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.