England will face ‘much better teams’ than Poland. Those ‘much better teams’ are not doing all that well against similar opposition, of course.
Case for the defence
After the first round of UEFA qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, four teams have played and won their opening three games. Italy, Denmark, England and Armenia are in strong positions to advance from their respective groups.
It is worth bearing that in mind when reading the reports on England’s victory over Poland, with many seemingly deciding that an 85th-minute winner did not necessitate wholesale rewrites as some gloomy paragraphs sneaked through.
Dave Kidd saw John Stones and Harry Maguire ‘looking shaky in defence’ for The Sun, despite only one of those players actually looking shaky in defence.
Apparently that Stones mistake ‘will frighten Southgate back into his comfort blanket of three central defenders and wing-backs,’ even though the England manager sounding pretty happy with the evening’s proceedings.
‘England’s defence were often being pulled apart at will,’ he adds, clearly impressed by Poland’s solitary shot on target.
‘They are surely going to need to tighten up at the back to have any chance of success at this summer’s Euros,’ he writes of a side that has conceded five goals in its last 12 games.
It was not a convincing performance by any means, but on the same night that Germany lost at home to a nation ranked 65th in the world, treating victory over one in 19th with such derision seems a tad curious.
Kidd is absolutely not alone. John Cross of the Daily Mirror describes it as various points in his report as ‘a major let-off’, ‘a huge let-off’ and ‘a major scare’ on ‘a night which nearly went so horribly wrong’.
A draw would have put them top of the group.
Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail labours the general theme of England being incredibly unfortunate not to have played a more accomplished side.
‘It took England’s defensive fallibility to get them back into the game. And that is a worry, with much better teams lying in wait this summer,’ he says.
Henry Winter of The Times is on a similar wavelength with his insistence that ‘far better sides than Poland lurk in the Euros’.
Like Belgium, perhaps? Well they conceded two goals in three games against the teams currently ranked 18th, 42nd and 88th. They even drew with the Czech Republic, who Wales and Scotland (twice) have beaten since September.
Or maybe they mean France, who drew at home to Ukraine, a side ranked 24th? It feels like beating the team in 19th is better.
Our mistake. They must have Portugal in mind. After all, they beat Azerbaijan (108th) by a single goal, drew with Serbia (30th) and went a goal down before beating Luxembourg (98th).
Or are Spain one of ‘much better teams’ and ‘far better sides’ who are likely to expose England’s failings? Well they conceded in all three of their matches against Greece (53rd), Georgia (89th) and Kosovo (117th).
All of a sudden, England winning all three of their games despite conceding to the country in 19th doesn’t look all that bad. When you have to go down to Italy (10th) – who failed to qualify for the last major tournament – to find the highest-ranked European team not to concede during this break, that tells you something about the quality of international football during a pandemic.
It turns out even ‘much better teams’ than Poland – who England really did beat – are struggling for consistency right now.
Back with The Sun, Charlie Wyett is being weird. Try and guess which England player he is describing here:
‘There was a day when the so-called utility player was someone not really good enough to start anywhere’
Well bloody played if you went for Mason Mount who, as you might have guessed, has literally never before been described as a ‘utility player’ according to a quick search.
‘TIMO WERNER looked more like a flop learner than a top earner as he missed an absolute sitter in Germany’s stunning 2-1 home defeat to North Macedonia’ – The Sun.
What on earth is a ‘flop learner’ and should we put parental restrictions on before we search for it on Google?
The Daily Mirror, bless them, are able to engage in their favourite activity on Thursday: Kylian Mbappe rumour mongering.
‘Mbappe hints at transfer as PSG superstar makes frustration clear’ is a headline which promises some explosive quotes.
Let’s take a look:
“Of course it gets tiring. Especially when you play for a club in your country and you give everything for your national team. After a while it gets tiring. It’s different for players who play abroad and only come back here for the national team. I’m there all the time, they speak about me a lot more. It’s a different context [to other players], but I knew it would be like that when I signed for Paris. We’ll see.”
Welcome to Anfield.
Over at the MailOnline, the international break is over and normal service has been resumed:
A reminder that Paul Pogba isn't in the reported top five earners in the Premier League.
He isn't even *his club's* highest-paid player. pic.twitter.com/C3ApJpYLo9
— Football365 (@F365) April 1, 2021
He is not the best-paid player in the Premier League. That’s Gareth Bale.
He is not the best-paid player at Manchester United. That’s David de Gea.
He is not the best-paid midfielder in Manchester. That’s Kevin de Bruyne.
Now just to figure out what might make him different to all of the above in the eyes of an outlet that once demanded Raheem Sterling apologise ‘for aggravating the public perception of rich and famous young footballers as a supercilious, self-serving shower’…by getting a tattoo in honour of his late father.
Recommended reading of the day
Barney Ronay on Raheem Sterling.
Miguel Delaney on England and their lack of Qatar World Cup protests.