Sunday, 8 June 2014

A Stormy Night for England

In their final warm up game before the World Cup begins, England will be happy to have been able to fly to Rio without any injuries (or deaths) after a feisty outing against a tempestuous Honduran side.
In reality it was one of the more dull England performances in recent times, and won't live long in the memory. Indeed, the only electricity came from the tropical storms raging over a humid Miami, leading to a 40 minute delay midway through the first half. An unusual event which led to us having to endure Chiles and co needing to fill in with various interviews with the referee (the coolest ref ever?) and the stadium manager. Give yourself a pat on the back if you managed to get through that without heavy drinking or self harming.

In truth, this game was never likely to be a thriller. After Oxlade Chamberlain's injury and the various other players we've seen ruled out of the competition in recent days, this was always going to be no more than a run out in the sun. Honduras, however seemed to have different ideas, putting in many heavy challenges, Leighton Baines in particular being victim of their rough tactics. They finished the match with ten, but I'll never know how Celric's Izaguirre avoided an early bath after a late lunge on Sturridge, followed up by kicking the ball at him from a yard while he lay prone on the ground?

It was Sturridge who looked most likely for England, and he will be very disappointed with his nights work, wasting two glorious opportunities. If Welbeck had passed over those chances he'd have been abused by all and sundry, but Sturridge appears immune to criticism as we hang our hopes on him. He will need to be far more clinical when the real matches start. To not even to have hit the target after the move of the match in the 20th minute was unforgiveable.

Welbeck continues to be a divisive figure, and whilst he isn't the most exciting or clinical player (the new Heskey?), you have to say that he always performs in his national colours. His scoring record of 8 in 23 games stacks up favourably against his very poor 20 in 90 for Manchester United. For me, he was our best player against Honduras, working hard to keep possession and with some good touches around the opposition box. I'll be amazed if he doesn't start against Italy, with some sources suggesting that he'll be the man tasked with man marking the exceptional Pirlo in the opener next Saturday, a role he executed well against Xabi Alonso versus Real Madrid in the Champions League two seasons ago. Rather you than me Danny.

Adam Lallana seems to be flavour of the month at the moment. Undoubtedly he had a fantastic season with Southampton, and looks to be on the verge of a move to Liverpool, but I don't go in for all this praise he is currently getting. It might be a controversial opinion, but I've been relatively unimpressed with his England appearances thus far and would argue that he hasn't made that much of an impression.
It appears that Roy disagrees with me, and he seems nailed on for a starting berth, but I'd rather the exciting Barkley or the untested Sterling.

Sterling's unfortunate red card against Ecuador looks likely to have cost him his chance, as he is yet to start for his country, something he'd have surely done last night.
And although Berkley's ommission caused disappointment in living rooms throughout the nation, he did himself much credit with another fearless second half performance, which will have given Hodgson much to ponder before next weekend.

The entire back line didn't inspire confidence. Cahill and Jagielka were unusually wasteful in possession, whereas Johnson continued his poor run of form, although he did provide the ball from which Sturridge should have scored with his head late on.
And Baines once again did not put a single good ball into the box, the one thing that got him the nod over Ashley Cole in the squad. Must do better.

Henderson had another neat game and looks likely to partner Gerrard in the deep midfield role. Each game he plays, he seems more comfortable than before, as he grows in confidence. There is undoubtedly more to come, and hopefully we can see him play with the dynamism that he does for Liverpool.

Wilshere, despite some good skills and positive passing has not done enough in his time on the pitch to displace Henderson. And I find it interesting that Roy is happy to criticise Berkley for giving the ball the ball away by making poor choices, whereas Wilshere seems to get a free ride. I can't be alone in noticing that time and again he is guilty of surging with the ball towards the opposition area only to get bullied off the ball, fall over and cede possession, claiming a foul every time? Paul Scholes (who has been keen to make up for a career of silence by shooting his mouth off at any opportunity recently) was right when he accused Wilshere of a lack of progression since he burst onto the scene as a 17 year old (clearly injuries have been a factor). Something tells me we won't be able to level the same accusations at Berkley, Sterling or Shaw in years to come.

England now travel to Rio where they will set up base camp, before heading on to Manaus for the big one. Roy Hodgson will be relatively happy with these warm up games (unbeaten no less!). We've come through relatively unscathed, and he's been able to get everyone minutes whilst also ruling out a number of players. And the training in the tropical conditions will have done no harm.

Now onto the tournament, and I for one cannot wait!

Are you happy with the likely line up against Italy? Do you think Lallana has impressed? Will Berkley or Sterling play?
Please leave comments below, or contact me via Twitter @russellheaps

1 comment:

  1. I watched the Honduras match late Saturday night / Sunday morning, after recording it (fortunately, so I could wind through the storm break) so was completely knackered, but my memories from it, other than it being reasonably dull, were quite encouraging. Trouble is I can't quite nail down what I found encouraging - so I'm currently re watching it during what little time I get in the evenings (without pissing off the Mrs with too much football BEFORE the tournament starts). But I seem to remember being happy with Lallana and very happy with Barkley, and pleased with England's build up play.
    In general terms I'm more confident about this England team going in to a tournament than I have been since 1998. In the past we have had Gareth Barry being our main man or indeed pinning our hopes on the like of Scott Parker. Well now, not even Wilshere might make the starting 11 - this is how good it is.

    Of course now I've said that, we'll be out in the groups stages.

    Regardless - bring it on!