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A few thoughts on the opening weekend:
*As much as he grew up admiring Paul Scholes, Paul Pogba is actually France’s answer to Steven Gerrard. When at their brilliant best, they play at a level that few players in the world can match; however, much like the ex-Liverpool ace, Pogba’s biggest problem on Friday night was trying to do too much all by himself, rather than allowing the midfielders either side of him to share the workload. It was a bit like he had started to believe his own hype.
*The best thing about the picture atop the Wales article is that Joe Ledley is in it. Ledley suffered a fractured fibula three and a half weeks ago, which is why he missed the FA Cup Final, and Chris Coleman gambled on his fitness. He came on as a substitute and had a quiet game, so he’s back to normal.
*As a superstar surrounded by solid performers, Gareth Bale is the Slash to Wales’s Guns N Roses.
*Will Wymant in the weekend mailbox mentioned Peak Giroud. We had Peak Ozil last night – having had a whole game of being criticised or damned with faint praise, despite having a very good game, he produced a moment of magic late on and got very little credit from anyone – not even the bloke who benefitted from his efforts. His awareness to make a diagonal run and then with a mere glance up, to play a cross perfectly for Schweinsteiger to latch on to, was just brilliant. Despite this, his involvement went virtually unheralded in the moment, with Schweinsteiger seemingly willing to celebrate with everyone apart from the man who’d served up that chance on a silver platter.
*Well done to UEFA for threatening the nations they believe most responsible for the violence with expulsion. However, this is just the first step, and they have to prove to us all that this isn’t just an empty gesture. There are serious doubts that they have the courage to stand up to Russia, for example, and you have to imagine the presence of government ministers in France is an extension of the long arm of Putin.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
The three players England miss
Townsend because Lalana just doesn’t score goals, Walcott because let’s face it having both Milner AND Henderson is a waste of time and sometimes you need pace to stretch the opposition and Jagielka just because I don’t trust Smalling.
Three players we really miss and didn’t make the squad.
It’s funny how when Arsenal play lots of lovely useless passes, probing the opposition in wave after wave of attacks with a striker up front who looks way off the pace and we get called predictable but when England do it they’re unlucky.
That wasn’t a Spursy performance it was an Arsenal one and without any Arsenal players starting – quite a feat. Wales are going to do to England what Swansea always do to Arsenal.
And another thing – I love your site but why don’t you do player ratings for the other home nations?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
What does experience have to do with it?
After reading so often that Hodgson included certain “experienced” players in his Euro16 squad – at the expense of others with more ability and in better form it must be added – I’ve been left wondering what exactly this “experience” is? At major international tournaments England have achieved nothing for half a century, so the only “experience” the veterans of the current squad have is how to fail on the big stage, surely?
Last night when James Milner was wrongfully introduced, England were crying out for pace and more importantly, a second goal, but like Hodgson, the ITV commentator thought it was the right decision to get another “experienced” player on the field to see out the game. True to his past “experience” of failure, Milner’s fresh legs were soon beaten by the tiring Georgi Schennikov, who crossed and Berezutski did the rest.
Unfortunately much the same has to be said for Wayne Rooney – the country’s all time leading goalscorer and once upon a time first name on the team sheet – why is he playing? His performance last night was acceptable I admit – nothing more than that, as claimed by several outlets – but it once again highlighted the lack of courage from Hodgson to play his best team. Rooney is no longer the nation’s best forward, not even third best by my maths, and nor is he a centre mid – not yet at least. But yet again Rooney was included in the starting eleven for his “experience” and the sad fact, as captain, he almost has to be.
Typically Rio Ferdinand tweeted afterwards that “experience (is) needed to see games out”. But he – like so many heavily capped English players – has no worthy international experience and is clinging to a cliche that has now dragged the nation with the “best league in the world” to failure on far too many occasions. It is clear – to me at least – that the the sooner the national team have a coach brave enough to axe players who are simply no longer good enough, the better.
Mark, WHY DIDN’T TOWNSEND GO TO EUROS? Sunderland.
So lots of new but nothing has changed in results.
We played well, a great young and interesting line up with Rooney now moving deep and pulling the strings. With more experience there he will really grow into something special I think.
Walker gave us some width on the right that Lallana never could but it worked well. We needed Sterling to play a bit more inside and offer goal threat though, but again lack of familiarity is all that was missing and that can develop.
Only four worries remain:
1. Smalling. Please drop him for Stones. His rugby tackling and failure to mark his man will cost us.
2. Rooney coming off after a mishit suggested to me that he might have picked up a niggle. Hopefully the sub protected it but Wilshere looks an interesting sub option there.
3. With Lallana unable and Sterling unwilling to shoot, Kane looked a bit toothless up front. Still played well and deserves more time but the other three options have more pace and ruthlessness.
4. The big one: the manager. His team talk seemed to completely sap all the attack from the team. It took 20 minutes for it to return. He is negative and cautious and we won’t win like that as the game showed. Rooney needs to get in to the players in the tunnel to pick them up because those wasted 20 minutes of post Hodgson timidity, if repeated, will cost us more than this once.
Still, all in all, quite positive… except for the result. Almost inevitable and even ch4 predicted it by showing titanic at the same time.
Just hope the team get to grow and an unlucky draw is acceptable against the Russians.
Some more England thoughts
1. Rabble rabble Danny drinkwater
2. Why is Kane on corners? Hodgson are you Rodgers in disguise?
3. For as good as Rooney was can’t help but feel that the game will happen around him v Wales
4. The fact that lallana wasn’t subbed at 65 makes me feel that Hodgson has no idea what he is doing
5. We actually played very well
6. Sterling looks devoid of confidence. Maybe, possibly, Manchester move ruined career
7. Harry Kane picked the worst possible time to decide he’s actually a myth
8. Eric Dier take a bow son
9. England need to get the ball to Alli quicker and more often
10. Draw is not the end of the world. This is a very winnable group and I expect us to do the business against Wales.
Brian (it was nice to see England play well) LFC
15 conclusions on Wales
Some thoughts on the Wales match – not sure I’ll make 16, but here goes:
1.) First and foremost, we showed we belong! After the game, Chris Coleman spoke pretty much for the nation in saying that he wasn’t really sure beforehand what was going to happen, with no basis at all for comparison. Given recent friendly results, I was starting to err on the side of pessimism but with a win under our belts, we can’t be written off as simply one of the 8 makeweights who don’t deserve to be here and wouldn’t have been under the previous format. What an opportunity we’ve now made for ourselves!
2.) That said, Ben Davies’ early goal line clearance was a pivotal moment. Often with clearances like that, the defender gets there, only to kick the ball off his own standing leg and see the ball rebound into the net, so it was a fantastic piece of athleticism and arguably the key moment of our whole tournament!
3.) The manager got it spot on! It must have been tempting to gamble on the fitness of Ledley and Robson-Kanu – more or less ever present in qualifying – but he obviously called it as he saw it and picked the players to do the job needed for the opposition and within their own physical limits. Even better that both were involved in the winning goal.
4.) A few of our Championship or fringe Premier League players must be using this tournament as a bit of a shop window. Chief among them is Chris Gunter – solid defensively, not lightning but quick enough, not afraid of possession and able to cross. A poor man’s Kyle Walker then? Maybe, but are there really 20 better players in his position in the Premier League? Only 26 with but with 60+ caps already – there would have to be a few looking at him.
5.) Another is Joe Allen, who performed that under-rated task of reading play, then passing the ball simply to a teammate. Every time I watched Liverpool last season he seemed to come off the bench and make them better. A Premier League player for sure but if Klopp wants rid there ought to be plenty of takers.
6.) See also Jonny Williams. You can’t seriously still be calling him one of the 5 worst PL players at this tournament can you? I’d say he’s just overtaken at least one ex-Liverpool, very expensive winger.
7.) Though perhaps it’s just the Gareth Bale effect. Does having a genuine Galactico in your team just give you that bit of extra belief? ‘It’s OK, Bale’s playing, he’ll do something magic in a minute and we’ll be fine’. Maybe Bale’s presence just makes average players a bit better somehow.
8.) That said, Bale’s performance was only a six or seven out of ten. This is very heartening actually – we still won without our main man really exploding into life. The keeper should’ve saved the free kick, and he was caught a bit flat-footed in conceding possession to Hamsik before that early near disaster.
9.) Aaron Ramsey continues to frustrate. Much like for Arsenal, he tried way too many fancy flicks, but still he was very prominent in both boxes really. He put in a real shift so I’m not going to criticise him too much.
10.) I’m pleased to note the influence off the Welsh club sides. Current Swansea players Williams and Taylor, along with former Swans Davies and Allen were key. I’m a Cardiff fan so it hurts a bit that we have no current players in the squad but I hasten to point out that Gunter, Ramsey, Ledley and Collins are all our academy products.
11.) Anyone who’s heard that song by the Manic Street Preachers – and if you haven’t, yes, really! – has probably spent most of the last day going ‘Hal Robson Kanuuuuuuuuuuuuuu’! And not necessarily always in your head either.
12.) Steve Wilson on commentary had a shocker. What was he doing, saying the Slovakians didn’t look a threat? I’m surprised Robbie Savage didn’t make more of that massive case of mockers in the build up to the equaliser.
13.) Speaking of Sav, I know he’s not everyone’s favourite but I like the fella. I enjoy the way his mouth goes faster than his brain when he comes out with comments about ‘The whistle’s referee’ and similar.
14.) From our point of view, it’s hard to know what to make of the England result. Perhaps the draw makes it easier for us to make the top 3 and probable qualification, but it might also open up the top 2 slots and possibly – massively tempting fate – an easier last 16 tie.
15.) Finally – and 1 short of the regulation 16 – I’m gonna quote a line from that song. ‘Let’s not forget Gary Speed. He wore his heart upon his sleeve. And if he is looking down, then our love is all around’.
Bring on England! (Oh, that could be 16)
A proud Norn Ironer
What a phenomenal feeling seeing Our Wee Country make their first appearance in a tournament in my entire lifetime (1988 since you ask). While we didn’t get the result, I thought the second half showed a lot of promise.
First half we looked incredibly nervous, our selection at 5 at the back preventing us from relieving any pressure yet not providing the defensive solidity you might expect. Despite going in at half time at 0-0 I thought we were very lucky to do so; Poland were getting a lot of joy down the left and I thought Conor McLaughlin had a desperately poor game over all. The lack of understanding between the players in an unfamiliar system was evident.
Despite conceding soon after Stuart Dallas coming on I thought this was the beginning of us gaining a foothold in the game. Following up a positive substitution with two more in Conor Washington and Jamie Ward gives me great hope Michael O’Neill won’t be afraid to go for this. Though Poland deserved their win, we were an outstretched boot away from a goal at least twice.
In order to have a better outcome in our following two matches our leaders need to step up. Though Lafferty can rightly argue he was isolated, Davis had a very quiet game and Evans’ distribution was poor. However, I am optimistic that we will grow into the tournament…this may have something to do with going to Northern Ireland v Germany in Paris next week and a blind belief it can’t/won’t be a whitewash.
Northern Irish exile on the Gold Coast, Australia
A lonely Scotsman
As a Scotsman who has reveled in many a Tournament of supporting “whoever England are playing”, I’m finding it very difficult to dislike this English team.
I am now living in Australia, so perhaps not having the 24/7, over the top coverage of how great we are, how we are going to win, Wayne Rooney has been to the toilet 4 times in 25 minutes and then the inevitable blow out of who was at fault for the goal, how bad this team are, he should be dropped, he should be sacked, the scapegoat, the death threats etc etc.. helps!
The Australian press are even worse and I was rooting for England in the Rugby the other day too.
There is a lot to like about this England team, no “superstars” ala Beckham, Gerrard, Cole, Terry et al, just young, fresh and good players trying to give it a go for what appears to be a nation no longer comparing themselves to Brazil 70.
However, when Russia equalised, my natural reaction was “oh yesss its a goal” and a smile came across my face, then I realised oh wait, not this England team, that’s a shame – they didnt deserve that.
On a side note, Roy, you took 5 strikers mate, you can use more than one a game.
I am wondering if there are fellow Scotsmen that have the same feeling, particularly those living in Scotland??
I was quite surprised to see Sarah Winterburn write about this being an excellent tournament so far. I ‘d been planning to write a mail today saying how dull I’d found it.
We’ve had three games at 1-0. That’s nearly half. We’re a couple of injury time goals away from that being five 1-0 games out of 7. Now a 1-0 can be a good match, but none of these games have had both teams going for it and, for example, only missed chances or great saves keeping the scores down. They’ve been boring. I’ve not watched every match so far (the time difference makes the last game more challenging), but the only game I’d have said was a great game was Wales v Slovakia. Both teams going for the win, very entertaining stuff. But from what I’ve seen from the games involving Albania, Romania and Northern Ireland it’s just teams of absolutely mediocre players, being organised and trying not concede. I’ve no moral objection to this. If you’ve made it to the Euros that way then fair enough. If Scotland had done the same, I’d be absolutely delighted. But it does make for dull viewing for the neutral or near neutral.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
The Shocka America
I hear all sorts of fun and games are kicking off in Europe right now, but for those of you searching for even more football, cast a glace Westwards to the Copa America. It’s a unwanted tournament, but so far it’s provided plenty of talking points.
In group A, Colombia started off brightly, before deciding to make 10 changes (incl keeper) for the last game. Manager “el profe” Pekerman absolutely underrated the Costa Ricans, who were well up for the dead rubber and despite James and Cuadrado coming on late, won 3-2 to condemn the Colombians to second place against Brazil.
Except, over in group B today, the Brazilians, having beat Haiti 7-1, stacked it against a poor Perú and got turned over. The Peruvians somehow took top spot and now face Colombia.
Group C saw the Mexicans beat Uruguay comfortably, before a team containing Godin, Gimenez and Cavani conspired to lose 1-0 to Venezuela and knock themselves out. Tomorrow sees Venezuela and Mexico (looking like possible first non-South American winners) playing for top spot. Meanwhile the plucky and unlucky Jamaicans look for some deserved points for their battling displays so far.
Reigning champions Chile almost came a cropper in Group D, as they needed 9mins of injury time in order to beat Bolivia with a dubious penalty. Argentina, on the other hand look ominous. Messi has played only a half hour but netted a hattrick. Tuesday should see Chile win to book a place against Mexico…but it’s been an odd tournament so far!
What next? A cracking quarterfinal between Mexico and Chile, probably. Argentina and Colombia should go through easily and Ecuador-USA is hard to call. Messi and the Argentinians look ready to win after losing World Cup and Copa finals in past years, Jamaica gave 100% and Colombia are set up for years to come.
Oli, Santa Fe, Bogotá