Final Observations of England Friendly Against Czech Republic (2-2)
• It’s clear that England is really lacking in two positions – left wing and center forward. Steven Gerrard is a very good player and performed well on the left today, but that’s not his natural position and he doesn’t give England much width. He needs to play in the position Frank Lampard occupied today. Stewart Downing should be nothing more than a squad player. Wayne Rooney, as we all know, is not really a striker, and neither Jermain Defoe nor Emile Heskey (who has 5 goals in 45 appearances) are the answers for England long-term. Fabio Capello left the best options for those positions at home, in my opinion, in Ashley Young (left) and either Darren Bent or Peter Crouch up top. Bent or Crouch paired with either Defoe or Rooney and England would be in business. Young provides the pace and on-ball qualities that England just doesn’t have. Joe Cole is a versatile option who can play either wing and as a second striker, but I’m not sure if he’s consistent enough on the international stage to start.
• Wes Brown scored today, but I don’t think he’s the best option at right back. Glen Johnson brings more to the table than Brown while making half as many mistakes, of which Brown made two bad ones in this game. Luke Young isn’t a bad player. Phil Neville is still serviceable. It seems like Brown’s spot isn’t even up for contention, and that’s a problem.
• The Czech Republic were the better team in this match. They’re not half as flashy as England can be at times, but they get the job done. It was nice to see them rebound with a victory after that disastrous collapse against Turkey in Euro 2008, the last game they played. They deserved the victory and were harshly done by when Joe Cole scuffled home the late equalizer.
• As with the U-21’s, I was disappointed with the turnout at Wembley. Look, there aren’t too many international games played each year so when there is one, I’d expect it to be sold out or close to it. If you don’t think you’re going to get that at Wembley, move the game to a smaller stadium. There’s no need to have a “national stadium” anyway, not when there are other fully capable grounds in the country.
• England’s players didn’t have the same passion as their Czech counterparts. I can’t blame it on their new captain, John Terry, I just think they need to put a little more into their performances in the future. It’s hard to explain, really – it seemed like something was missing. They get plenty of credit for their two comebacks, though, because those are hard to come by at this level (unless you’re Turkey, of course!)
• All things considered, Capello can take some positives and negatives out of this game. As I said, his team came back twice from a goal down. David Beckham looked very good on the right side and still gets it done. Ashley Cole put in a solid 90 minutes. The negatives, though, outweigh the positives. England generated nothing up front. They were very, very sloppy at times. David James wasn’t at his finest, even though there was nothing he could do about Jankulovski’s fantastic free kick.
England is back in action on September 6, when they’ll pay a visit to minnows Andorra. Andorra began their qualifying campaign for World Cup 2010 today with a 3-0 loss at Kazakhstan. It’ll be England’s first game in UEFA Group 6 and should be a victory for the Three Lions. They outscored Andorra by a combined 8-0 in their two games against the 182nd-ranked team in the world in Euro 2008 qualifying.