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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weekend British Internationals

Disappointing is one word to describe the Macedonia match. Frustrated is another, surprising is a third. Disappointing that we didn't press the Macedonians as we should have done. Frustrated that we missed the good chances we made. Surprising that after some 20-25minutes, we allowed Macedonai to play and play well they did. We gave the ball away too often and when we emerged intot heir third of the pitch our application just went down. Peter Crouch went close with a header then Gary Neville followed, Crouch hit the ball down for another that the keeper touched over the bar. Shaun Wright-Phillips made an impact as a sub and made it for Steven Gerrard's shot off the crossbar.

Crouch put Wayne Rooney through but his effort was blocked. And at the back Ledley King had a testing time in the second half more than the first, while Ashley Cole was on hand to clear from our most serious of dangers. Those who feigned their injuries on the pitch should have been booked for timewasting. And the punk who shoved Crouch because he didn't kick the ball off when one of theirs was lying on the ground should have been booked. But this is just the trail of frustration from not applying our ability enough on their goal. Now we have a testing time in Zagreb and if we pertain to play with the same energy, we will get nothing. It is time to inject some life,s ome flair into the team. Gerrard is suspended, Stewart Downing is not producing, but I suspect he will start on the left again, Wright-Phillips on the right, Michael Carrick holding. It is a young midfield to rely on, I hope they can be as defensive as they are attack-minded.

Waiting for the England game to begin meant I was able to view the Wales v Slovakia matchand what a let-down. I felt Wales would give the visitors a hard time, but they capitulated. Slovakia made five superb goals, two from FC Nuremburg's Marek Mintal and one of which he collected then coolly slotted with precision over Paul Jones while the keeper made a dash to return to goal. Southampton's Gareth Bale curled in another sweet left foot freekick as consolation but the defence had such a lack of cohesion that their mistakes opened for Slovakia to score. They next face a Cyprus side who polished off the Republic of Ireland 5-2, even though Ireland came back twice to level. As Mintal was impressive for Slovakia, so was Michalis Constantinou of Olympiakos, who also netted a brace. Richard Dunne was brave to head Ireland back to 2-2 but in the second half it fell drastically apart with Dunne's dismissal ensuing a bad night for Eire.

While Northern Ireland earned a creditable no-score draw in Copenhagen, Scotland clearly had the result of the night for British teams. France's William Gallas was quoted:

"These days our group opponents are quaking in their boots when they look at our line-up, especially when you look at the spine of Henry, Vieira, Makelele and Thuram and then see Gallas, Ribery, Abidal and Sagnol. People are scared of France again. We got our status back at the World Cup when new players came through and showed their worth.

"Teams inspire fear in their opponents when there are big names in the team. We saw that when Zidane, Thuram and Makelele came back before the World Cup. As soon as they returned, the way opponents treated us changed. That psychological dimension is important.

"Notoriety is something you gain at a club but it's particularly reinforced through the results you get in all the major international competitions, World Cups and European Championships."

What ensued was another example of underestimation and talking too soon too much, which resulted in a shock 1-0 win for Scotland, a superb result considering. How the French media are taking it is one question, but for Scotland that's now three wins out of three.



Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman for your review!

I watched some of the England match, some of the Wales match and some of the Scotland match- the latter two of which were exciting and absorbing.

These are two adjectives I could not apply to watching England. I must say that for some time I have struggled to maintain my enthusiam for watching football when England pay qualification matches or friendlies because their style of football is so predictable and lacking in genuine flair.

It is increasingly clear that there is no chemistry between Lampard and Gerrard... and a Crouch/Rooney partnership does not strike me as a world-beating combo. Downing is not of international standard and I feel the same about Carrick.

If I was McClaren (and everyone was fit) I would be looking to play a midfield four of Joe Cole/Gerrard/Parker/Lennon with Rooney and Johnson up front. These six have character, balance, creativity and pace. It will also have Gerrard playing in what I presume to be his best position of attacking CM.

I wouldn't play Lampard because I don't feel there is room for both him and Gerrard in the same team- and I have Gerrard as marginally ahead of the Chelsea midfielder.

10/09/2006 9:27 pm

Blogger T said...

By the way, kudos to you Redsman for predicting an upset for France in the comments section of the Andrew Johnson post.... inspired stuff!

10/09/2006 9:44 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks T. It was wishful thinking after Gallas' comments, which I felt were very cocky in consideration of their opponents. I would like to see Scotland qualify, all the British sides, but if Wales play with the defensive qualities of Saturday then they won't make it. I concur with T on England's style of play. Overall it can become monotonous with slow build-up, plenty of passing but little emerging forward. The quality overall has been in need of some flair, though chances were made. We are of the quality to make the likes of Macedonia pay when given the chance.

I also have a feeling that Rooney and Johnson could give more of an edge to the forward line yet I sense they are two of the same ilk. Pace, determination, sharp eye for goal, like to drop to receive and hold, and like to drift around for the pass instead of deadpan central. Crouch gives one dimension of opportunity, Rooney/Johnson another. I'd stick with Crouch and Rooney.

While we may defend well enough to deny the Croats, we may settle into a similar tone and fail to score. I think T has otherwise summed up the England squad. Gerrard, Lampard, and one other than Downing, with Parker as Carrick wasn't as influential as I expected. If all were fit then we could speak for ages. Wait and see tomorrow.


10/10/2006 9:26 pm


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