Mails: Belgium gave Lukaku no chance…

Date published: Tuesday 14th June 2016 2:48

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Now see here, Football365 – I understand that you are powerful people in the world of soccer, couldn’t you have a word with the people at UEFA and ask them to do something about all this tense, tactically astute, technically brilliant football they’re churning out.

I started supporting Manchester United back in 2010 because they were the best and scored the most goals. When I switched to Chelsea a few years later and Man City after that (then Leicester last season), it was for the same reason – goals!

Can’t we have bigger goal frames or just remove goalkeepers or something?
Paul (I might as well go back to watching basketball at this rate) Glasgow


Most underwhelming major tournament strikers ever?
Agreeing with TIMI, MUFC’s entry this morning – and wondering if some of it is to do with the quality of forwards on show. Looking on a popular odds comparison website yesterday, the top 25 favourites for top-scorer at Euro 2016 included names such as:

Olivier Giroud (the #1 choice for many bookies!)
Graziano Pelle
Manuel Nolito
Alvaro Morata
Mark Janko
Aritz Aduriz
Julian Brandt
Citadin Eder
Karim Bellarabi
Mario Gomez

Amongst others…

My question to the F365 Mailbox: Is this the most underwhelming selection of forwards at any tournament (Euros/WC) in history? Looking at the major nations, I see few real stand-out names:

France (Giroud…no idea how he’s got the nod ahead of Martial. Needs five clear-cut chances to hit the target)
Spain (looks like a strange decision to leave Costa out. Morata looked awful yesterday – looking at his record he’s a 1:3 goal:game striker at best)
Italy (mid-table Premiership lump/heart-throb leading the line)
Germany (bring Klose back! Actually, scrap that, bring any striker you can find – and not Mario Gomez)
Belgium (Lukaku looked way out of his depth last night – abysmal. Origi looked awful too)
England (Kane and Vardy both had excellent domestic seasons but don’t exactly scream ‘sexy’ – the former certainly didn’t impress v Russia. Permacrocked Sturridge isn’t worth mentioning)

Barring Ronaldo, Zlatan and Bale (none of whom we’ll see the best of, given the medioctiry of their support cast), where’s the glitz?!
SSE (wondering what was more beautiful to watch last night, the finish from Pelle or the man himself), Blackheath


Lukaku on a hiding to nothing
There was a mail published over the course of the season that nailed the Lukaku problem. His games is determined in the first 15 mins and how much action and service from midfield he sees. If it goes well, Big Rom tends to grow into the game, get into a great rhythm and look like the stunning all-round CF he has the potential to be. His touch is delicate and instinctive. His movement is free-flowing and quick. And he makes ample use of the fact that he is a massive f**king unit. He becomes the near-perfect focal point of an in-form team and looks like he can do it all himself

But when his game doesn’t start well, if the support isn’t there he flounders. He becomes hesitant, over-thinks everything he does with the ball. Static and meek. This is the Lukaka who will finally get a 1-on-1 with the keeper after 70 mins and shank it wide. This is what is holding him back, his ability to impose himself on a game when things aren’t going his way. He is not the type of player who can turn the tide in a game, but he can turn a tide into a tsunami.

When I saw the team sheet and formation last night I figured he was in for a rough night. two number 10s operating out wide and an immobile bruiser expected to be the creative player feeding him. Big Rom was in for a lonely night, as shown by your stat that 70% of Fellaini’s passes were backward. Belgium are not a lost cause. Some small changes could make all the difference. Like dropping Fellaini. Or playing at least one actual winger. And deciding which of your excellent #10s will play behind the striker rather than fudging it and playing both out of position.

Play those two lads at centre-half who have developed a crack centre-half partnership this season. And dropping Fellaini. Seriously though, an organised back four of Ciman, Toby, vertonghen and one other (maybe the other Lukaku, maybe Vermaelen) with a centre mid pairing of Witsel and Dembele, Maertens and Hazard as wingers, de Bruyne centrally behind Lukaku up top. That has potential to live up to their Fifa ranking.
Kevin (Yes, I have money on Belgium)


Monday’s thoughts from Ed
* I can’t help feeling sorry for Romelu Lukaku last night. He didn’t help his own cause by looking like he couldn’t trap a bag of cement, but the superstar players behind him couldn’t bring him into the game.

* Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne were frustrating. They are both capable of brilliance, but neither seemed capable of taking on defenders. Too often they received the ball out wide and stood still for several seconds, which only served in giving the Italian defence more time to get into position. Belgium didn’t have a direct running threat until Dries Mertens came on.

It beggars belief that despite being 1-0 down and facing at least three defenders on a yellow card, the likes of Hazard and de Bruyne didn’t try to dribble round opponents who would be reticent about attempting a tackle because the price of failure would be so steep.

* When Mertens did get to the byline and put a cross in, it went to no one, partly owing to misdirection but also because the Belgians were stood in ineffective places to shoot from.

* A penny for the thoughts of Manchester United and Liverpool fans upon seeing Belgium’s final chance go to waste when it bounced off Marouane Fellaini and beyond the reach of Divick Origi.

* The BBC played a masterstroke by pairing their most overexcitable commentator with their least enthusiastic co-commentator for Republic of Ireland versus Sweden. For once, Lawro’s brand of miserablism was perfect as a foil to Jonathan Pearce.

By chance, I was talking about Eddie Wareing at the weekend, and one of his famous moments of rugby league commentary. Metronomic Wakefield kicker Don Fox missed a goal from right under the sticks that cost his side the 1968 Challenge Cup Final. Commentating on TV, Wareing’s reaction was “he’s missed! Oh, the poor lad, he’s a poor lad”, perfectly conveying both shock at what had happened and sympathy for Fox. Compare this to Pearce’s reaction to Ciaran Clark’s own goal, describing it as “the worst moment of Clark’s career”. Disappointing though it was, it was only a group game, keep your hair on mate.

* May 3: Sarah Winterburn describes Jesse Lingard as ‘achingly average’.
May 21: Lingard scores the winning goal in the FA Cup Final.
June 10: Winty says something unkind about Emanuele Giaccherini.
June 13: Giaccherini scores for Italy.
June 13: Daniel Storey puts Harry Kane top of his ‘five players whose places are under threat’ list.
June 16: ?
The literary Ed Quoththeraven


Where Dembele?
Mousa Dembele is Belgian. You are the manager of the Belgium national team. You put Dembele in the side.

What am I missing here?
Rob Davies, THFC


Why do Italians not thrive in England?
Boy the Italians really did a clean and professional job on the Belgians. They allowed the flashy Belgians to have all the play and simply hit them on the counter, with the second goal being the highlight of the evening. But there’s one thing that has been on my mind after seeing how the Italian players performed on the night. Why is it that most Italians never seem to thrive in English soccer?
Keg Baridi (Backing Italy or Germany for the Euros) Nairobi, Kenya


Where are the great Italian stars?
Impressive as Italy were last night (and the ease with which they shut down a talented Belgium team, and the much less talented Fellaini, was striking), was nobody else slightly depressed by the lack of talent and quality Italy had?

Perhaps this is a sentiment confined to the Football Italia generation whose formative memories of Italian football were Maldini, Nesta, del Piero, Totti, Zambrotta, Albertini, Cannavaro, Conte, Buffon et al., but watching Pelle and Eder play up front, and Parolo and Giaccherini in midfield, is just slightly depressing. Italy teams of the late ‘90s and ‘00s were more than capable of the turgid (Euro 2004), but reflexively, I still expect Italy to have far more talent and quality, and frankly better haircuts, than they currently do.
Chris, MUFC


Are they always ageing?
Has there ever been a time when Italy has come into a tournament that the team hasn’t been described as ‘ageing.’ I don’t remember one recently. Yet, they are the very definition of a successful tournament team. Maybe taking older and more experienced players that don’t get intimidated by the big stage is part of the reason they can be so resilient and execute a game plan to such great effect? Maybe ‘ageing’ needs to be retired as a phrase that implies some kind of limitation or weakness in reference to tournaments? Chiellini, Barzagli, De Rossi, Parola, Giaccherini and Motta are all the ‘wrong side of 30.’ They all looked reasonably handy last night. There is a big difference between ‘ageing’ and ‘too-old’ when it comes to talking about teams in tournaments.
Eamonn (Bonucci is my new man-crush), Istanbul


Rooney v Wilshere
Ok, we can start by assuming I’m fairly biased on this one being an Arsenal fan. That doesn’t mean I’m not right.

In terms of Rooney being taken off, I think uncle Woy made the right decision because Rooney had been dispossessed a couple of times leading up to that substitution and was looking pretty spent.

In terms of Rooney’s performance, yes he had a decent game. He was stable, kept the game flowing making a lot of good passes as well as a few pointless Hollywood ones. He kept possession well apart from the final ten minutes before he got subbed and overall he was decent.

However, he created no chances. At international level, a player in that position (playing between Dier and Alli) needs to be more incisive. Yes, he had a couple of shots but hitting it straight at the keeper doesn’t mean he hit it “too well”, it means he hit it really badly. You’re not supposed to hit the keeper, you’re supposed to get it past him.

Wilshere can provide all that. He has done in the past for England and he is fresh and raring to go after a season injured. Why not use that? Giving him 12 minutes is not really a fair assessment of what he can do.

If we are so desperate to shoehorn Rooney into the team, then why not replace Sterling or Alli, who I thought were both decent in bits but also pretty poor in other bits. Or Kane, who was awful all game – although there are better replacements for Kane.

And in case people think I’m biased against Spurs players, Dier and Walker were our best players on the night by far.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC


We would do better as Britain
Loved Daniel Storey’s report on self-doubt. I was going to write in a long list of how good we are in other extremely competitive sports, world wide sports:, e.g. Boxing, Cycling (Tour de France) and the Olympics.

Then I realised of course that all that is done under the banner ‘Britain’.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are capable of producing some truly wonderful talents. Chris Froome is much better in the Tour de France having Geraint Thomas to do all the work for him.

The fact that George Best was never able to show his talents in a European Cup is a huge shame. Same for Ryan Giggs. Gareth Bale is lucky that they’ve expanded the European Cup to let more teams in. The problem the GB nations other than England have is that they don’t have the population to produce an entire team.

I’d still be proud as f*ck that GB won the World Cup with Gareth Bale scoring a wonder goal in the Final. I don’t treasure winning the Rugby World cup back in 2003 more because it was England and not GB. I don’t think we need a GB team in rugby as it isn’t such a global game, but for football it is the pinnacle of sporting trophies, no other sport has more resources put into it. So if we’re ever going to win we need to do it together. Would the Welsh celebrate Bale’s goal because he was surrounded by filthy English?

Perhaps it is that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are mentally tougher than the English. I reckon Rooney would perform better if Gareth Bale was in the side taking the ‘star player’ weight. Bale seems capable of handing all the pressure you can throw at him, Rooney seems to fall apart when the pressure gets to a certain level. But Rooney has got magic in him and I’d truly love to see that coming through for England.


Are we going to get kicked out?
On Wednesday night in Lille city centre there are likely to be Russian ‘fans’ who attacked supporters in the Stade Velodrome on Saturday night with their gumshields, mitts and Go Pro cameras; the local Ultras who attacked Everton fans drinking in the bars in the city centre in 2014; and the Lille police who responded to those 2014 attacks by tear gassing everyone in the city centre and firing rubber bullets.

Even if England fans were to behave like Japanese supporters and spend the day politely engaging with locals and cleaning up after themselves rather than drinking cheap lager and tediously claiming credit for the exploits of their granddads against the Nazis through the medium of tuneless song, there would clearly still be trouble. England fans aren’t going to change their approach and will still take over the city centre and spend all day standing topless outside pub the only pub with a name they can pronounce. When the inevitable happens and either a few locals or Russians target some of them it will only take a few England fans to respond with flying chairs and bottles for the police to move in and the same images we saw at the weekend to be beamed around the world and the inevitable response…

We’re going to get kicked out of the championship aren’t we?

Given that the ultimate responsibility for this rests with Uefa, and their utterly incompetent tournament planning, if they do kick us out we should respond with the nuclear option and withdraw our national and club sides from all their competitions. OK it’s a petty, Brexit-style response, but the Champions League is getting increasingly tedious anyway and at least we won’t ever have to hear about The Battle For Fourth Place ever again – silver linings and all that.
Teddy, London

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