Well we’ve seen this all before, England cruise through qualification against either once great Eastern European teams or old Soviet states, as they beat Bulgaria in a performance that doesn’t bring confidence for games against the best.
World Cup semi-finalists. England are still trying to live off it and well 25 years ago it was Bulgaria. While England were sat at home… well the team, not all of the supporters, still was a decent holiday… Bulgaria’s golden generation were reaching the semi-final in the US, losing to the Italians in Joisey, with their main man, Stoichkov, being (joint) Golden Boot winner with 6 goals.
Though they had beaten the reigning champions, Germany, in the quarters, Mexico in the last 16 and Argentina in the group stage to go through. And there’s the main difference between those two trips to the semis. England beat nobody. Only really getting where they did because they lost to Belgium in the group.
Now Bulgaria don’t have the likes of Stoichkov, Kiryakov (amazing to think he ended up schlepping around Airdrie and Raith) or Letchkov they don’t have a hero of later times, Berbatov, they’re ranked in the lower reaches of the FIFA table.
Yet their keeper had little to do compared to Pickford, who had twice the number of saves to make. Yeah, I know he let in four goals but two were penalties.
All the usual failings were there, it was like watching Spurs against a flat back 10. Everyone trying to cram in the middle, wide forwards and fullbacks coming inside. When they did do what was required, one touch, push and run through the channel it work but then they stopped doing it.
Harry Kane wasn’t playing for Spurs. He was offside twice in good positions, he scored from the first one, which was a surprise, I mean getting a pass from Sterling must have been a great shock to him. Whereas for his club he’s barely been offside this season.
Sterling was mincing all over the place. Trippier, I read had an outstanding game, yet he was nearly always facing his own goal when receiving the ball and so played it back or sideways. When he didn’t do that he took the ball inside, passed it off and stood there, leaving a huge patch of ground with no white shirt in it. One where someone eventually was looking to pass the ball off to.
Henderson was playing back passes to the Bulgarian keeper, again apparently this was sublimely great play. Barkley did nothing. And when Bulgaria did break they looked far more likely to score. They were more likely to make the keeper have to do something, after cutting through England at ease. You wonder why England needed a defensive midfielder to begin with, then you wonder where he was for the first half.
24 minutes in and it was Bulgaria’s turn to their Spurs impersonation. You can just see Spurs doing that at a goal kick sometime this season. A complete shambles, where the ball wasn’t won by Sterling, yes he pressed but when the ball is straight given to you, you haven’t won it. Harry looked a little startled that Sterling didn’t then firstly mess things up and then secondly passed it to him… in the box… it must be a first.
Even Bulgaria though were doing one touch, give and go stuff, which led to a good chance for them. Their adventure though brought about the second England goal, in the second half. Rashford running at the open defence, brought down in the area. Harry doesn’t miss penalties these days. Ever since that one against Liverpool. There was no saving it, even if the keeper had gone the right way.
Kane helped win the ball back and Rashford was off again, Kane staying onside was fed the ball, putting in the cross, Kane placed the ball expertly away from Sterling’s feet, thus he didn’t have to think about which foot to use and just bundled the ball over the line.
twice they’d got to the byline and twice goals had come from it. There was other times but the ball ended up at the feet of Rose who generally made a mess of it. Someone should tell him when you get all puffed up about Pochettino picking you this season, it would work better if there was another fit left-back at the club.
The fourth came from actual quick think from Henderson… I know shocking, ain’t it… quick free-kick over the top onto Harry, he carries on, tries to cross, is blocked but picks the ball up and is then taken down. He looked exactly where he was going to place the penalty, well when I say placed I mean slam, the keeper went the right way and still didn’t have a hope.
So unlike Spurs they did see the opposition off and look to be cruising through another piss easy group that’ll see ’em thinking they’re world beaters again… right up until one of the usual suspects show them up for what they are…