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Sunday, June 27, 2010

England v Germany, World Cup 2010: A catastrophe

Good God. I have never seen such an abject performance from our players in a long time. Maybe in recall to the Euro2008 qualifier with Croatia at home, losing 2-3, comes close. But today they were unbelievably poor. We started to play when a goal down and that was emphasised by the second Germany goal. The belief was there for the first 10mins of the second half and then we just fell apart.

For a national side renowned for our defending, our resilience against pressure (our two games against Portugal in Euro2004 and WC2006 refers) even with 10-men, we were weakened. We didn't play as a unit overall, and individually we came up with nothing overall. It was a disaster. It was a catastrophe. No doubt the England team will either be subjected to ridicule from waiting fans or, to imitate the reception of the France team, hardly any fans will welcome them.

So much expectation, so much emphasis on a winning start, so much hype over Wayne Rooney, to no avail. From the first game with the USA, we were found to have sparked brightly but then lacked enough combustion to piston on at that level. The Americans came at us because we allowed them to, they got a fortuitous goal via Robert Green but they were leading to it anyway. The second half we started brightly again and just did the same, just lacked enough combustion to maintain the industry of our play.

We were worse in the Algeria game. Their players were not favoured to provide much for us, particularly when we were suppose to react after the USA game and aim to win to top the group. It was meant to happen like that, as if we had the game sewn up. The reality of that game was much in contrast. We laboured to provide anything of a show of good playability and came off the field a worse team to our opponents. Much was expected of us and was not reached, little was expected of Algeria and they achieved more.

We knew we needed a big response against the Slovenians, to qualify AND for reputation. We put the 'poo' into rep-poo-tation, we started mediocre and really laboured to get any form of delivery into the box, particularly from James Milner, looking anything but the player for Aston Villa. One cross later, one goal later, all was forgiven about Milner. He was touted for MOTM, even though the second half from him brought little else.

We won 1-0 when we should have won by a higher margin, Rooney and Defoe guilty of missing sitters. We started the second half well for 15mins and then either tiredness or slackness settled in, where we found ourselves battling to come at them and ended up wasting time to get through. The game should also be remembered for the emphasis on how we sat back. A block from Terry, then Johnson, and the third effort going wide.

People celebrating us winning, the cracks were papered over, we had qualified for the knockout-round, little else to focus on. I don't know what happened in training but I find it hard to believe Fabio Capello's words after the Algeria game, that the players' response in the matches was different from that in training. Surely if he saw a difference in the first two matches, he should have addressed it? Investigated it, analysed it? He's smart enough to do that. What we had to offer the Slovenians was something a little different, but just a little.

I felt we were similar to the Germans inthe competition, conceding one goal, holding firm in defensive, forming passes to get forward. Aside from the Germans' first game against a comatose Australia side, we could match up with them and then some, provided we improved a notch or two. However, we didn't. It was said we played our worst against Algeria. Today superseded that statement. And it was just incredible to have witnessed.

Both teams started hesitantly, seeing how the other team would start, and in that instance we started to build into a good performing side, asking questions and making statements in their third. But then defensively we began to fall apart. Gareth Barry was slow and hardly looked to come forward with the ball with authority, passing it as quickly as he received it. We were being pulled about because we allowed them to manoeuvre with the ball and off the ball, and that opened us up.

I've said before how Matthew Upson had been exposed by the high long ball for West Ham, I even named the striker who scored from such a moment. And lo and behold, it happened again. Manuel Neuer kicked the ball up field, John Terry had taken up position too far up so the ball went past him, Upson had taken position too far from Miroslav Klose, hardly any marking for such a ball. The ball bounced between Terry and Upson, Klose pounced onto it, Upson played catch-up when he can't because he has little pace, Klose had already gotten into position to chase the ball and simply fended off Upson to then poke it past David James.

Germany then attacked and opened up our defence afterwards because certain players just failed to hold them off and were beaten easily. This called for Glen Johnson to come across to cover, only on this occasion I think it was Mezut Ozil who decided to shoot, rather than play in the totally unmarked Lukas Podolski on our right.

Did we learn from that moment? No. Because it happened again, our defence was pulled apart, Johnson had to come across to cover. Germany DID learn from previous, though, as Podolski was found, ONCE again unmarked on our right, and even from a tight angle he managed to squeeze his shot through James' legs and inside the far post. One goal down was bad enough, but two made it a trek up a 60% gradient. Just unbelievable defending from four of our supposedly best defenders.

We gained a goal back, and a slight reprieve for Upson, when Steven Gerrard crossed in for Upson to head in. That one ball crossed over was about the only decent cross we had made throughout the game. Another was Milner's cross in the second half, which went straight to Neuer with both Defoe and Rooney running in afterwards some seventeen years later.

Then controversy. Frank Lampard came to life to loft the ball towards goal, it came off the underside of the crossbar, with Neuer totally beaten, and bounced up then down into Neuer's arms. Replays showed the ball had gone over the line by some feet but it was not given. I won't dwell on it as we still had time in the game to score again, and we didn't. If video technology was allowed, the referee could consult it or ask for it to be consulted by the fourth official, or a fifth official, before thoroughly confirming the goal or denying it. It's one for Sepp Blatter. End of discussion on that one.

So 2-1 down, we showed some spirit at least to come back, and should have been level. But we weren't, so at half-time we gather, we discuss, we emphasise on what it was, what it should be and what it will be when we go back out there. For the first 10mins it worked, we were coming at the Germans with gusto and drive, but we lacked the final ball to finish off our chances. Shots from distance were taken briefly and were woeful, we would either overplay the ball, send it over the bar or hit a Germany player. Lampard free-kick off the crossbar aside, we offered little else.

The third Germany goal came via another Lampard freekick that came off the Germany wall, Barry got to the rebound and then lost it, the Germany counter-attack was swift through three players, one of whom played another in quick time, and the chase was on. Again we were defensively pulled apart, no one covered our left, and once Bastian Schweinsteiger had played in Thomas Mueller unmarked on our left, it was 3-1, albeit James had parried the ball into the net.

Did we learn from that? No. A Germany clearance almost three minutes later found both Barry and Ozil racing for the ball. Well, it was Ozil racing, Barry went in like a headless chicken and tried to challenge Ozil immediately, despite the Werder Bremen man easily out sprinting him. Ozil rode the challenge, it left Barry on the ground and behind, Ozil raced on to feed across for Mueller to finish us off, again unmarked on our left.

What a BBQ. We deserved to be spit-roasted and turned over if we look to play so absent-mindedly as we did. We got served because we just could not hold to order and perform as needed, as we can. I wonder if Capello is contemplating resignation, and it wouldn't surprise me, if you coach players who respond off the pitch, but nothing like on it. And I think he was compelled to defeat during the game because of that point.

When you see something simple as a high long ball, and you have two tall players who relish heading like Terry and Upson become disorientated and out of position, particularly against a predator for such moments like Klose, you should feel that their focus needs strict attention. For me, Terry cannot conduct himself as a defender who hardly needs any advice. Even the ever-reliable Ashley Cole was found wanting but you can expect that when your fellow defenders are all over the shop. As for Rooney, practically our biggest flop, enough said. Just didn't turn up in South Africa, for some reason.

I really did have big expectations of ourselves this time. We have talented players, apparently ready to go, ready to show the world, show the folks at home, and we finally appeared to have a coach behind them who seemed to have good tactics, strategy, experience, accomplishments, and the steel to let anyone in the team know when they are not performing well enough, from the captain to the bench players.

That said, why didn't he at least pull off Rooney to let Peter Crouch have a go, as one option? We hardly changed the team despite giving below-par performances, we had a squad of players to choose from. Barry, Upson, Green and Emile Heskey should never play for us again, we definitely need to bring in new blood and nurture them into form, and we definitely should be dropping players for low performances, friendly or otherwise. We should be monitoring and enhancing players for the future, and should discipline those who have been picked for a long time and STILL not providing when it is required, when necessary, when vital.

For the life of me, we cannot produce such a performance again. EVER. But until the next international, I won't be holding my breath on it. It will be interesting to see whether Capello hangs around, but if he does he has to bring out the guillotine, and take no prisoners. I would. I wouldn't care who didn't like it, there will always be someone not liking it but that's tough. Either you play or you pay.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

England vs Germany: World Cup 2010, Sunday 27th June

A good number of English people are happy this morning not to have to face waking up to the headlines that would spell our exit from the World Cup. James Milner supplied the cross for Jermaine Defoe to stab in the solitary goal of the game. While I was very happy at the time, and am content now about it all, there is still the inquest.

Milner, to start with, started very lacklustre. He seemed to be sluggish in his approach and little of the dynamic energy you see him exert for club. With a yellow card hovering over him, I felt it was a risk playing him and when it came to the first 15-20mins Milner was not at the races. Obviously he came good for the goal and that was practically it for the first half from Milner. Wayne Rooney was far more flexible with Defoe as lone striker, he and Gerrard seem to have this telepathy between them both which almost ended up with a second goal. Rooney was more lively than previously, which was better to see.

We had a good half, not because of the goal but of the playability too. The Slovenians topped the group with no defeats so letting them have possession would be dangerous, and we kept at them to prevent that. We were still missing Frank Lampard. The central midfielder who was pivotal to Chelsea's season, was quiet. Again. Got himself involved because he had to, and for his EPL reputation he remained on the pitch.

Gareth Barry was standard, showed up in attack and cleaned up somewhat under it. Still hesitant in coming forward with the ball. Glen Johnson, again, looked short of some sharpness in defence and for someone who is fit and has pace, Johnson was almost taken over by their left winger. But he came good overall and defensively, we held ourselves well enough for the lead at half time.

The second half wasn't as good as the first. The first 20mins gave us two excellent chances to increase our lead through first Defoe then Rooney, and we showed some of the guile from the first half. But from that point on, we laboured, and Slovenia came onto us, resulting in one point where first Terry then Johnson blocked out two efforts and the follow-up from that went wide. From then on it was equal for both sides and it was fortunate, maybe even just, that we emerged winners.

Now don't fool yourselves. We won, three points well needed and we got it but the response, in my opinion, was half of what we wanted. The Germans have played well, even with 10-men against Serbia, and they have good dangermen in Lukas Podolski and Mezut Oezil, not to mention Bastian Schweinsteiger (their version of Gareth Barry), and Miroslav Klose.

England will have to step up their stamina and pace because the Germans simply industrialise. In other words, they will pass and move efficiently and quietly, which made the difference in their last game with Ghana, who were strong and pacey. We will have to play like Ghana and I think changes are still required from that of yesterday:


A Cole

J Cole


Would still stick with Rooney as it may well relish playing against the Germans, which is all dependent on his fitness. I heard he is a doubt but I suspect he will be fit for it. If not, I don't see the partnership of Crouch and Defoe putting us out of place and I think Crouch would be good to put up against the frame of 6'6" Per Mertesacker. I think without Rooney, actually, we would stand a good chance nonetheless.

But let's not get carried away from yesterday. Many radio 'pundits' and presenters seem to be.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mutiny: What the blazes is gong on in the England camp?!!

So John Terry comes out in conference, undermining Fabio Capello's authority. I have listened to the full conference he gave and I still can't find the words he said that were bad, nonetheless he shouldn't have done it. If there is anything to be said regarding the players, it's the current captain, Steven Gerrard, not the former one.

There are a few questions to be asked:

1) Why did Terry step forward with these 'concerns'? Why didn't he convey them to Gerrard, as captain of the squad, and let Gerrard speak out? Does this then undermine Gerrard's role as captain?

2) Was this a case of someone on behalf of the FA sanctioning Terry to speak, and nothing to do with Capello?

3) If he felt he was being honest, why apologise? And whose idea was it for Frank Lampard to appear, as if to provide a blanket over it all?

4) Did Terry anticipate his move would bring nothing other than a push to apologise? That Capello would not drop him, like most other coaches would, because Capello needs him for tomorrow?

5) Does this now mean there still exists 'player power' that will come out like a union, and is it a positive movement?

What the blazes was Terry doing?? He complained about tactics and the 'conditions' the players had to endure in between training and games. He mentioned Joe Cole should start, and it was Cole he emerged with firstly onto the training pitch this morning. If Terry starts doing things his own way, then it will set off fireworks. And he will get burned.

We know what he did wrong, so does Terry. You would think he would keep out of the headlines for wrong reasons, and yet here you are. Capello had to come out immediately and quell the rumour-mongers hungry for gossip and exclusives. Capello will step down if we don't qualify, and between Terry's All Bold move and the Slovenia game, all parties have come together and spoken together amicably, which is crucial. We can't have this negativity at all, much less hanging around us with 24-48 hours to go.

I've already stated what Capello should do for the win. Here, I'm hoping all has been cleared, it leaves the players feeling much better and gives them that flexibility to go out and play as they do for their clubs. Because something appeared to be holding them back in their two games.


Friday, June 18, 2010

WC2010: Woeful England set up nervy final game

Well, from tonight's performance, if certain members of the first XI remain to start against the Slovenians, they should be counting themselves lucky. Individual players who grace the EPL looking as if they're afraid to take the bull by the horns, even as a novice matador. England were lethargic out there, for some reason that I don't think the players even know. They know one thing, and that is it isn't working out there when needed, when allowed, when opened to them.

Emile Heskey should have played his last England game period, much less in the tournament. He was a decent addition to experiment with in the qualifiers, likewise Michael Owen, if just to get the other players to blend in and gel as one. Tonight, he was not up to standard, and I don't know why. His performance culminated in one moment when he was released down our right, proceeded to step over and get his feet caught up almost, only to end his effort with a cross that eluded everybody, even the goal.

Wayne Rooney was again in and out of the game, but on a worse level. Touches let him down, passing likewise and he wasn't getting a good run of the ball to make himself noticed, where he usually steps immediately into space to receive and makes an effort out of nothing. ITV cameras caught him at the end stating how shameful it was to be booed off by your own fans. When England play a stinking game like tonight, be lucky it's only boos, Wayne.

Glen Johnson - fantastic going forward, questionable in defence of late, hardly seen going forward and being creative tonight as he usually is. If there was someone substantial to replace him, I would contemplate it heavily. Number of times he was caught out at the back on runs, he was so slow to react when clearing the ball at one point and was fortunate to get a free-kick for it. There were times he got a good foot or block in but the other times should not have happened.

Jamie Carragher - keen, die-hard, may have come too late now for his cherished role in central defence. Incredible that he still conducted himself to not only give a potential good dead-ball moment to Algeria with a free-kick, but got himself booked as well to miss out on the Slovenia game. Maybe a blessing in disguise for Michael Dawson to step in at last (for those who love to point it out like desperate schoolteachers out of work, I said 'Michael', and not 'Matt').

John Terry was his usual self, although in the second half he tended to get himself penalised for challenges under which Karim Matmour took the invitation to go down readily. His back pass almost played in Algeria, something which I just couldn't believe from him. Gareth Barry looked afraid to come forward with the ball, instead looking to get rid of it at any moment once inside the Algerian half, and we still could not utilise Aaron Lennon along the wings with his pace.

All in all, I would make changes. Urgency is required now throughout the 90mins+, and not every now and then. Carragher is out so Dawson comes in. Heskey should be out to allow for Peter Crouch or Jermaine Defoe. Joe Cole MUST come in to start. If Milner is fit, I would include him as well. There are players on that bench raring to go while a first XI has twice lacked in providing the goods. Changes are imminent, Fabio. My team for Wednesday against Slovenia:


A Cole

J Cole



We'll see. Slovenia were jokers earlier on and should have qualified via 6pts but the Americans have a good level of talent and persevered as the Slovenians took their 2-0 lead for granted. As it stands in our group, if we draw again and the USA do likewise, we're out. The way we've been, we're not conceding from open play but we're not scoring equally at the front. With a squad consisting of the captain and vice-captain, creators in Milner and J Cole, and the likes of Rooney and Defoe, not to mention Crouch, that is not up to standard.

The Slovenians were slouchers at 2-0 up so they do work towards getting a lead, something we should bear in mind. I suspect the USA can beat Algeria and we therefore MUST beat Slovenia to ensure qualification. It is paramount, pivotal, essential, there is nothing else but a win to achieve on Wednesday, and if we start off on our feet for the first 20-25mins, we can do just that.


Monday, June 14, 2010

England's Rob Green: People, Give it a Rest!!!

Disappointing was the draw with the Americans......very. We scored early and well, good play between Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard for our goal in the 4th minute, but we then didn't capitalise on the way we had opened the American defence. Instead we allowed them to show what they can do, and obviously they had their spring in their step particularly from dead-ball moments.

A few free-kicks later and we seemed to be floundering in clearing danger, one ball went over Ledley King who at 6ft plus should have made it, the danger nonetheless came to nothing. So both sides began to come at each other almost equally, at a push the USA had more possession than we did. Shouldn't be happening.

However, the error made by Rob Green, notwithstanding it was an absolute howler, was NOT the reason why we drew the game. The reason why he made the mistake was NOT because he didn't get his body behind the ball (which so many media writers are using), but because he didn't get his hands behind the ball. His body was there, his hands were not totally, the path of the ball therefore struck the outside of his right hand and spun off into the goal. It almost seemed a destined event, the way it happened with very little recovery, no chance to grab the ball back or even claw it away.

We still had five minutes after the equaliser to score, we even had a break of 15mins and then another period of 45mins+ to score another, and we failed. THAT is the reason we didn't win the game, the RG howler occurred in one minute, we still had 89mins+ to score more than one goal.

What also didn't help was the needless bookings of James Milner, Jamie Carragher and Gerrard. Milner was not well, beggars the question why he played in the first place. Carragher went through the back of I think Clint Dempsey, and Gerrard appeared to have been too outspoken about his challenge on Dempsey. Wayne Rooney as in and out of the game, Aaron Lennon hardly picked up the number of chances to tear down the right as expected, King didn't last more than one half, much less one game, Carragher seemed slightly erratic, and Heskey SHOULD have rifled the net with a blaster when put through by Lennon.

Green did block out Jozy Altidore when through at an angle, something which the so-called writers put down to outpacing Carragher with ease, despite the fact Carragher couldn't challenge at that pace with a booking hanging over his head and the positioning being in the box! Playing as a unit, we were cracking up in front of their goal. We had little stability upfront and our chances were doomed as they started. If we have the ball wide for a delivery, we're aiming for the likes of Rooney, Heskey, and another out of Lampard or Gerrard, a minimum of three in the box.

Now we face Algeria who also had a goalkeeping clanger that actually cost them their game with Slovenia. What do we do?? Drop Green for Joe Hart, if David James isn't fit? Green has been a decent keeper under pressure for club, who narrowly avoided relegation, and I would like to see a top keeper handle that pressure all season. He has made a number of good saves for club, but it would have been a very tight call between him and Blackburn's Paul Robinson. Not because of anything Sam Allardyce said but Robinson had done well last season, possibly better than Green.

Maybe Fabio Capello chose Green because he saw a keeper under big pressure all season. I would have taken Robinson myself, but as it stands, Green is there and if he is in goal, we get behind him. I think he will have learned from the error and could well be a better keeper for it. But this constant talking over it is monotonous. The so-called 'mistake' that occurred in Zagreb, October 2006 was replied over and over again, and Robinson is STILL attached to blame for it.

It was a kick on the rear to draw, so we show character, guile, strength and unity, we want the win, we NEED the win, we have players who can player very well, and we do our thing. We do what we know we can do, and we do it for 90mins+.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

South Africa 2010: And then they were....less with 7

So Fabio Capello has released his final choices of 23 players to take to South Africa for the World Cup 2010.

They are:
David James (Portsmouth), Joe Hart (Man City), Robert Green (West Ham)
Rio Ferdinand (Man United), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa), Ledley King (Spurs), Matthew Upson (West Ham)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Michael Carrick (Man United), Gareth Barry (Man City), Joe Cole (Chelsea), James Milner (Aston Villa), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Man City), Aaron Lennon (Spurs)
Wayne Rooney (Man United), Jermaine Defoe (Spurs), Peter Crouch (Spurs), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa)

Now, the question is, is this squad sufficient enough to win the World Cup? I think any side England puts out is full of eleven players capable of matching most in the world. But on the match day, where will their focus be? England was expected to give a good show against the Mexicans, which more or less they did, but they were expected to humble the Japanese, which they didn't. Relying on two splendid own goals, England were saved from a battering of its own from the press.

My quibble is certain players have been left behind who shouldn't be. Out of Adam Johnson (Man City), Scott Parker (West Ham), Michael Dawson (Spurs), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Tom Huddlestone, Leighton Baines (Everton) and Darren Bent (Sunderland), for me Parker, Bent and Dawson SHOULD be going. They would replace Warnock, Upson and Carrick. Dawson has been a tough tackling, heading defender for club throughout, more so than King. Parker has been fighting like a soldier for West Ham, and the season they had showed it. I'm not a fan of Bent, but I think he can latch onto a chance when none seem to be coming, and deliver for us. Might have been lost out there in Graz' UPC Arena somewhat, but he still has the ability to link up with the main striker or second striker.I also think Bent can hold up the ball as required by Heskey, and yet also be a striker who can score, unlike Heskey.

SWP hasn't shown enough for me to be going to SA, I wonder if his father's constant speaking in the media over Shaun's omission under Sven Goran-Eriksson had any influence in his selection. Ashley Young should be going instead of him, clearly. I felt Baines had done enough to be A Cole's understudy, and certainly not Warnock, but there you are. Strange decision.

King is reliable for a game at a time, had a tough time against the Mexicans, didn't feature against the Japanese, and is lucky to be still chosen, especially over Dawson, just to make up the second XI defensive quartet. Upson hasn't had a good season for me and there is one goal that typifies him, a high ball that he had time to deal with but didn't, allowing the striker to run onto it and score. David Nugent for Burnley, at Turf Moor, February 2010, score 2-1. And yet Upson is selected.

Another reflection on who should go to SA is putting the players into two teams, a first XI and a 2nd one:
First XI - James; G Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, Ashley Cole; Lennon, Gerrard, Lampard, J Cole; Rooney, Defoe.
Second XI - Green; Carragher, Upson, King, Warnock; SWP, Carrick, Barry, Milner; Heskey, Crouch.
Man left over: Hart
My preference for the second XI - Hart; Carragher, Dawson, King, Baines; Milner, Parker, Barry, A Young; Crouch, Bent.
Man left over: Green

So much was made about Walcott, all because he went, controversially, to the 2006 World Cup as a young player. Remember Eriksson said, regarding Walcott's inclusion for that World Cup campaign, that despite not using him, it was good to bring him to the tournament as experience for upcoming World Cup campaigns. It would appear at this junction that that has clearly happened to the contrary. The fuss over Walcott has helped him to not be chosen for South Africa. He made way for something promising after finishing the Croatians with his hat-trick, but he hadn't surfaced well since then for club nor country.

So let's dwell on what is, rather than what one thinks it should be. First game kicks off against the Americans a week Saturday, the 12th June. We know of a few of the U.S. players (Donovan, Dempsey, Howard, skipper Bocanegra, Spector, Onyewu), and we know they have good players. The onus is on us to start hard, quick, and thorough to keep the Americans on the back foot and hopefully pressure them into opening up for goals. Make it a date.



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