafa says focus on the next game, not beyond that and THEN talk further once it is over. England now need to increase their tempo and play, this is now the knockout stage and making mistakes may not be rectified in the next game, for there could well not be one. That's ONE message SGE should get through to the squad now. It is about time, as T stated in his article we expect, and now it's time to deliver, to show we are truly class.


6/22/2006 12:02 pm

Blogger SKG said...

england will struggle against ecuador because i can see them lining up with 10 men behind the ball. i think england will have a lot of possession and will eventually score but don't expect an improved performance from what we've seen so far.

6/22/2006 6:53 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

It's a possibility though I take Ecuador to be more attack-minded than that unless they intend to play like that for 60minutes and then come at us.


6/22/2006 8:27 pm

Anonymous Striker said...

Hi Guys:
For a point of view from outside the island, concretely from Spain. The English team doesn´t convience.

Its seen as having great individual players, but can´t join into a team.

Gerrard & Lampard are world class players.

Having said all this, perhaps the team will go from bad to better, but it surprises me that where they are more vulnerable is in the "air" , traditionally were they are reknown to be strong.

6/23/2006 9:58 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Hi Striker.

Vulnerability is something I consider, when speaking on the England team, occurs where the overall mood in preparation for a game is hampered by too much relaxation. England goes through the usual necessary training steps because it's professional but the motivatin, the mental awareness, key factors, positioning, and the ability to bring out one's skill and talent at it's fullest is something lacking in the side. This is why I say I would forbid the wives and girlfriends coming over, I don't see that as necessary. Especially hearing of the expenditure of £55,000 in 60mins over fashion accessories. Also feel Sven's Nancy is the ringleader of the spending spouses.


6/23/2006 10:42 am

Blogger T said...

Striker, the perspective in Spain about England having great individual players who can't join into a team is really spot-on.

I really hope we see a more cohesive team in the knock-out stage, and I would like to think that playing the additional midfielder in a 4-5-1 will help this cause.... because with Crouch in the team I don't see much hope for a change in playing style.

6/23/2006 11:10 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

I have to add that Crouch gives a different style of appraco, no doubt, but I heard Roney being uncomfortable witha lone position. Right now, Rooney would play goalkeeper to get the chance to start so the prospect of 4-5-1 with Lampard and Gerrard attacking opens avenues. If the midfield and Rooney can attack as they do domestically, we are in for a good game, I think the Ecuadorians would then face something equal to the Germans and I would expect some desperate tackling to concede for our freekicks outside their box.


6/24/2006 2:56 pm


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