Among the numerous positives from England’s draw with Russia on Saturday, there were a handful of negatives: the defence was troubled far too often by a limited attack; Raheem Sterling endured a spate of sudden nosebleeds as soon as he crossed the halfway line; Roy Hodgson opted to use only two of the five strikers he selected for an international tournament – and one of those in midfield.
Alan Shearer discusses another of the main issues in The Sun: Harry Kane took some corners, and they were not of the utmost quality.
‘Harry Kane won the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season.’
So far, so good for Wor Al.
‘He is England’s No1 centre-forward…’
Again, a fair assessment. Please, continue.
‘…and one of our best headers of a ball.’
Shearer’s Sun colleague Neil Ashton is one of many supporting such claims. ‘It makes no sense to put Kane on set-pieces because he is picked to play for England because of his goals. Taking him away from the penalty area is taking away a very obvious threat.’
Harry Kane competed in 218 aerial battles in the Premier League for Tottenham this past season. He won 76 and lost 142. Only five players lost more, and 35 won more, including nine Englishmen – three of whom are in the England squad.
Further to the point, of the 22-year-old’s 28 goals for Tottenham in 2015/16, two were headers. Only one – against Qarabag FK – was from a corner.
There are legitimate reasons as to why Kane should not take corners for England, the fact that they are not much good being the main one. His supposed ‘aerial threat’ in the box is not, really.
Wayne Rooney was rather good despite England’s disappointing draw in Group B. The captain started in a reserved midfield role for the first time for his country, and he impressed.
Asthon was among the 30-year-old’s supporters. The Sun‘s Chief Football Reporter was positively glowing in his praise.
‘Wayne Rooney was a revelation alongside Alli in the centre of midfield,’ writes Ashton, ‘picking off passes at will when he was in possession.
‘His swerving 40-yard pass into the path of Alli after just over half an hour was ball-of-the-century stuff.’
Just think, in 100 years’ time, our grandchildren will be telling their grandchildren about the time Wayne Rooney’s 30-yard pass ‘into the path of Alli’ was intercepted by Pavel Mamaev. Forget Andrea Pirlo, forget Xavi, forget Xabi Alonso; that is ‘ball-of-the-century stuff’.
Could someone read the following three paragraphs and remind us who Martin Samuel is employed by?
‘So one final thought. You cannot lead a very powerful and lowest common denominator election campaign, based on demonising immigrants and the very concept of immigration; on making the claim that Britain is somehow different from the vague foreign mass; on telling us that we are not the same, that we are somehow better; that we have nothing in common with people who live across a tiny strip of water; that we should put up walls, restraints, that they are the reason for our failing NHS and myriad social ills.
‘You cannot do this without also creating a dangerous, divided climate, in which hatred festers. English hooliganism never went away, but it has not been as identifiable and vocal for some time.
‘Long before the Russians showed the sinister, orchestrated face of the new football violence, drunken English fans were gathering to sing anti-European songs in Marseille’s port.’
Ah. That’s right…
Could it be Magic?
Rejoice, for Paul Merson returns with his predictions for Sky Sports. It really has felt like an eternity. The Magic Man lets us know what to expect for the final five opening group-stage games.
“This will be a boring Spanish victory. Vicente del Bosque’s men lost to Georgia in their final warm-up game but that was one of the most one-sided matches in the history of football.”
Spain did dominate Georgia in terms of possession in that pre-tournament friendly, but it is important to note that they registered only one more shot on target (three) than their opponents (two). According to Sky Sports’ very own statistical breakdown of that game, both countries created one goalscoring chance. It was hardly Australia 31–0 American Samoa, was it?
“Italy will be solid as they always seem to be in tournaments, and with it being the opening game, I can’t split these two.”
Merson presumably has fond memories of Italy’s group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the X Factor in this game and the fact Eidur Gudjohnsen is still playing for Iceland tells you all you need to know.”
What does the inclusion of 37-year-old Eidur Gudjohnsen, Iceland’s record goalscorer and a player unlikely to start against Portugal on Tuesday, tell us that the inclusion of 38-year-old Ricardo Carvalho for Portugal does not?
As an aside, Mediawatch did allow itself a slightly mean-spirited chuckle at the following from Merson, whose musings had clearly been made some time last week:
‘Again, just as Lewandowski will be against Northern Ireland, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be a class above.’
Let’s face it, we all thought the same.
The joy of six
The game may have been on Saturday, but Jeremy Cross has kindly compiled some match ratings for us from England’s draw with Russia in the Daily Star.
‘Joe Hart: Little to do, but did it confidently and well.’
He did look awfully self-assured in conceding one of the two shots on target he faced. And when he was dispossessed having raced out of his area to greet a Russia forward soon afterwards. The keeper receives a seven out of ten for his work.
‘Dele Alli: Brilliant first half when he combined well with Rooney but lost his threat after the interval.’
‘Raheem Sterling: A game to forget for the Manchester City star. Gave the ball away and end product was not good enough.’
One was ‘brilliant’ in the first half but ‘lost his threat’; the other had ‘a game to forget’. Both are rated six out of ten.
Bale of pay
‘Roy’s rap for Bale’ – The Sun.
‘Hodgson hits back at Bale ‘passion’ taunt’ – Daily Mail.
‘We’ll make Bale pay for his outburst’ – Daily Star.
‘Hodgson on Bale attack’ – Daily Mirror.
How did Hodgson ‘hit back’ and insist that England will ‘make Bale pay’ for the Welshman’s recent comments? Did he call him a nasty name? Did he threaten to make Harry Kane take some corners at him? Did he ‘do a Joachim Low’ and fumble his nether regions?
No. Hodgson said: “If he believes that that’s the case he’s welcome to that opinion.” That’ll teach him.
Guardian of the galaxy
— Stefan Bienkowski (@SBienkowski) June 13, 2016
— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) June 13, 2016
Worst headline of the day
‘ERIC CAN DIER TO DREAM’ – it just doesn’t work, does it, Daily Mirror?
Recommended reading of the day
Ken Early on the undeserved reputation of England fans.
James Horncastle on Radja Nainggolan.
Aaron Timms on USA’s Copa America hopes.