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England thoughts, obviously
Why, oh why was that man taking corners 2 years ago.
Great win, big boost for the lads. I don’t normally agree with Shearer as a pundit, but he nailed it there. The difference in the mood at the camp had we not won would have been drastic, after dominating the first half and being frustrated in the second. How did we not get at least 1 penalty please? Those bloody midges and the heat must have took their toll so well done to the lads for digging in and grinding the result out against a very stubborn, organised and niggly fouling team.
I can really sense a togetherness amongst this group of players and the staff and I think that slowly but surely England fans are starting to get on the same page as well.
This can only be a positive going forward. Good start lads.
…That was a weird old game of football. In the first half England played probably their best half of World Cup football since they beat Argentina in 2002. Or perhaps even longer as that was more of an attritional game than a free flowing one. There was nearly everything we wanted to see from England – speed of thought, great passing and great tenacity in winning the ball back quickly. If only we could finish, the game would have been over by the time they scored.
There were a couple of negatives in the first half. By and large our finishing was woeful. Lingard and Sterling were the biggest culprits but if you were surprised by that then you clearly haven’t seen either of them play. The centre backs were also far from assured, Maguire and Walker giving the ball away far too often and in dangerous areas. We also looked vulnerable any time the ball was in the box. Generally speaking though, excellent half with exciting football, plenty more to come you might think in the second half.
I have no clue what Southgate said at half time but it clearly wasn’t “let’s excite the fans”. The second half was an epic snooze fest lit up only by a penalty claim and Harry Kane being very good at scoring goals. All of the urgency seemed to have been sucked out of England and their ability to pass just disappeared.
Maybe the weather (or the midges – were they secretly playing in Scotland?!) had a part to play and I’m sure Tunisia sitting a lot deeper certainly did, but the second half was more like the England we’ve come to know and loathe. I’d like to see us put two good halves together in a match before the knockout rounds as we’ll certainly need to be able to do it then (if we get that far).
We also need to get over the fact we’re not going to get decisions. Since we actually won the thing it’s been difficult for England to get anything at the World Cup (Hand of God, Lampard’s non-goal against Germany), it’s just a fact of life. The referee was generally poor and we probably should’ve had a penalty and I think in any other game we would have, I just don’t think this referee had the balls to admit he could miss something.
That said, their penalty was a penalty – if you raise your arm and hit another player in the face, it’s a foul whether you meant it or not. Also, in order to give the first Kane one, you’d have to overlook John Stones pushing one of their players just prior to it. And Harry Maguire pushing someone at the back post. Ok so they didn’t wrestle someone to the ground but a foul is a foul – give one you have to give them all.
All in all though, can’t be unhappy with the win when other, better sides have failed. We were certainly more convincing than France. 3 points for the most inexperienced World Cup side ever and the first time we’ve scored twice in a game at the World Cup since 2006. We won’t win the World Cup this time, but we’re heading in the right direction.
Ash (if only KDB was English) Metcalfe
Looking on the bright side
It’s not a high bar, but the first twenty five minutes were he best I’ve seen England play in a tournament since 98.
Given the morsels we’ve been feeding on since, I feel satisfied. And oddly full.
And a lot less positive
RESULT: Of course it changes the complexion of things but it should not absolve England of a dire second-half performance.
ASHLEY YOUNG: Offered absolutely nothing bar one good cross for Lingard. Never got in behind and, playing on the wrong side, was far too predictable. Looks like Rose would be a better option and that not taking Sessegnon was perhaps not brave enough.
KIERAN TRIPPIER: Yes, he played well but is he really a better option than Kyle Walker in the position? Would City swap Trippier for Walker? No, so case closed. Also, you have Walker playing centre-back where he has already been exposed. He panicked defending in a position unfamiliar to him and it almost cost England dearly. If that weakness is being exposed against Tunisia, it is hardly a stretch to presume it will be further laid bare against better teams. Alan Shearer’s suggestion that that the Tunisia forward ‘walked into his elbow’ was simply laughable. It was a nervous and frankly stupid reaction from a player out of his comfort zone.
DELE ALLI: Much was made of Southgate not picking players on reputation but fitness/form, so why on Earth did he undo all that by leaving on a player with a knock for over 50 mins? His contribution to the second half was less than zero, the proverbial worse than a man down, and the decision to keep him on was weak management. Loftus-Cheek brutally exposed the poverty of his performance in his excellent cameo.
JORDAN HENDERSON: Played some excellent ‘Hollywood’ passes but, as the only real link between the midfield and defence, he would be very easy to negate. See Toni Kroos and Mexico. Perhaps someone who can run the ball forward from midfield like RLC alongside him would improve things and offer greater variety.
HARRY KANE: OK, scored two goals and should have had at least one penalty. But he did not have another chance in the game and was dropping ridiculously deep to get the ball. If your star player is so starved of service, then the game-plan is clearly not working as well it should be.
(Unbiased) Celtic fan in London
Loftus-Cheek changed the game
Last night half way through the second half, I already knew what I was going to write in. Alli was completely ineffective and should have been brought off before half time, he is either unfit or carrying an injury.
I looked at the bench and thought, who on earth was going to replace him? My mail was going to conclude that I was right, we were going to miss Wilshire whenever Alli wasnt on form. The only option for a creative force was Ruben.
Now I know it was a tired Tunisian team but he was brilliant in his little cameo. So much so I’d give him the start and rest Alli against Panama. He was direct, creative and strong and along with Rashford completely changed England’s attack to something much more dynamic.
I still think we should have brought another attacking midfielder but I’m a lot less worried than when the squad was announced. Bring on Belgium.
Rob A (Walker isn’t a CB mind you…) AFC
Should England play for second?
On finishing 2nd, I think Gareth and the boys should start thinking about that now and approach the Panama game with a view to winning 1-0 ore at least by only one goal.
I’m sure the Belgians will also have the same idea, so it may be a good idea to get a leg-up on the goal difference. Already winning (or losing depending on your perspective) by 2 goals, we should try and take that into the last game.
If both teams in the last play to a stalemate, it will be England who will finish 2nd in the group. On a side note it may be fun to watch which side can ship the most own goals.
Neil, LFC, Malta (formerly USA, formally Liverpool)
Belgium vs Panama conclusions
After watching the full game of Belgium v Panama, some thoughts:
1. I am not a fan of Martinez. I don’t think his ability to organize a defense is great.
2. Belgium have a ridiculous talent pool who if put in the right system with right roles, can reach the semis easily.
3. There lies the issue. I don’t have an issue with the back 3 per se. But the Belgium squad is not one that needs that formation. Just because he kept Wigan up once with that formation does not necessitate the same elsewhere.
4. Case in point KDB – the man is a free floating number 8 or a number 10. Asking him to play in a double pivot is tactical abuse of the highest order.
5. The spread of attacking players viz. Hazard, lukaku, Mertens with not much link with midfield is another tactical abuse.
6. Why does Mousa Dembele start on the bench? Am I missing something?
7. Ideally I’d like Martinez to ditch the back 3, play a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 with Dembele and Witsel as the pivot with De Bruyne given a free role and the front 3 a little narrower with overlapping full backs when needed.
8. Or any other system that best fits these players and is organized defensively and offensively. Right now, many players (including the wing backs) are forced to play roles they’re not accustomed to or good at.
Aravind, Chelsea Fan
That guy Lukaku is pretty good…imagine if Jose Mourinho actually played to his strengths!
Absolutely lethal when running onto balls in behind and with accurate (note: not punted) deliveries.
Whoever it was that predicted him as top scorer (I assume it was D.Storey!) might be onto something.
Watching England from Vietnam
Greetings to all from Ho Chi Minh City
I’d convinced myself that I had become a boring old fart (I watched the ’66 final on TV – Black and White screen) who didn’t care about England anymore. Amazing what a win can do, I had a skip in my step on my walk to work this morning. When I arrive at the office I bemused some of my local colleagues by playing “Three Lions” in the office.
Of the “50 years of hurt” I have experienced following England the toughest to take were the ’70 QF defeat to the then West Germany, after leading 2-0 (which could have been more) and the ’90 SF defeat to the same foes. I watched the latter game alone as my football-hating missus and my young son had gone to bed. I remember sitting in the dark for a half hour after the game ended with my head in my hands. In those days I cared so much it was hard to take the losses.
So it seems I do still care after all, not sure whether to be pleased or not, I’ll enjoy the wins but I’m not looking forward to the almost inevitable exit on penalties.
The locals are very patriotic and passionate about football, although of course they are not represented at the WC. The outpouring of joy when Vietnam recently reached the final of the U23 Asian cup was amazing to see and hear. Sadly, they lost the final to Uzbekistan, but still crowded the streets afterwards shouting, singing and tooting their horns.
Bigger teams need to wise up
The feature of this World Cup has been to arrogance of the bifg nations simply thinking they can win on their talent alone. At half-time in this Belgium game i can see 3 central defenders marking the humidity in Sochi. Alderweireld and Vertonghen are amongst the best in the Premier League but need Boyata to mind them, madness. Why do they need 3 at the back against a team too afraid to commit me forward.
Likewise France. As an Aussie i laughed when i saw that front 3 of Dembele, Griezmann and Mbappe. Three lightning quick forwards against a team that will not leave their own box. Make sense that. As soon as Giroud came on and offered a target the game changed. Same goes with Germany and Brazil.
These teams have felt they can just show up with their game plan and impose it on organised minnows. I think it reinforces your theory of horses for courses and to play Vardy against teams who will have more possession. I really think the team that adapts to the opposition will win the world cup.
Sam- I love my Australia team playing Soccerugby
The seven stages of Mark Lawrenson
Stage 1 – Why is this mardy b*stard on TV, he doesn’t even want to be there!
Stage 2 – He’s commentating at the world cup, surely only second to playing and essentially money for old rope, I can’t believe he’s so arsey about everything.
Stage 3 – I do secretly agree with most of the stuff he says and I nod along if I’m watching at home, but Jesus Christ man lighten up.
Stage 4 – In fact he’s right about most things, rarely uses cliché and is the only commentator who actually makes me laugh, I quite like him.
Stage 5 – Lawro is literally the only pundit who will tell it how it is, if a game is wank he won’t try to sugar coat it, this is meant to be entertainment. I enjoy imagining him cocking an eyebrow as studio pundits rattle off regurgitated information and ‘insight’ they researched on google the morning of the match.
Stage 6 – Mark Lawrenson is the last great bastion of freedom of speech in football! Do you know what? Not everything is bloody great or super or the best it’s ever been! The world needs more Mark Lawrensons who tell it how it is and if you don’t like it then you can swivel.
Stage 7 – God he really is just a mardy old b*stard.