at the same time.
After becoming the greatest team in the world, thanks to a lucky win over Belgium, England resumed their place in amongst the also-rans as a defeat to Denmark dropped them to third in their Nations League group.
I said after that lucky victory over Belgium and the pundits making so much out of it that England would go and get a draw in their next game, against Denmark. Yup, I overestimated them as the Danes walked out of Wembley with a one nil victory, as I’d underestimated just how bad England, the manager and certain players could be.
England have gone from top of the group to third. Their level on points with Denmark, after each team has recorded 2 wins, a draw and a defeat from their four group games. Denmark are ahead due to scoring one more goal. Both have conceded 2 goals, while Denmark have managed a goal a game, England have scored only three in their four games.
And it’s fitting. The current FIFA rankings have England 4th, with the Danes down in 16th. Level with Denmark is where England are in reality, amongst those that you don’t think are gonna tear it up at a major competition. Yes, if they get lucky, like England did at the last World Cup, they could get through a few rounds but when it comes to the crunch it’s home time. Denmark came second in their WC group, then lost to Croatia. England just had a couple more knockout wins. Nobody is putting money on Denmark winning anything.
I underestimated how bad Southgate is as a manager. A man who has seen something not work for a number of games now and persists with it. A back three and two holding midfielders. No midfield creativity. Nothing to break down a well organised side. Apparently he was justified in picking Mason because of one very lucky goal, over two games. I underestimated Southgate’s inability to pick players in form, which cost England in this game.
Maguire is not in any sort of form to be even considered for the squad never mind a nailed on starting XI spot. The useless lump wasn’t even that good before he got this bad. Joined united Syndrome. Got the big move, made, doesn’t really have to bother now. Most expensive defender in the world was always prone to these types of dozing off mistakes, even when he was being offered to United for just £15m, not the £80m he eventually went for. Oh the poor dear is suffering because of what happened in Mykonos. Well, he shouldn’t have acted Billy Big Bollocks over there then and anyway he’s basically got away with it, not like he’s doing time. Why would he be thinking about it now?
He and Southgate can have no arguments about either of the yellow cards. Maguire’s first touch which led to his second yellow was unbelievable. The player he fouled was 12 yards away when Maguire booted an easy trap.
Lee Dixon showed again in commentary as he has done throughout his career as a player and pundit that he doesn’t know what a foul is as he moaned about Maguire’s second yellow and the penalty that shortly followed it. Another pair of Southgate’s favourites. Pickford, like Maguire isn’t in any form for his club. Again there’s nobody who would see him on current form as the number 1 England keeper. Pickford panicked and compounded Coady’s head back by charging out into the back of Walker. Walker just flinched and then had a wild swipe, nowhere near the ball and kicked the Danish player. It’s afoul anywhere else on the park, it’s a foul in the area, no matter what Dixon thinks.
Southgate’s changes following the sending off didn’t improve England any, it didn’t bring any creativity. Like for like changes that saw him stick to the not working plan, though the formation flitted about.
Harry Kane being criticised for not looking match sharp. Well, he’s probably looking after that injury that saw him play the full 90 minutes. But how can you look match sharp when no one plays you the ball. In the same paper in an article praising James Rogriguez stats for goal involvement, and big chances created, show Kane ahead of the Everton player and just behind him on chances created. Is that a player short of match fitness? No, it’s all down to service. There’s no creativity from the middle so Harry has to go wandering for the ball and taking potshots from outside the box.
When England finally did create chances the Danes had a good goalkeeper to keep ’em out. Much like they have a better holding player in Hojbjerg, so don’t require two and three centre-backs. and some creativity in Eriksen.
England’s best chances, again, looked to be from set-pieces. They are so one dimensional. Yet Grealish didn’t come on, when the best option available to Southgate is to play for fouls.
As Roy Keane said later Southgate and Kane were talking as if they’d won the game and they were talking as if they just had to turn up in Belgium to win because they won the last game. Obviously expecting Belgium to be as bad again and to be able to profit from very lucky goals.
Belgium is the next game for England before the final game against Iceland. If it had been the other way round you just know that Maguire and James – who was sent off after the final whistle – would be straight back into the side after their suspensions, much like Walker was after his red card. Southgate and his favourites.