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Sunday, 24 June 2012

England pay the penalty

It's so so disppointing that seemingly Championship after Championship we get knocked out on penalties. Is it a curse? Is it nerves? Is it a lack of footballing ability to score from 12 yards? I have no idea. But could anyone who really knows the game of football believe that England deserved to go through? I don't think so. We were simply second best to everything. Outplayed by a superior passing team. Out worked by a hard working team, and we were very fortunate to even have been given the chance of going through with a penalty shoot out. Italy deserved it. Those that know me, will know how much i hate losing and the fact I often blame outside influences. But today is not one of those cases.

England's expectations going into this tournament were at an all time low. We were relaxed as we were not expecting miracles from this team. Those expectations were exceeded when they ualified as group winners, undefeated and seemingly looking like they could grind out the right results come the knock out stage. The avoidance of Spain was another bonus and expectations rose at this point knowing a game against the italians awaited. I believed we could get through, however scrappy the game got.

THE GAME ITSELF

The first 15 minutes were more exciting than the whole 90 minutes in the Spain vs. France game. Chances either end, but seeing England miss theirs just didn't settle well with me. I always thought we would need an early goal to stand a chance in this game, but we couldn't get it. Italy controlled the game from then on and Pirlo was absolutely class throughout. His ball possession and passing was a joy to behold and he's 33 years old! From the middle of the 2nd half, bar the odd moments, this game was heading to penalties.

THE PLAYERS

The selection of Milner again was defensive from the off and he continued to have his uninfluential tournament for England, offering just a bit of hard work but no creativity to the team. Walcott probably should have been in from the start, though when he did come on, England could not keep the ball enough to get him into the game.

The back 5 did themselves proud once more, with John Terry for me being the stand out England player on the day. For me, Glen Johnson switches off all too often and I am very critical of him I must admit. Sometimes very sloppy in possession too, but did OK today.

Gerrard was again excellent, though looked very tired in the 2nd half. Parker struggled somewhat against the numbers in midfield of the Italians. He also showed where his game struggles as he was very poor in possession and got dispossessed a lot. But he can be very proud of a very positive tournament none the less. Ashley Young was disappointing again, I think more so because we expect better from him, although still inexperienced on the International stage.

Rooney again failed to deliver at a Championships. He was undoubtably England's worst player against Italy. Looked off the pace, tired, his touch was poor and he struggled immensely to hold up the ball, something England missed until Carroll's inclusion. There was an arguement that the Welbeck Carroll partnership should have been given more of a chance, and Rooney's 2 performances highlighted this. I know he got an extended holiday after the season and maybe that was too long as his sharpness was definitely far shorter than many in the squad.
Welbeck is one player, along with Carroll who can hold their heads high. They both did a great job for a team who lost out on possession in every game of the tournament. They worked hard, chased balls down and held the ball up well throughout.

THE MANAGER

Pretty faultless performance by Roy Hodgson, considering how short a period of time he was in charge of the team. Made crucial changes at important times, no better than the inclusion of Walcott against Sweden. Not scared to make those changes either and stuck by key selections, including John Terry, who certainly paid Hodgson back with solid performances. Set a weak England team up to ensure they were difficult to break down. Brought in good quality coaches including Gary neville who I thought influenced the team harmony immesely and helped bring the group of players close together. There was no infighting, no tabloid stories, no dramas, and it was great that this was the case.
He set every player a job to do and he should be proud of his performance.


OVERALL

Although I am disappointed that we couldn't progress, I am fairly satisfied by the teams overall performance. Undefeated is no mean feat at International level and that is an achievement in itself. Going into the tournament with low expectations and coming out disappointed to be exiting at the quarter finals stage is quite a nice feeling. It was good to see the players playing with a lot of heart and fight and also seeing a manager on the sidelines kicking every single ball, was a feeling that hasnt been felt for a long long time. The passion was back, which as supporters is what you want to see from your team. Players seemed delighted to be representing their country and wanted to fight for the three lions. A big improvement from 2 years ago.

A change I am certain will happen and Hodgson should look to continue to draft younger players into the squad. The inclusion of a fit again Jack Wilshire who outplayed the Barcelona midfield just over a year ago, will help to bolster the energy and creativity in the centre of the park. Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck to continue to progress and Walcott to become more consistant will help improve the balance of the squad. The emmergence of "the OX" will help to develop his wonderful talent as well.

The future looks bright and thats where we need to start looking now.



Friday, 15 June 2012

England So Far So Good

I love football tournaments and big Championships like this is no different. Teams have been competing hard and i have been pleased with the competitiveness of the nations so far, bar unfortunately Ireland who seem to have been torn apart somewhat. The other groups however have been very close and the gamnes have been exciting and competitive which as a viewer we want to see.

As for England, well after the build up and the low expectations of fans, many still venting a huge amount of frustration at the team, we have done surprisingly well. In my opinion anyway. 4 points from the first 2 games, more than what most would of predicted before the tournament began. Hodgson settling in nicely, the squad playing with a lot more heart than 2 years a go, and their seems to be a team strategy that every player knows exactly their role in the team.

FRANCE 1 1 draw

Tough opener for any team, especially for an England team without Rooney and a host of injuries to key players like Lampard, Wilshire and Barry. People forget that france are on the longest unbeaten run out of any International team in world football. They are a class act, on the up and tipped by many as a potential winner of the Euros.

4 5 1 against a tough French team was sensible and the first 30 minutes were fantastic. Poor after conceeding the goal, sat back far too much trying to protect their lead until half time, which was an error. But England scrapped and we knew it wasn't going to be the prettiest football, but it was effective none the less to ensure we didn't lose the game. People can criticise the manager and the players for the performance, but tournament football is very different and no one can deny that the way England played frustrated the French team.
A point, in my opinion, a very good start to the campaign.

SWEDEN 3 2 win

What a game! Considering many still believe England are playing unattractive football, no one can deny they were exciting against the Swedes, all beit by a lot of their own undoing. But 3 points none the less.

The game started with the change of Carrol for the Ox, one which I thought was a good move, as sweden are suceptible to headed goals even with their vast height throughout their team. a 4 4 2, not seen for a long while, but was a bold positive decision by Hodgson. Perfect start with the Carrol towering header and dominant first half display where we controlled the game and looked very comfortable, apart from when Ibrahimovich got on the ball.

2nd half though Glen Johnson falls asleep and doesn't push out with the rest of the team and then the whole defence falls asleep to allow a free header and a deficit. BUT positive immediate change by Hodgson again bringing on the inspired Theo Walcott for the rather lacklustre Milner. Changed the game very quickly back in favour of England and finished off with some lovely work to feed the sublime finish of Welbeck. Goal of the tournament contender no doubt.

I have read so much criticism by the display of England, and I don't get it. Criticise when they lose, no problem. But we have won! We have 4 points, are still in the tournament and have a great chance of progressing. There are improvements certainly, but that was a good win against a difficult Swedish side who as we all know have a good record against us.


I am not saying we will win it or getting above myself anymore than taking it game by game. Keep on doing that and you never know. immediate aim, get out of the group and then the Quarter Finals, Semis, you just never know what might happen.


Onwards and upwards and a big game on Tuesday. Get behind the team. Get behind Hodgson. COME ON ENGLAND

Sunday, 3 June 2012

England's Euro 2012 Build Up - The Fiasco

The build up to a major tournament is always scupperred with media reports, trouble and strife within the England camp. This tournament, with a new manager at the helm, has been no different. Injuries have blighted the squad, with Lampard, Barry and Cahill now all set to miss the tournament, but it's the replacements and the available/unavailable players that seems to be the biggest story in the build up.

First of all let me start by saying how anyone can make themselves unavailable for selection for their country is beyond me. It is a sad state of affairs when money has taken over the absolute pride of representing your country. Players who insist they are unavailable as they are not first choice is purely disgraceful. Wheres the work ethic been lost to? Where is the fight? Where is the desire to be the best you can be? When did it all start to go wrong? Many questions that I continually ask myself and find myself lost for words.

This time around we have players refusing to be on the back up list for the squad? This is for your country, and to me it shows a sign of complete arrogance for them to believe they are above other players. Micah Richards refused to be a back up, in my opinion should never play again for England. Maybe he should of been called into the main squad? That is down to the managers selection and unfortunately the right back spot is very competitive right now and he has no guarantees to play, or why should he. Another one is Michael Carrick. Yes there is talk that he is nursing an achillis injury, that Alex Ferguson said he needs rest on. But Carrick himself said he would go to the Euros if he was guaranteed to start every game! He's Michael Carrick, not Lionel Messi! What right does anyone have to demand that? If your injured, pull out of the situation. But he is not injured. He said he would go if he started every game. Does that sound like a player who is injured? Again, in my opinion he should never play for England again.

From players who don't want to play for their country to players who do, but have been showed so much disrespect its a disgrace. Rio Ferdinand. Overlooked for the original squad, which in all fairness to Roy Hodgson was down to his decision. He took into account the fact that he may struggle to play 3 games a week and you could argue for and against the decision. He spoke about the fact that he spoke to Alex Ferguson about the player and used that as a reason to not select him, which showed a big sign of weakness straight away. Then there was this overshadowing John Terry racial case against Ferdinands brother, Anton. Surely the FA have told Hodgson that they don't want both players there and I am certain the manager is worried about the harmony of the squad. Again in my opinion a sign of weakness, to not be able to deal with the situation.
Then the injuries started to mount up. Experienced players like Lampard and Barry were both ruled out. Players who are nearing the end of their playing careers. One mention of Ferdinand was made that England wanted to build for the future. I never like hearing that, because surely you want to build from tournament to tournament and put your BEST possible team out at a major tournament that gives you a chance of winning it. There are only 2 tournaments in 2 years!
Cahill, a center back, ruled out and his replacement is a Liverpool RIGHT BACK who has only just made his debut and barely played for his club all season. Picked over the former England captian, with a host of experience who played all of the last 16 Premier League games for Manchester United, a team with a great defensive record this season and a team who lost the league title on goal difference. If Hodgson, as he has always stated wanted to pick his best team, then he is lying to us all. There is no way right now that Kelly is better than Ferdinand. There is no case for him to be picked over Ferdinand. The FA have a lot of questions to answer for, but we will never ever hear the truth. The John Terry case is a huge part of this, it has to be.

I wanted to finish on more of a high note. Well, a way of eating my words. I was very annoyed when Jordan Henderson was called up to the squad as I do not rate him one tiny little bit. I do not think he is good enough to wear the England shirt. However, this lad has showed the desire to play for his country, by not pulling out of the back up list, by continuing to work hard and to take his chance. One thing I know that if he gets a chance to play in the Euros at all, that he will give his all and try extremely hard, one thing us England fans love to see. We didn;t see much of that in South Africa, so some young Lion Heart is good for the team. I eat my words on that. He is showing the disgraced players, especially Carrick, that he is not afraid of hard work.


I am certain knowing the England teams dramas, that there will be more to come in the next 5 weeks of the tournament. Let me now your comments