Saturday, 16 June 2012

Sweden 2 - 3 England

Well, that was an unexpected game.  Weren't England under Hodgson supposed to be stogid and boringly defensive?

While this game must have been fun for the neutral, it was nerve wrecking to watch with a horse in the race.  Sweden become the second team to be eliminated from the finals, somewhat unluckily as they lead in both their matches so far.  England, meanwhile, go into their last match with their destiny in their hands.

The Good:
Hodgson's substitutions.  After I criticised his choices in the last match, he proved much more positive in this game, bringing on Walcott as soon as England fell behind and then Oxlade-Chamberlain in the last few minutes.  Walcott obviously changed the match with his pace, and surely will start against Ukraine.

The team spirit.  Against Germany four years ago in the World Cup, England's heads dropped when they fell behind, especially after Lampard's strike was ruled not to have crossed the line.  Here they fought on and claimed a victory that looked unlikely after an hour had passed.

The Bad:
The defence.  After such a solid performance against France, England looked shaky throughout the match.  If we make it to the quarter-finals, then no matter whether we face the Spanish, Italians or Croatians we'll be facing a much more potent strike force that would have cut us to pieces today.  Perhaps this was the result of the desire to be more aggressive in this game, and not leave everything to the last match.  But this was supposed to be the one thing Hodgson could do for us, and it looks like it will be back to the training ground again.

Possession.  Despite that I think we had more of the ball than the Swedes, we still gave it away far too often.  Again, top teams will punish that.  But, again, this is such a long-standing fault of England that it's hardly going to change now.  Closely related, with Carroll in the team too many balls were aimless high balls for him.  This is always the danger of playing a tall striker in the England team; see too many games with Heskey or Crouch.  Carroll is competent with the ball at his feet, and we should try giving it to him there a bit more often.  Of course, he's unlikely to start against Ukraine with the return of Rooney.

Looking ahead, we are in the slightly dangerous position of only needing a draw against Ukraine to qualify for the quarter-finals.  If we lose to Ukraine, they probably qualify at our expense unless Sweden can upset the French.  Too often in these types of situations, England end up defending deep and conceding a late goal.  So I won't be taking anything for granted till that game is over.

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