If England could pass the ball they would be dangerous. Not for the first time under Fabio Capello, or any other manager for that fact, England were outclassed by a so-called “lesser” nation, only to come through with a scoreline that would suggest a comfortable victory. This was anything but convincing and the 88,000 who were present for England’s final warm up game on home soil will have every reason for concern.
The final 3-1 scoreline flattered England and was a harsh reflection on a Mexican side, whose Spain-lite passing and movement was of the fluid variety so often the undoing of England in recent years. With Gerardo Torrado dictating play from the centre of the vast Wembley turf, the Mexicans made a mockery of all the fuss made over the state of the pitch.
For some players you often get the feeling that the chance to impress in an England friendly is more of a hinderance than an opportunity. That could definitely be said for Michael Carrick, whose every pass seemed to edge him closer to spending the summer on the beach. His central midfield partner James Milner didn’t fare much better and looked out of depth in his new central midfield role.
Despite the impressive qualifying campaign under the Italian, Capello still seems intent on continuing the age-old tradition of England managers trying to fit square pegs in round holes. To see Milner start through the middle and Steven Gerrard on the left, leaves you to wonder the exact moment when Gerrard stopped being a central midfielder. Whether through his managers desire or his own ego refusing to do the dog work required, he is on the verge of becoming postion-less. When Capello switched the two in the second half England looked a far better side.
Twice in the first half Robert Green thwarted Arsenal’s Carlos Vela when through on goal and the West Ham goalkeeper was left motionless when Carlos Salcido’s curling shot from the edge of the area clipped the outside of his left-hand post.
The pace and movement of Mexico’s two wide men, Vela and Giovani Dos Santos, was causing all kinds of trouble and Ledley King was given a torrid time in his first international appearance for three years. However, as is so often the case, England went 2-0 up with two goals from set-pieces. For all their impressive play with the ball on the floor, Javier Aguirre’s side were horribly exposed by two excellent crosses from Steven Gerrard. Ledley King got the first, after heading in Crouch’s centre, and the Tottenham striker got the second when he followed up after Wayne Rooney’s header hit the bar.
Franco got a deserved goal for Mexico just before half-time but any hopes of a second half come-back were dashed straight after the restart. Theo Walcott did well on the right before the ball fell to Glen Johnson, who charged inside three players and curled the ball into the top corner with his left foot.
There were some bright points for England in the second half but they still had to be content to let Mexico dictate the tempo of the game. Glen Johnson impressed at right back, Robert Green looks to have cemented his place in goal and hopefully the Chelsea trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole will bring their double winning form into the side for the opening game against USA in 19 days time.
England under Capello have delivered when it mattered but tournament football is a different beast and, if anything, tonight’s victory has, once again, provided more questions than answers.