I forced myself to watch the England against Spain game delay on Saturday night. I didn’t have high expectations. And I wasn’t excited about watching the England team play. They’ve lacked the passion for so long when they’ve played that watching them had become a chore. But for the first time in a long time, I was impressed by England’s performance and enjoyed watching the game.
In all honesty, it was England’s defense that stole the show. No matter how many times Spain attempted to push the ball forward to create a goalscoring chance, England defenders such as Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka snuffed out the Spanish attacks and kept Spain at bay. England defended well and caught some lucky breaks (Fabregas missing in front of goal, Villa’s shot hitting the post and a couple of very close offside decisions). Scott Parker and Phil Jones were key players, while the remainder of the team put in a strong performance.
So it was a surprise when England scored especially considering the few chances the Three Lions had. But the free kick was well taken and Darren Bent showed his prowess in the box to help Frank Lampard score the easiest of goals.
A few things that stood out for me in this game are (1) how Manchester City players are becoming very influential for England. James Milner, Lescott and Joe Hart were rocks for England. Gareth Barry and Adam Johnson slotted in well as subs. (2) England showed that they can defend when necessary to squeeze out a vital win, but when they need to keep possession and attack a weaker opponent, they seem to often lack ideas. For example, after beating the World champions Spain, I wouldn’t be surprised to see England lose against their bogey team Sweden on Tuesday.
Hopefully calm heads will prevail after England’s victory. This doesn’t mean that England is suddenly better than Spain. It’s just a friendly. While it’ll certainly be a confidence boost for everyone involved in England’s win, the team still have a lot of work to do in preparation for Euro 2012. There are still many unanswered questions in terms of knowing what is England’s best starting line-up. But there was enough on display Saturday afternoon to give Fabio Capello some selection headaches. And that’s a good problem to have as long as Capello can make the correct decision.
It doesn’t happen very often, but congratulations are due to England and Fabio Capello on a fine performance. Hopefully England can push on from there. Not only was it a positive display by England, but it may also be the difference to get football supporters such as myself and others interested in watching England play again. But we’ve seen this before from England. One fine performance followed by one very weak one. In some ways, you could argue that England’s game against Sweden on Tuesday is as important as the one against Spain was. England need that consistency of being able to turn teams over. Tuesday must be the night for England to show what it’s really made of.