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Saturday, September 02, 2006

England v Andorra

Some five hours from now England will begin its Euro2008 qualification quest against Andorra at Old Trafford this evening, from a group E that includes Macedonia on Wednesday, Croatia, Israel, Russia, and Estonia.

From the outset Rio Ferdinand is unavailable due to a bruised digit on his foot, and that now paves the way for either Wes Brown, Matt Dawson or maybe even Phil Neville alongside John Terry, though my bet says Brown will be picked first. He is a good defender, has not had many games recently but he still maintains fitness and can slot in after absence with hardly any rustiness. The fact that Steve McClaren was formerly of Man Utd is not that significant, the difference between Brown and Dawson is slight when you consider Dawson's form last season but to choose I would go for Brown, probably because he has had more experience at senior level.

With Gary Neville also unavailable, the back four should be Luke Young, Terry (capt.), Brown, Ashley Cole, with the midfield as Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, Frank Lampard, probably Stewart Downing, Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch. I would prefer Andy Johnson or Darren Bent on current form but Defoe is commended for his mannerism and attitude in disappointment of eventually not joining the World Cup squad in June. Talk has mentioned of Cole being a better balanced player with the transfer saga over, and I hope that is so today.

As for Andorra, McClaren spoke of their suspicious underhand tactics of rough tackling and a tendency to wind up the opposition, a summary based on the Andorra games against Holland and Romanina in the World Cup qualifiers. The Dutch won 4-0 at home and had Philip Cocu sent off for elbowing an Andorran player. Romania won away 1-5. McClaren has called for the Austrian referee Bernhard Brugger to keep a stern watch on the Andorrans. Elsewhere talk has stated an expectancy of a goal feast, once again talking too soon and underestimating. We have the players, the capability, we have known this for years and on paper there are a few teams who could possibly beat us. Andorra is not one of those few teams but with a team as low-ranking as they are, goals is not the prime focus. Our playability is, as it was against Greece.

My main concern is Macedonia on Wednesday, 8pm kick-off at the Gradski Stadion in the captial Skopje. We have only played there the once in September 2003 during the Euro qualifers for 2004, winning 1-2 with goals from Georgi Hristov in the first half followed by Wayne Rooney and David Beckham replying in the second. Neither player will be available come Wednesday, Rooney is suspended and Beckham is said to have no chance of playing for England, while I say there is. The man has stepped down as captain but clearly has some more in him to play well and we will see when he turns out for Real.

As I say for today's game, we can win 1-0 as long as we do it in the style we have come to witness from our players domestically, continuing on from the Greece game. Sir Bobby Robson is recovering from an operation on a brain tumour, to which he appears to have had a slight adverse reaction that caused a swelling to the brain and resulting in a loss of feeling down his left side. Sir Bobby continues to be in good spirits nonetheless and EFT wish him a speedy successful recovery.



Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman...

I couldn't sit through the whole match yesterday such was the sheer inevitably of a completely one-side contest. Saw the first-half and liked the clinical nature of each of the goals scored in the first 45 mins by Crouch (again!), Gerrard (pure timing and power) and Defoe (class one-touch volley in the Crespo mould).

I didn't see the second half but I expect it was as one sided as the first with the Andorran's looking understandably to concentrate all their players and efforts in providing a rearguard action.

Now a more difficult test awaits in Macedonia on Wednesday... I would expect a professional win with the team now looking better balanced with Gerrard on the right and Hargreaves supporing Lampard in the centre...

Following on from Redsman, I too give my best wishes for a full and speedy recovery for Bobby Robson.

9/03/2006 11:02 am

Blogger T said...

Aside from England for a second, I must say that I was blown away when I saw the news that Tevez and Maschereno has permanently signed for West Ham. I was bemused as to what good fooballing reason there could be for the two hottest Argentinian talents moving to a mid-table Premiership club??

Since then I have checked out a few articles on the individuals behind the move (vis a vis their dealings with Corinthinans in Brazil) and to say that it all sounds quite shady is an understatement. Credible questions of individuals using football to clean multi-million dollars worth of 'dirty money' have been raised.

To then hear that these same individuals may be involved in a takeover of West Ham leads me feeling very uneasy. Suffice to say, if an offer is made to buy West Ham I hope both the football and financial authorities in this country fully investigate the individuals involved.

9/03/2006 11:16 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

A good match, victory assured and goals to boot. Nice for me to see Crouch and Gerrard on the scoresheet, just loved the way Gerrard chested then thumped the ball in. Any player in that position must apply the same force, no prisoners. Also good for Defoe to score well, longing for a goal to further his place, and unlucky we were not to add more to the tally.

However, the excellent progress in the squad is that of Owen Hargreaves. I was one of those who doubted Hargreaves at this level and it is clear Eriksson had some idea of his ability but none on where to apply it. Hargreaves managed to shine in the WC Ecuador and Portugal games, Eriksson's penultimate and final moments in charge, and he has not looked back since. Man Utd were suddenly in pursuit of his signature, and he was there once again dispossessing, a freekick and a fierce shot off the posts.

The Andorrans moaned at one point because their player was down and England continued playing. Toni Sivera deliberately brought down Kieron Richardson and then moaned at the Man Utd winger before being booked. Goals not being a priority, we know the level we are at when allowed the opportunities, which is something we should take to Skopje. Important to start hard and fast to develop that good flow of football.


9/03/2006 11:39 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

i also thought the defence were not tested but instead didnt dwindle at the back but came forward on occasion. I prefer Phil Neville instead of Luke Young in Gary's absence, while Richardson still has to maintain some focus in his play instead of dragging two players deliberately to look good in beating them. Has to pace to knock it and go and he went on to do that quite well.

It was said in commentary whether England would miss Beckham from the corners and set-pieces, deliveries into the box or across the pitch and it looked as if we did not yesterday. I'm still open to Beckham coming back subject to his playability with Real, but there has been a reduction in the coverage of England without Beckham's presence. Maybe the less Beckham is connected with the national squad, the more improved the media coverage on the team. I just felt there was an air of graces with Beckham and Eriksson in the limelight, which they constantly would be through either themselves or their partners.

Now with McClaren, it's a change, perhaps there is more or an aura of confidence from the players to their coach, particularly after 'Sheikhgate'. There are the firm heads of Ferdinand, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard, Neville, leading others like Hargreaves, Lennon, Downing, Crouch, Defoe, Johnson, Bent, Dawson, Brown.

And McClaren looks like someone who relates and mucks in on the same level as the players, different from Eriksson. There is a sense of something after five years of under-achievement in terms of a secure atmosphere. The jury may still be out onMcClaren but the change was in no doubt necessary.


9/03/2006 4:12 pm

Blogger EL said...

I believe the Andorra game indicated nothing of any significance whatsoever and I'm not entirely convinced that the next game will do any better.

Sorry not to contribute more but that's my oppinion. Looking forward to the time when England play a team which will prove a genuine obstacle let alone command a test.

9/05/2006 7:30 pm


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