In the world of tweets and Facebook commentary, opinion and debate is not hard to come by in modern football. Throw a #hashtag on your thoughts, and they’re there for the world to see.
After England scraped through against Ukraine last night to claim top spot in Group D in Euro 2012, the twitterati was abuzz. The ‘ghost goal’ that John Terry cleared from inside the England goal had everybody talking – where is goal line technology in football? Do two wrongs make a right, considering the Ukrainian was offside in the first place? Why won’t Michel Platini listen to the people and change the game for the better?
Then there were the usual debates surrounding the England team itself – why, for instance, is James Milner continuing to start for the Three Lions when he has offered so little in the tournament so far (many want to know why he was even in the squad in the first place)? Is Wayne Rooney really the new Pele? (That isn’t even made up – people really do think he is England’s answer to the Brazilian master).
One topic, however, had everybody in agreement: Steven Gerrard is finally starting to show the form in an England shirt that has made him an Anfield favorite for over a decade. What stood out about Gerrard’s performance was the fact it wasn’t a typical guns blazing, box-to-box marauding display that we’ve come to expect from him (think Istanbul 2005, Millennium Stadium 2006).
Instead he was everything that Roy Hodgson has been looking for from his team: he kept it tight, made important tackles, and crucially, popped up with moments of individual brilliance when it mattered. It was his work that set up Rooney’s winning goal – aided, admittedly, by a couple of deflections and some atrocious goalkeeping, but he was there when it counted. That’s three assists from England’s five tournament goals so far after setting up Lescott against France, and Carroll against Sweden.
We all know about Gerrard’s skills, but what was especially pleasing was his commitment to getting the result for England. After he misplaced a pass in the first half, the cameras caught him loudly remonstrating himself, brow furrowed in anger. The pass itself was hardly a surprise – England have been fairly awful in possession so far – but it was Gerrard’s desire to improve for his side that really pleased. After the anger, he barely put a foot wrong.
Goal assists, tackles, grit and determination: if Gerrard keeps all of this up, England’s Italian job on Sunday may not be so difficult after all.