After defeating Croatia in their final Nations League game, England topped the group so head to Portugal next summer to play a semi-final, can they finally win something, no matter how small it is?
It needed England to stop Croatia scoring to make sure they weren’t relegated from the top tier of the new Nations League, once they failed to do that they needed to beat Croatia, amazingly they went and did that.
Beating one top nation is something for England, beating two in a row. That is something else – just a shame they couldn’t do it when it really, really matter, during the summer. Though is the Spain result tempered by the fact they struggle to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1-0, having just lost to Croatia.
Will they have to beat a top team now they’re in the semi-finals. Well, the three teams that make up the two semis – Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands – are all currently behind England in the current FIFA world rankings – 7th, 8th and 15th, to England’s 5th. But as I’ve posted before those rankings are bit out the higher you go.
It is only the League Cup of international football, but then the Euros were pretty much that when they were introduced. A cup is a cup and well, it’s a bit more meaningful than their last victory… the 1997 Tournoi.
The problem is the main obstacle to an England victory is the obstacle that stopped them getting past Croatia in the World Cup semi and is currently the darling of the fans and media alike.
People were saying that is was an affront to the shirt and the armband that Rooney was recalled for a farewell game in the warm up match played against the USA at Wembley on Friday night. It devalues both they cried. Well, the shirt and armband were devalued by a number of caps handed out to various members of the previous generation of England players. Gerrard, Beckham etc. If you want to talk about devaluing the shirt and armband, take a look at Southgate starting and giving the captaincy to Delph – played 11 minutes in City’s last six league games.
But then Delph’s a favourite of Southgate, so the old only picking on form and fitness goes out the window. Though at least it meant his other favourite, Henderson, didn’t feature. Delph didn’t repeatedly fall over or score an own goal, so people are now claiming he’s the new Xavi or Iniesta. Sissoko syndrome. Got to be great because he wasn’t his usual completely useless, waste of space, self.
But he’s sticking with his other favourite, his little hindrance. Sterling. Who again showed that just because you can run fast doesn’t make you a footballer. Yes he stretched the Croat defence but did what with the ball. Southgate’s shift from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3, means Sterling is now more a winger than a striker, but is really either. Forget about the City stuff, with the players around him there, they can make anyone look good, even a tap in merchant that misses a number of damn easy tap ins.
He’s not a striker, the lack of goals show that along with his dithering, cluelessness when face with the goal shows. Here again he was put clean through on goal and here again he failed. After he’s figured out which foot to use, there isn’t enough brain power left to figure out how to beat the keeper. So now he can just concentrate on being a winger, so providing for others. Except he doesn’t do that, he’s clueless about where others are, only interested in himself, he plays the wrong ball repeatedly. So if he isn’t providing and isn’t scoring, what is the point? Running? Well, you know others can do that, while doing other stuff as well. In his few appearances, Sancho has shown he has a real clue about where to put a ball for others. Into space for them to run onto or at their feet or on their head. He ain’t slow either.
Sancho’s perfect ball for Dele, in creating a chance, along with Sancho’s run after he’d played the ball, ideal for a cutback, was a perfect indication of why he should be playing ahead of Sterling.
Just having pace doesn’t work. Just look at the other end and another of Southgate’s favourites. Most of Croatia’s attacks were down their left, England’s right. And in those attacks, where was Walker? Not in frame. No positional sense, no defending instinct, just pace and what does pace matter if when you’re position is being attacked you’re wandering back so not even in shot when they have a shot?
Kane played most of the game as provider, he knows how to hold it up and play it off and receives so little service in the box. It’s no coincidence that chances come with Dele on the pitch. They know how to link up together. People are so quick to get rid of Dele but if others provide nothing for your main scorer, and don’t score themselves, what is the point of them?
People complaining about Kane staying on but who are you going to replace him with. The man who has now score 20 international goals with one who has one? People moaning because he didn’t score from a ball most of the England players wouldn’t have got anywhere near. The lack of movement from so many, yet Kane always finds space, normally at the back post. The ball was behind him and no your favourite striker wouldn’t have scored it.
He’s there when it matter and who cares if it comes from a long throw, long ball or free kick. Kane’s attempt was going in from Gomez’s throw, before Lingard, who should also feature before Sterling, made sure – which he had to do. The long throw is a perfect tool for England, it doesn’t feature elsewhere so other teams aren’t used to defending it. Yes it’s a little bit Pulis and Stoke but it’s effective.
Kane was also there to get on the end of the free-kick for the winner. Nobody else was there to score, were they? You can’t take him off when you have to score, it would be like Taylor, Lineker and Smith in ’92 all over again.
But but reaching these semi’s all the poor choices of the chosen one, Southgate, are ignored. Just imagine this England with a real manager…