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Couldn’t quite believe… actually yes I could really believe what the Alans, Hansen & Shearer, on BBC spouted after last nights games in Group D at the Euros.
England hang onto a draw against a pretty inept French side, little cutting edge up front and bar Debuchy at rightback a defence, with ‘keeper, there for the taking and they’re back to the delusions of yesteryear. Reality didn’t last long did it.
A Tweet by WhoScored.com pointed out which players had the most touches in the first round of games…
Most touches at Euro 2012 after first round of matches: Xavi 123, Nasri 122, Busquets 116, Ribery 110, Xabi Alonso 109, Sneijder 97
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 12, 2012
…no surprise that there’s a few Spanish players in there, one Dutch, nor a couple of players against England and no great surprise that they pretty much did bugger all with all those touches. Lot of fannying about in front of defences and no cutting edge, as shown by another Tweet stating France were one of the teams that had less clear cut chances than England…
France (1), Netherlands (1), Germany (0): 3 of the 6 teams that have had fewer 'clear-cut' goalscoring chances at Euro 2012 than England (2)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 12, 2012
Prime in that was Ribery, 4th most touches with 110, most of which lead him up a cul-de-sac. While France kept going to one of their main players down their left, England’s right, Nasri or increasingly Debuchy had all the space in the world over on the other side. And when on the few occasions the ball found itself over there the players had the complete beating of Ashley Cole. No doubt they’ll still be claiming him the
best left-back in the world. So no clear cut chances were created but it resulted in far better situations for the French than Ribery’s uselessness.
So while the post match hyperbole about England’s performance was no surprise neither was what actually happened in the game.
I mean where have we seen it before, it was almost like the Dutch versus Denmark game, little atmosphere as one side cruise about just figuring they only have to turn up, England take an early, or earlyish on the half hour – well this was deja vu with Ireland’s goal against Croatia – needless, cheap, free kick given away by Evra. Decent ball from Gerrard, shock horror, and some inept Corluka style defending, let’s the ball bounce of Lescott for the goal.
And it was then back to England of old. Sit back and hold on for dear life while repeatedly giving the ball away as they drop deeper and deeper. Hey Roy are you Svennis in disguise?
Up till then they had a few bits of forward momentum, not much, Milner hitting the side netting when he should have scored was priceless because the build-up featured an actual forward pass of consequence to an England player by Parker. Welbeck was looking lively, he trouble the defence as did Oxlade-Chamberlain who was rightly picked ahead of the likes of Downing, made some decent attempts at breaks, usually resulting in being fouled, but the lad was at least trying. But again neither of them or Young were given any decent service by the midfield to provide sustained pressure. The ball being more likely to find a French shirt than any of the trio.
The dropping deep was so unneeded as well, which made it the more frustrating, highlighted by one passage where Gerrard picked the ball up between the central defenders when there wasn’t a French player in the England half. France were playing in front of England, Benzema was dropping deep himself so they had no one going through or behind, except for the times they attacked Ashley Cole, and the French midfield trio just weren’t making any cutting runs or passes to justify it.
England just kept inviting the French on it was no surprise when the equaliser came and no surprise it was from a shot from outside the box, as eight white shirts were in the area, plus the ‘keeper, compared to two blue ones.
And here was another case of deja vu, you’ll have heard or read all the praise Gerrard got for his great defensive display, a captain’s role. Well he showed he’s a direct replacement for Rio Ferdinand as captain as he completely ponced out of blocking Nasri’s shot, jumping to his left as Nasri shot to his right. Leading by example.
It was just a surprise Gerrard didn’t play a suicide back pass to give away a penalty for France to win it as he did back in ’04. That was left to Milner who got lucky when Nasri jumped out of being taken down by Hart. It could quite easily have been a penalty if Nasri hadn’t given up.
After the break England picked up again but very soon reverted to type. Drop deep and give the ball away. At French corners every England player was in the box, meaning when the ball was cleared it went straight to a French player, came back in and was cleared to a French player, rinse, wash and repeat. Leave your three flyers up the pitch, Welbeck, Young and Oxlade-Chamberlain, then there’s at least a chance you can keep some sort of possession.
So they hung on for the draw, luckily, and of course Hansen and Shearer think that Sweden and Ukraine will be a walk over now. Yes they may not have the players on paper that France are meant to have but I think they’ll put in a bit more effort than France did, Sweden will have to after losing and final game against Ukraine could be winner takes all.
There was one thing unusual about the England game though. The England Band were banned. Funny I think the reaction to this wasn’t quite what Pukka Pies were expecting but glad to see I wasn’t the only one that didn’t miss them rolling out the same three tired old tunes ad nauseam.