Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Glory Glory...?

We got an unconvincing 1-0. It was a bit terrifying at times, but we made it. England are in the last 16, but contrary to the BBC's belief, it was not a good performance.

Let's focus on that match to start with. I find it very hard to watch the build up and post match analysis on England games, so much of it is cringeworthy and it's always way over the top. Either England are brilliant (as now, after a 1-0 win over mighty Slovenia) or terrible (after a 1-1 draw with a solid USA side). Anyhow, I'll look at the positives first; I am not Jermain Defoe's biggest fan, but he did his job very well today. When England don't dominate possession he can't get in the game, and that can be a real problem, but today that wasn't the case. He got in the right position to score, and had a couple of other opportunities as well.

James Milner was also excellent on the right hand side, putting some great crosses in. It seemed a bit strange that we drop Heskey and put in a player to put loads of balls into the box, but can't argue with an assist. I do think that both he and Defoe will drop back to the bench against Germany, but they had good games today.

In defence England looked fairly solid, but worryingly too much was 'last ditch'. Without Ferdinand we lack a defender who can read the game and make interceptions rather than have to dive into tackles at the last minute. Terry and Upson both made crucial interventions in the penalty area, but I can't help but feel we need to be stopping the attacks further away from our own goal. If one of the chances that fell to Slovenia today falls to Miroslav Klose on Sunday, we're a goal down.

There's still a number of problems in the side. Firstly, if the players underestimate the Germans in the same way that all the pundits have been, we are in deep trouble. The movement of their front 4 - Podolski, Ozil, Muller and Klose - is far superior to anything we have faced so far. They will target Carragher and they will look to get in behind England's defence. We lack pace throughout the whole team, but particularly through the middle, and that will be exploited. They have two very solid holding midfielders who are comfortable on the ball, and will look to build attacks from there. Our problems are that Gerrard will continue to not keep his position on the left wing, Rooney looks worryingly off the pace, and the aforementioned centre back pairing.

I'm going to be controversial. Gerrard should not play. We need someone on the left wing who will not constantly come into the centre, and who will help Ashley Cole out in defence. Not only is Thomas Muller a very hard working player on the right, but behind him will be Phillip Lahm, one of the best full backs in the world. We cannot afford to let them get 2 on 1 with Cole, however good he is. I'm going to put forward Mr Milner to fill that role. He's very disciplined, and will do what he's told to do, something that appears to be an alien concept to the Liverpool captain.

I'll do a better preview of the German side on Saturday, but for now we'll glance at a couple of other teams who qualified today. Ghana will play the USA at the weekend, in a rematch of a game four years ago. The Africans knocked the Americans out that day, but this time I think it's incredibly hard to call. I was delighted for both sides that they got through, Ghana are probably going to be Africa's only representative in the last 16, and they thoroughly deserve it. A lack of cutting edge could be their downfall, as it's been that which has stopped them from winning Group D. They have no problem creating chances, and in defence they look very good. Anthony Annan in particular has shone, and sometimes you forget they're missing Michael Essien in that position. To beat the US though they are going to have to score, and it'll concern them that both their goals in the group stage were penalties.

As for the Americans themselves, I've only seen highlights of their match today, but it looked like they should have absolutely crushed Algeria. Landon Donovan (Landycakes, if you prefer) is a quality player, and deserved to be the man who scored the crucial goal. Their problem is perhaps that they rely too heavily on him and Clint Dempsey, but they are a surprisingly good side. They play in a very English way, a couple of creative players combined with a powerful attack in front of a defence which will have no problem defending balls in the air. Ghana however play at pace, and will keep the ball on the floor. At the very least it'll be an interesting battle, and I am really looking forward to it.

A final thought, I'd like to think I'm not really biased towards England, and I say what I think about them. To that end; of the 8 teams in the last 16 so far, we look the worst of them all.

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