The less said about England’s performance from Friday against Montenegro, the better. They qualified for Euro 2012, but it was a less than convincing performance.
When England walked out for the beginning of the second half, I had a feeling that the side wasn’t mentally ready for the second 45 minutes. Darren Bent walked alongside Wayne Rooney, and they were both chatting and joking about something that seemed unrelated to the game itself. The England players then stood around in a clump, waiting for the Montenegro side to leave their dressing room. Looking at the England side, none of them were warming up. The way they were acting was as if they were on holiday, standing around and chatting with their mates. After watching that, and seeing how Montenegro were creating some good opportunities in the first half, I knew England were doomed.
This was a game that England should have won convincingly in the first half. It wasn’t a good quality pitch and Montenegro defended in numbers, but it was obvious that England were the better side who were unable to put their chances away.
But the headline story from the game shouldn’t be Wayne Rooney’s red card for his street hooligan bump against his Montenegro opponent, and the way he viciously kicked the back of his leg. The story was the spirited performance that Montenegro displayed in the second half. As the game went on, Montenegro’s side grew in confidence and began making some mazy dribbling runs through the England defense. There were numerous crosses floated into the box that caused England problems, and after Montenegro scored their first goal, it only seemed a matter of time before the side would get an equalizer.
In the second half, England looked like the England of old. No self confidence. No system. No inspirational performances. And they lacked the hunger and desire to fight for a victory. At the same time that I was watching this match, I was watching Wales against Switzerland on split-screen via ESPN on my Xbox 360. And Wales, by far, looked the better side, playing with passion and self-belief.
So when Montenegro’s Andrija Delibašić scored their second goal after running to the far post to head the ball in to the net, it was everything that Montenegro deserved. The way the players ran to the crowd and threw themselves at their supporters was a sight to see. And after the final whistle was blown, the jubilant scenes of the Montenegro players and fans celebrating on the pitch were wonderful to watch. You could tell how much this draw meant to the players, to the fans and their country. The fans stripped a player of all of his clothes except for his underwear, as he wandered around the field. One fan dug a clump of the turf as a souvenir, while many of the other Montenegro fans rushed over to taunt the England fans who were fenced behind one of the goals.
The headline story, for me, was not Rooney’s red card, but it was the inspirational performance by Montenegro who thoroughly deserved the point and now have a chance of qualifying for their first major tournament. England, meanwhile, are in no better position than in previous years. They’ve qualified for another major tournament in the least extraordinary way possible. Based on their performance Friday, England has no hope in Euro 2012.