…final warm up game.
England’s final warm up match before they headed to Brazil was an amalgamation of the previous two outings the bad from the first and good from the second in a game of three halves.
Well that, England versus Honduras on Saturday night Sunday morning, looked like the nil nil against Costa Rica that’s coming up in England’s final group game of the World Cup.
The Costa Rican’s won and lost 1-0 to Honduras in qualifying as the finished one place and three points ahead in the final CONCACAF group. Top of that group was the USA, now both lost away to the Yanks and both won at home, Honduras 1-0 again, but Costa Rica was a 3-1 victory.
This was the type of warm up game England needed but that was wholly lost on the captain Steven Gerrard. As Honduras produced a niggly, bitty, stop, start performance. The kind of thing a number of teams will do during actual World Cup games. The kind of thing Honduras will probably do during the tournament and the kind of thing England have to get used to playing against. But no Gerrard used it to just whinge, expecting others to roll out the red carpet and be given the freedom of the park to fill their boots.
Roy started with his standard starting XI, Gerrard et al. Which produced a standard starting XI performance. That is nothing. During which one whole chance was created and missed. It was a performance as we saw by the same lot against Peru, this time without the goals to paper over the cracks and as in that game three individuals stood out in their negative effect on the team.
Gerrard, Rooney and Johnson.
Again it has to be stated England are going to the World Cup with Glen Johnson not only first choice at right-back but really the only choice. And again stated he knows this so he knows he doesn’t have to bother. So he doesn’t.
Johnson’s again played his three card trick. These are the three things he does in a game when presented with the ball.
His first thought, trick, is to pass it away, straight away, either sideways or back. Sometimes, a lot of the time, it goes straight back to the player it came from who is closely marked – because that’s why he offloaded it in the first place.
His second trick is to pass it inside and then run inside. This leaves the recipient looking for an out ball but when they look up there’s a big expanse of empty space out on the wing where Johnson should be. He is now in the middle of the park, usually the furthest forward of any of the England players. When the ball is then lost he is hugely out of position.
The third trick is to just run inside with the ball, bounce it off a defender and lose it, which again places him massively out of position. To make up for which he slowly meanders back.
All three though are contingent on him not just lazily letting the ball run away from him in the first place.
The other two’s, Gerrard & Rooney, performances can be summed up by the fact England looked a lot livelier and a better unit once they exited the playing field.
Once Gerrard had departed Henderson looked a different player, as he does when he doesn’t have the smothering influence of his captain at club level as well. The whole team lifts without everything having to go through Gerrard. Players are allowed to play not just give him the ball.
As for Rooney well yet again he did nothing. So in three games all he’s managed to do is tap a ball in from a few inches and everyone has him as one of the first names on the team sheet.
Glenn Hoddle saying that it would be good to start with the usual suspects and then bring on the kid when the opposition are tired. Well it’s OK in theory but what happens in practice if by the time the kids come on England are three down. And also will the opposition be that tired, you don’t get tired if you’re not chasing the ball around like England do. The likes of Italy know how to pace themselves.
But no doubt Roy just whinged about Barkley losing the ball as he just copies the team sheet from here ready for that first game.
So the best of the three halves was the huge break in the first half when they had to go off for lightning. Though I doubt anyone thought it was that good if they sat and listened to Adrian Chiles repeat a phrase in, repeat a phrase in, every sentence as he worked the brains trust that included Glenn and Ian Wright.
If you buggered off and did something else it was the best half of the game.