England disappoint but hold off Paraguay for a 1-0 win

England vs Paraguay Match Stats (Group B)

England 1, Paraguay 0

England Goals: Gamarra (OG) 4

England Cards: Gerrard (Y), Crouch (Y)
Paraguay Card: Valdex (Y)

England vs Paraguay Match Report

The match got off to a perfect start, David Beckham’s swinging free-kick resulting in an own goal by Gamarra and sparking memories of England’s last match against Jamaica. After that though, the match petered out into a drap, scrappy affair with England slowly and surely losing their initial impetus with Paraguay gaining in confidence after a nerve-wracking opening 10 minutes.

The rest of the first half was limited to England punting long balls up in Peter Crouch’s general direction, with Beckham and Cole getting very little service. The problem was compounded by the inability of Lampard and Gerrard to build moves through the middle of the park, and that became worse in the second half as Paraguay pushed forward and while they failed to score, they did enough to expose gaps in England’s strategy – namely, lack of cohesion in the middle of the park and no proven strikers to call on from the bench.

A word for the Paraguay keeper – he came on as a substitute in the first 10 minutes and had a lot to do throughout the match, especially as he parried away a number of Lampard shots.

England Team Report

Paul Robinson: Had little to do in the match, but kept his concentration throughout to make sure Paraguay didnt get a sniff of a chance when they final managed a couple of shots on target.

Gary Neville: His lack of pace meant that he was reduced to cleaning up and launching crosses over to Peter Crouch. With Beckham himself shy of pace it might do England some good to try some pacier like Carragher down the right flank, if only to give them more options.

John Terry: Stood his ground and defended well in the second half when Paraguay started to put a few moves together. Would have preferred to do a bit from the many corners England won though.

Rio Ferdinand: That Ferdinand was one of few deserving candidates for the man of the match award does not show how important he was today. Was the main reason why Paraguay were unable to get through in the second half and on this performance, England have little to worry about in central defense.

Ashley Cole: Still rusty and liable to get caught too far forward. Valdez was able to cut in several times behind Cole, and with Ashley not doing much of wing play with Joe Cole, there was little to impress from the Arsenal left back. He should improve against T & T, otherwise Sweden could make England pay.

David Beckham: His set pieces will be one of England’s main weapons in the coming matches but he needs more support from the front two. Did not turn in as good a performance as expected but was easily one of the best England players on display. The highlight of the match was his 4th minute free kick – the England captain will be desperate to make this World Cup count, so expect more fireworks from him on the 15th against Trinidad and Tobago.

Beckham in England vs Paraguay, 2006 World Cup Germany
England celebrate their first goal courtesy of Beckham’s free kick

Steven Gerrard: Was yellow-carded thanks to some poor officiating and had an otherwise decent game, tackling hard and trying to drive England forward. His linkup with Lampard is still questionable, and now he has a yellow card hanging on his head.

Frank Lampard: Looks to be the designated long-range shooter for England. He needs to do more in creating chances for others, and his partnership with Gerrard needs to be improved. Both are attacking midfielders and it tends to leave a big gap in front of the back four.

Joe Cole: Fast and creative, Cole was given little service on the flanks but he still played well, cutting in and trying to put together moves. Received a knock near the end of the second half that led to him being subbed off. Should be ok for the 15th.

Michael Owen: Still out of form. You feel that he has to come good at some stage but it is worrying to watch England with no support for their front two. Rooney is injured and Walcott not tested. Owen tried hard, but came off early in the second half as England tried to play wider by bringing in Downing. Some said that Owen could not be replaced, but I think if Rooney comes back he will slot in (or at least sub for) Owen.

Peter Crouch: Had a bad time with the ref, and not a great game otherwise. If England are going to rely on him he will need to do more than just win high-balls. Then again, without a performing Owen or support from the midfield there is little Crouch can do.

Stewart Downing (sub): Went on several mazy runs down the left flant, showcasing his pace, but showed his inexperience by failing to put in a few defensive tackles, not to mention that he was shut down pretty effectively by the Paraguay right-back. A good player to have on the bench but he needs to do more than just run with the ball.

Owen Hargreaves (sub): England fans hate him and with Eriksson turning to him again (over Carrick) for a 4-1-4-1 formation in the dying stages of the match there was little to suggest that Hargreaves could do the job when really called upon. This is no time for experimentation though – England need to play their best holding midfielder, and right now that’s Michael Carrick.

Valdez, Paraguay best player in England vs Paraguay, 2006 World Cup Germany
Valdez couldn’t break through England’s defense but was given far too much space.

England win and secure 3 points, and look to be on course for the Group B showdown with Sweden on the 20th. Trinidad & Tobago should not prove too much of a problem, and England are still on course for the second round.

Credits: Images from Fifa World Cup’s official site.

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