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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friendly at Wembley: England 1 Germany 2

With Steven Gerrard, Darren Bent, Andy Johnson, Owen Hargreaves, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole unavailable England fielded a side that still contained practically eight players who should be chosen to feature against Israel in the qualifier in a fortnight's time. Paul Robinson, Micah Richards, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, David Beckham, Michael Owen. Why is this the case? Why are these eight guaranteed selection come September 8th? Terry is the national captain and if fit will feature, but the others have to justify their selection. Is that justification made easier because we have no one else for their positions? Does anyone think Campbell and David James are too old to be playing for England?

England featured Nicky Shorey for Cole, Michael Carrick for Hargreaves, Alan Smith alongside Michael Owen. The Germans were missing Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose, Lucas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Torsten Frings, Tim Borowski, Oliver Neuville, and in came debutant Christian Pander at left-back, former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, Piotr Trochowski and Kevin Kuranyi with Bernd Schneider as vice-captain in the starting XI. Much was made of Jens Lehmann in goal following two blunders in Arsenal's opening league games but the keeper was unfazed with the press and relished turning out at the new Wembley.

England got off to a good start in the opening twenty minutes. I felt we were sturdy at the back with the lone man in Kuranyi, I earmarked Daniel Odonkor as a potential danger with his pace and position supporting Kuranyi but Odonkor saw little of the ball, so too did Kuranyi in those 20mins. england kept possession well and passed around quicker and sharper, players were moving into spaces in anticipation a lot more than before. Micah Richards had a superb time thwarting Man Utd at the weekend and took on the flanks like a winger, always taking on Pander who struggled to keep up with him. Richards went on a little run to tuck the ball to Lampard, who turned and shot a fierce drive past Lehmann. Alan Shearer said at half time that Lehmann should have done better at his near post, but it was a fierce drive.

Now Lampard was stated as being "[b]ooed on his last appearance at Wembley against Brazil" and "he had a point to prove - and he certainly did just that with his early goal.
If he had got on the end of [Shaun] Wright-Phillips' cross to equalise late on, then he would have been England's hero. Even so, he still vindicated his continued selection." I felt Lampard was OK but could have contributed much more, He was on hand to dispossess on occasion and joined up in the nuild-up towards the Germany goal. Scoring a goal doesn't vindicate anyone on its own. England were quite comfortable with Germany offering little in return until a blunder from Robinson suddenly gifted the opposition with confidence.

Past the half-way point of the half, Hitzlsperger came forward and shot at Robinson to which the Spurs keeper got down well to stop but the ball was loose for Nicky Shorey to gather and clear. The clearance fell straight to Schneider on the right wing, who touched it forward, keeping it from going off for a throw, and then delivered a cross. Robinson had at this time anticipated a curling ball to the penalty spot and was off his line. The cross instead directed towards the goal and Robinson had a split-second to react, stepping back hurriedly and diving to tip the ball away from goal. The ball fell directly to Kuranyi and before either Terry or Ferdinand could even react, the Schalke 04 forward had tucked the ball away into an unguarded net.

What could Robinson have done otherwise? He could have positioned himself better, he could have palmed the ball back in the same direction it came from, but in palming the ball to Kuranyi it showed he did not look or have an idea of Kuranyi's presence. England could have equalised when a Beckham free-kick was just missed at the far post after Smith flicked it on. Lampard was found on the left and as he took two extra touches he was closed down and Lehmann saved comfortably. From then the Germans played with more poise and came forward more often. Christoph Metzelder's header from a Pander curling left-foot free-kick would have been dismissed due to a flag but Robinson came out and completely missed the ball in the process.

We lost some of the panache we had in the first 20mins and Germany took the lead as Pander shrugged off his Richards endurance to smack a left foot strike from 20-25 yards past Robinson. No one closed him down. Owen should have scored when Smith again flicked on the ball and Lehmann could only parry the ball into Owen's path. Owen was inches away from an open goal and from an angle he has scored from before, he hooked the ball high over the bar. The second half had England coming forward but they failed to have the sharpness they had in the first half first 20mins. James and Wes Brown came on for Robinson and Ferdinand for the second half, Gareth Barry came on for Carrick mid-way, Peter Crouch and Kieron Dyer came on for Smith and Owen and lastly Wright-Phillips took over from Cole on the left wing.

James was due to replace Robinson at half-time, apparently, and Ferdinand was off with a slight injury, which moved Richards to centre-back and brown to right-back. Lampard went close getting on the end of a SWP cross but the ball came off his toe away from goal. Dyer was found on the right but couldnt tee up his shot after Beckham played him through. England should have pushed on more after Lampard's goal and despite Robinson's error should have restarted their drive again to put pressure back on the Germans, but instead the error had gotten to them and that allowed Germany back into the game. MOTM was Richards, looking better and better for club and country.

As for Steve McLaren, I see him as a scapegoat. The players yesterday showed they can play well but then waned and lost sharpness overall. The names of Joleon Lescott, Dean Ashton, Stephen Taylor, pass around but it's more to do with their mentality on the pitch, I don't think it is strong enough to endure for 90mins. McLaren has as much to do with that as the players do but he seems to get most of the criticism. The thing is if he was to poll the nation for who should play where, he would still dissatisfy many. Within the next fortnight the squad need to pray for two things: they have a full fit squad and they all want to eat, drink, sleep football. Otherwise they will not have the appetite to qualify for Euro2008, much less issue that first win in new Wembley.



Anonymous blue noes said...

I agree, it would always be difficult if not impossible to satisfy everybody when selecting the team. But hey, time and time again I see the players, the teams etc. We have enough in strength and depth, injuries and all, to take a game to anybody. Look at Ireland, one coud argue that they don't; my point being the manager is absolutely hopeless, the sooner he goes the better. I am sick of people making excuses for him, he comes across as being inarticulate, even thick. His presentation leaves a lot to the imagination too; take one look at that hair style, you think someone would have said something. He is a fucking embarassment, all he needs is the sheepy!! You'd think he should be presenting the big dig or something. Having said that, they deserve far more credance that have hime assosciated with them..

He got a couple of results when he took over simply because he stuck to an established team. The minute he started to make changes, what happened. Seriously, you can never trust a manager who always tries spin when results don't go our way and boy does he try to do that. We need a manager, who is tough,inspiring, honest and technically capable. I think McClaren has none of these attributes. Ok you can blame the players but that argument doesn't stand up: look at reading,bolton, everton; teams with very good managers and little money.Yet McClaren has the choice of the whole country for nothing. He couldn't pick, well lets leave it at that. I just wish England FA would start to show that they havce balls and sort this out sooner rather than later.

Please note that this ain't my cv, but I really would take up a challenge to pick a better team than him, one for one, giving him first pick; he is nothing other than a gobshite who must go!!

8/23/2007 1:20 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

The feeling is that McLaren should inject flair, speed and ingenuity into the squad and is probably hanging on to pass and present names and reputations. He makes judgements on one's domestic performance and rightly so, so do we as fans. But names like Lescott, Ashton, Noble, Taylor are in the pipeline and I saw some great movements from the U21s' against Romania in Walcott, Derbyshire and Agbonlahor. The youth may bring that speed and keenness. The likes of Johnson, Bent, Defoe have pace, they can score well but they are one way or another not used.

Owen is spoken of as if we cannot do wtihout him. Excuses made for his miss yesterday but he came through a friendly before appearing against Villa in the last 27mins. I think he should have scored, no excuses. I also think the mentality is lacking in endurance and with names coming up to compete for places, this should frighten the seniors into ensuring they play properly for their places.

McLaren showed he would slign the axe in Beckham, onlything was he had no one adequately to cover for him. He shouldn't be afraid to axe again or change players or system. Someway, McLaren needs to develop their mentality and in turn their sharpness by bringing more eagerness, more flair, more pace.


8/23/2007 1:30 pm

Anonymous blue noes said...

Nice one Redsman, I agree, but I truly believe that he just hasn't got the ingenuity. There are so many players.. even with the players last night, they came out fighting until mid-way through the first half. There was even a bit of misfortune (a somewhat common occurrence) but they just lacked that resolve, that something that needs to come from the manager.

They just didn't know what to do next.. and with the right manager that would have been different.

I appreciate it was a friendly and accept that the likes of Hargreaves et al were missing, but given the scope of players you have got to question him even selecting players that will be surplus to requirements come next year..

I know this sounds like a witch hunt but I will stick my neck out to say that if he continues in post then we will be going no where.

Also, I found the amount of times passes went behind the player, or fell short, particularly worrying. If this is the accepted standard then we are in trouble. On one occassion Stovey, running out of ideas hoofed the ball into the sky in hope that it would end up in our possession for which I can say that it brought back those comedy moments playing in the Sunday League on the Wirral and even at that standard I don't recall witnessing passes being played behind a forward running player.

On a positive note I thought Richards and Cole where an absolute pleasure to watch..

As for Owen, as much as I'm not a fan, I always think that when he finds form he scores; unlike Smith he got himself in the right position on more than one occasion Although he failed to score I'll take that as a positive.

As for Crouch, I find it particularly disconcerting that a man of such stature runs around like a nelly, what Abbey sees in him is beyond me.

Bearing in mind it was a friendly I would have played Defoe, and left the keeper in. Nothing was gained by playing James..

Also what's happened to Lennon or the the arsenal youngster.

8/23/2007 5:36 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I think Defoe gets a raw deal. No Berbatov allowed Spurs to use Bent and Defoe, Keane on right midfield, to at least give Defoe a run. With Rooney out and Crouch not in first team action, Defoe should have come on yesterday. I would have put him ahead of Smith, however Smith was used as the link man who would go up for headers to Owen.

Crouch is an option for September why he played, I think, and we should have used his height advantage in the box than from high balls outside it. Dyer is sharper on the wings, even he could have come on with SWP to replace Joe Cole and Beckham. For his reputation, Beckham seriously waned in the second half or last 30mins.

Though the German side was second string, they didnt push our defence to the test other than in the last 20mins. How easy is it to get across that we must score, not necessarily the forwards but all of them other than the goalkeeper. I would rupture blood vessels to get on the end of a ball in front of goal, certainly would relish smacking that ball to sting the keeper, if not score.

I want players bustling past the opposition and cracking shot after shot on goal, and that's ON goal not wide or over. We are of the quality to get efforts on target, otherwise it is failure and poor. Potentially there is some hard work to be done on some legs that may not relish it, but that's tough.

I can imagine some non-league players who would love to get their hands on the international stage, wouldnt think much of a Kaka or Gattuso beside them, would just get on with the battle. Can collect autographs later.


8/23/2007 7:23 pm


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