England Go For The Kill

Being an England fan is not like being on a rollercoaster – it’s worse. After four years of false starts, under-whelming performances and unfair media criticism, we’re at a point where defeat, even to Ecuador, is a genuine fear for many fans.

Forget about meeting Brazil in the semis – we’re bloody scared that Tenorio and Delgado will pillage England for a couple of goals before half-time and condemn us to infighting and griping of the worst kind.

In less than five hours, England take on Ecuador for what promises to be an open contest determined as much by the heat as by the individual abilities of Beckham, Rooney, Lampard and Carrick. These four men will be under the microscope today – and they will all need to fire if England want to get anywhere near Berlin on July 9.

The last match against Sweden saw England players do something they have rarely done – stick to playing passing football. One more thing went unnoticed by the media though, who were content to get on Beckham’s back and ask for Terry / Gerrard to be captain.

Unfair Criticism

The thing was, Hargreaves was just not passing the ball to Beckham. You could blame it on Beckham being marked too closely, but the reality is that Hargreaves preferred to play to the Coles on the left or Lampard in front of him. Lampard himself was bent on missing a few more shots and as a result Beckham spent a lot of the match waiting on the right flank. And then you criticize your right-winger for not marking a striker on a set piece. Classic uneducated BS.

If you’re not going to feed the ball to the best passer / crosser in your side, and then expect him to do the job of a defender, you won’t get the best out of him, plain and simple. Beckham needs to impose himself more on the game but if he’s on the right flank you cant expect him to win the ball in front of the back four, take it up near the right corner in the opposition half and then shoot in a cross for Rooney and Crouch to score.

Defensive Problems

England’s defensive frailities were well documented and it is a telling blow when fans think that the quality of the England back four kept the scoreline to 2-2. Ferdinand is fit to play, so the only change now will be at right-back where Hargreaves is expected to take Carragher’s place and link up with Beckham. Ironic, if you ask me.

Robinson, Terry and Ferdinand have to sort out their problems at the back. The keeper needs to be able to control proceedings in set-pieces, and Robinson’s lack of experience in pressure situations showed. He will be better for it in the future, and as Eriksson said, it’s better this happened against Sweden than in the knockout stages.

What Formation Should England Play?

England are playing 4-1-4-1 today (a 4-5-1 that should be able to convert into a 4-3-3 when needed). With Ferdinand back, England play their regular defensive lineup (Robinson, Ashley Cole, Terry, Ferdinand) with Hargreaves slotting in at right-back to link up better with Becks. Carrick will play in front of the back four with his job being to be a distributor rather than a ball-winner – expect one of Ferdinand and Terry to push up (or Gerrard to drop back) and help Carrick out with defensive duties.

Carrick’s inclusion allows England to play their four main midfielders and it gives license to Lampard and Gerrard to really have a go at the opposition. Up front, Rooney will play on his own but he should be so well supported by Lampard, Gerrard and Cole that England might actually play more attacking football than they play with a straight 4-4-2.

The 4-1-4-1 can easily convert into a 4-5-1 if England need Carrick to push forward, or into a 4-3-3 with Cole and Gerrard moving up alongside Rooney. If England need it, they could play 3 at the back and throw Lennon up front to provide more pace towards the end of the match in a 3-4-3 (Cole goes up front as well, while Lamps moves to the left) formation. Several possibilities, but knowing Eriksson we will be sticking to the 4-1-4-1 for a while unless we need to bring out Crouch.

The heat will also play a factor in England’s performance, so I expect Becks and Rooney to be subbed out in this game (with Crouch and Lennon taking their places.

England vs Ecuador Match Predictions

Winner: England (who else?)

Score: 3-1

For England, Eriksson and Beckham, the real World Cup starts now.

[tags]England, 2006 World Cup[/tags]
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