The 3-1 scoreline should have flattered the Hungarians, but it ended up flattering the England team instead. While the ‘A’ team outclassed their opponents in all areas, they lacked the penetration to make their chances count. The fact that the first two goals came off set pieces showed that against tougher teams, goals would be very hard to come by.
The media has called the performance further proof that Eriksson doesn’t know what he’s doing, but to my mind he got things absolutely right in the second half. Remember – Eriksson already knows that Carrick can play in the holding position, and that Lennon is quick on the right flanks. What he needed to know today was whether Gerrard could pull off Rooney’s role, and whether Carragher could play in Carrick’s place.
With the Hungarians stifling Carragher (whose distribution of the ball left much to be desired) and Hargreaves allowing Dardai to take the shot that gave Hungary their only goal, Gerrard was the only experiment that worked out – but wasn’t that to be expected, given his talents and form?
The match only really sprung into like in the 40th minute, and things continued like that after the break with England scoring twice in 4 minutes and Hungary pulling one back after another 4 minutes.
The holding midfielder position gives Gerrard and Lampard license to go forward but they need both good tackling AND good defending. England should at the very least have a fluid system where they alternate their defensive midfielders based on the game situation. Carrick does well when England have to attack, where as Carragher suits the defensive mindset.
Another option is to play Beckham there. It has been tried as a ‘diamond’ formation before and failed, but to be fair Beckham has played well for Madrid AND for England in that position. Add to that his passing ability and consider that you have Cole and Lennon on the flanks, and suddenly this prospect is far more enticing than ever.
As is tradition here at SoccerLens, we go to the team performance. No marks, just comments.
Paul Robinson – could not do anything about the Hungary goal, as Owen Hargreaves shouldnt even have let the shot be taken. Had little to do throughout the match, but made the saves when asked to.
Gary Neville – Played for the first 45 minutes only, and while he tried to run down the flanks, he doesn’t have the pace needed for it. Fair game, but had very little to do.
Rio Ferdinand – England’s no. 2 centre back – Had little to do but shut down the Hungarians well. The best bit about his game was his willingness to go forward and create chances – maybe he wants a shot at the holding midfield position?
John Terry – My 2nd choice for the Makelele spot – played his heart out, and deserves to be the no.1 English defender.
Ashley Cole – Still rusty in my view, and tried to be too tricky without getting many results. Needs to link up with Joe Cole a bit better to create danger from the left flank. With Joe Cole cutting in, Ashley Cole will have to learn how to cross, or barring that, learn how to pass to Cole and Lampard more effectively.
Jamie Carragher – An experiment gone wrong. He is an excellent defender, but with the Hungarians playing defensively he had to rely on passing the ball and he did that so poorly that Lampard was almost taken out of the game. Shifted to right-back at half-time, and enjoyed a quiet game after that.
Sol Campbell (sub) – Brought on in the last 15-20 minutes, had little to do. He might have to contend with an ‘off-the-bench’ role by being brought on to help England score from set pieces, but you’ve already got Terry, Ferdinand and Crouch for that. 4th choice definitely.
Owen Hargreaves (sub) – Was at fault for the Hungarian goal, but apart from that had little to do. As England bombed forward in the second half he was there to clean things up, but against a side like Hungary he was never going to be tested. At least he knows how to pass, but is not fit to be in the ‘A’ team.
David Beckham – The man who should be playing as the holding midfielder. His crosses – including a 70 yard punt that landed straight on Owen’s boot (who, lack of match practice and all that, couldnt control the ball) – are a very powerful weapon for England and they need him to drive the game from that position. His tackling is fair, but with Becks at the bottom of the diamond you don’t need to play defensive – you can use Gerrard and Lampard as advanced midfielders, with Lennon and Cole coming in from the flanks and Owen in the box to finish things off. Easily the man of the match for me in this game.
Frank Lampard – Can play much better. He was sort of left out in the cold, first with Carragher’s inability to get the ball to him and then with Hungary packing their midfield and closing him down. Needs to work with Gerrard and needs a better holding midfielder to give him the ball.
Joe Cole – Fiery as usual and was unlucky not to score. Along with Gerrard he was guilty of diving, but his place is set for the World Cup.
Steven Gerrard – Hard to find fault with the man, but he did himself no favors with a blatant dive in the penalty box (his foot might have caught the leg of the tackler but a dive is a dive). Along with Cole tried hard to win fouls, but capped off an impressive display otherwise with a headed goal and assured display as a support striker. He’s the man to fill in Rooney’s boots, but he will have to work with Lampard a bit better.
Peter Crouch (sub) – replaced Gerrard as the support striker and scored the 3rd goal, but we already know his potential.
Michael Owen – Had a good game and was unlucky not to score. Needs to get his sharpness back as quickly as possible.
Theo Walcott (sub) – again got very little time to show off, but these appearances are necessary to give him the match experience he needs to go to the World Cup.
The next match is against Jamaica on 3rd June. England fly out to Germany after that, and Rooney returns 2 days later to have his foot scanned on the 7th. Big questions still remain for England, because all they’ve done so far is gotten answers they already knew: Gerrard is striker material, Crouch can score, Owen needs match practice, Terry is their best defender and that Beckham is crucial to their chances.
Hey Mr. Eriksson – how about we figure out what our best formation is, eh?