A tale of two halves – England thrilled and entertained in the first before losing the plot and then, embarrassingly, panicking like headless chickens in the second whenever a cross or throw was aimed in the 6 yard box.
One wonders what Sven must be thinking – Michael Owen out of the World Cup, Ferdinand with a groin injury, Neville with a calf strain and Lampard still misfiring. The only positives for England will be the two Coles and Gerrard – everyone else has either yet to spark (Terry, Beckham, Rooney) or have so far looked out of form (Lampard, Robinson, Crouch).
With Theo Walcott still not trusted (I think Eriksson is saving Walcott for whenever we fall behind in a match – no, seriously), Crouch and Rooney are the only strikers we have. It seems likely that while England will play a 4-4-2 against Ecuador (with C and R upfront), they might have to revert to a 4-5-1 (convertable to a 4-3-3) with Becks tucked in and Lennon on the right flank. England need both pace and Beckham’s passes, and Eriksson has to figure out a way to use them together.
England came into the World Cup being talked about as the best team since 1966. At current showing, this looks to be the worst possible management of talent ever. Will someone please tell Mr. Eriksson to mould England into an attacking unit that doesn’t freak out on set pieces. Please?
England Team Review
Paul Robinson – Apalling. Failed to control the four defenders in front of him and that led to the two Sweden goals (and a lot of panicking in the second half. Needs more experience on the big stage, and should move to a club like United, Arsenal or Chelsea (even Liverpool) if England are to have a great keeper. Has all the attributes, but not the authority of a van der Sar or Dida. Cech does better at Chelsea only because Terry, Carvalho and Gallas are so good at defending against set pieces – something England will be working on in the next few days.
Jamie Carragher – People keep talking about how he isn’t a natural fullback and how he gets caught out of position. For me, he didnt do too badly in the first half, although Ashley Cole did have to bail out England on the right flank in the second half a couple of times. Will get better, but if Ferdinand is not playing against Ecuador then he MUST play alongside Terry.
John Terry – Needs to marshall the defense better – without Neville, Terry or Ferdinand will have to take charge. Could have prevented both goals, but came up short.
Rio Ferdinand – Had a good game until he was replaced by Sol Campbell. Let’s hope it is just a minor niggle and that he’ll be ready for the quarters at least. Excellent tackle on Ljunberg in the first half, brought back memories of the Arsenal-United scraps.
Ashley Cole – Best performance by the left-back in this tournament. If he continues in this vein England have nothing to worry about on the left flank.
Sol Campbell (sub) – Some have said that it would be unkind to say ill about Campbell until he has left Arsenal. For my money, Sol’s time was over after the 2004 season. His flapping about like a headless chicken in Sweden’s second goal showed why Eriksson is not known for his substitutions. Eriksson should have shifted Carragher to centre back and brought on someone like Phil Neville or even moved Beckham to right-back. Anyone but Sol Campbell please.
David Beckham – England need to give him the ball more often. Having said that, the man also needs to improve on his crosses, which floated between awry and sublime yesterday. His passing will become increasingly important as the tournament progresses.
Owen Hargreaves – The most-hated England player did a good job cleaning up in front of the England defense but in all honestly he will need time to gel in the England system. He allowed Lampard to play better upfront, and I can only wonder how much more effective Gerrard will be with Hargreaves sitting in front of the defense.
Frank Lampard – Eriksson needs to make a decision quickly – who is indispensible – Gerrard or Lampard? The answer will always be Gerrard, so Eriksson has to find a way either to accomodate all 5 (Cole, Hargreaves, Beckham, Gerrard and Lampard) into the team or drop Lampard. He is a great midfielder but he might just need the shock of being dropped for a game before recovering his scoring touch.
Joe Cole – The best England player on the field yesterday – scored the first (what a goal that was) and created the second for Gerrard. His form is one of the few pluses for England.
Steven Gerrard (sub) – England cannot do anything without him on the field.
Wayne Rooney – Still some time away from full fitness. Needs to learn how to pass better.
Michael Owen – Out of the World Cup – hard to not feel sorry for him, and hard to not want to strangle Eriksson after watching Owen crawl over the touchline.
Peter Crouch (sub) – What is this guy doing in the Liverpool and England squads, exactly? Eriksson has no idea how to use Crouch – the long-ball strategy is not working and if the crosses, free kicks and corners are not directed towards Crouch, you really, really don’t need him, do you? Apart from his height he offers little else to the team.
Ecuador awaits on Sunday.
[tags]England, World Cup 2006[/tags]