Gerrard the Great: England 2 – 1 Hungary

Wembley Stadium, England v Hungary, International Friendly 11/08/2010  Steven Gerrard of England celebrates scoring the 1st goal with Adam Johnson of England Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

After falling behind amidst a chorus of boos, England’s captain Steven Gerrard went all Bruce Banner turns Incredible Hulk on poor Hungary. That frustration and torment endured by England’s underachieving side inspired Gerrard to remind us that he is still capable of being one of the world’s best.

Down 1-0 to 62nd-ranked Hungary, Fabio Capello’s seat was definitely heating up. He can thank his captain for sparing his blushes.

For changing his formation and installing Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott in the starting XI, Capello should be commended. But, it begs the question: where was this outside-the-box thinking 6 weeks ago?

This is the exact formation Capello should have used for the World Cup. With Rooney operating as a lone striker, flanked by Johnson and Walcott, and with Gerrard, Frank Lampard and the deeper-lying Gareth Barry in central midfield, England were much fresher and precise in their attacking game.

It doesn’t take a genius to have known this pre-World Cup, so Capello should still be held largely accountable for England’s failings. Putting Gerrard in a central role to link up with Rooney is a no-brainer, but evidently it took Capello a World Cup disaster to figure it out.

Despite the changes and the bright start, England fell into the same patterns of lack of creativity and lack of interest at times. So much so that Hungary took an undeserved lead on 62 minutes when substitute Michael Dawson got it all wrong and allowed Fulham’s Zoltan Gera to spring an attack which ended in a Phil Jagielka own goal. England’s misfortune was almost laughable in its cruelty as video replays showed that the ball did not cross the line when Dawson hooked it away just in time, but again much to Capello’s chagrin, the referees got it wrong.

Seven minutes later Gerrard showed the world that he still has it in him to take over a game by himself. Pouncing on a loose ball 30 yards from goal, the Liverpool icon lashed home a breathtaking drive. But it was his celebration that was the bigger talking point. It was a palpable cathartic release of all the disgust and frustration from South Africa, and one could not help but feel happy for the England captain. He was their best performer at the World Cup, and deserved better from his teammates.

He was not finished with the equalizer however. His range of ability was put on display as he took a ball from Ashley Young in the box and Robinho’d himself beyond two defenders before toe-poking a precision shot into the goal to send Wembley into delirium.

It was just a friendly, but the fans’ reaction shows just how much England loves their national team and their national game. Most expected booing throughout the match, but it was not the case. The crowd reserved their boos for Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and John Terry, and then the whole team after they tapered off at the end of the first half and walked off at 0-0.

But at the end of the day, cheers outnumbered jeers. All England wants to do is win. They still don’t have the talent to win a major tournament, as a one-man Gerrard masterclass was the only way to get past a mediocre Hungary side, but perhaps this change of formation and an injection of youth will help their cause.

At the moment though, certain senior players such as Gerrard and Ashley Cole (who somehow just gets better with time) must remain integral to England’s set-up. The same cannot be said for John Terry, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and even, at times, Wayne Rooney. Another poor performance from this quartet.

Should they be axed? What are your thoughts on England at the moment and moving forward, and on the match today? Leave your comments below.

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