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England-2, Switzerland-1…Recap

Distinctly average.

That’s how I would categorize England’s performance for the majority of their 2-1 friendly victory over Switzerland tonight. Distinctly average.

If the England players wanted to come out and set a positive tone to impress new manager Fabio Capello, I’d have to say that as a group, they didn’t accomplish their goal.

David James was OK between the sticks. He made the stops he was supposed to make, but shanked a couple of goal kicks and clearances after back passes from field players. He didn’t appear to control his back line very well either, but more on them in a second.

The starting back line (Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, and Ashley Cole) was the definition of mediocre. In fact, I think “mediocre” would be flattering for the games these four players had. First of all, one could make the argument that Brown, Upson, and Cole shouldn’t have been in the starting lineup based on current form in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there. Ferdinand and Upson looked very, very shaky at times in the center, none more so than on Switzerland’s equalizer in the 58th minute. Brown doesn’t give you anything going forward, and Cole gives you very little on defense for a left back. Wayne Bridge came in for Cole in the 73rd minute and was an immediate upgrade at that position in my opinion, but if Switzerland had any attacking capability in their front line whatsoever, they would have scored more than once because this England defense was ripe for the picking.

The midfield was definitely England’s bright spot, with both goals coming from that group. Neither Gareth Barry nor Owen Hargreaves, Barry’s replacement at the holding midfield position, played particularly well, but captain Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, David Bentley, and Shaun Wright-Phillips all had solid games. Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas opened the scoring on a tap-in finish in the 40th minute after a wonderful bit of dribbling skill from Cole, and Wright-Phillips tapped in a left-footed cross from Gerrard in the 62nd minute to put England back in front, 2-1. Jenas didn’t exactly light things up today; I thought he actually played poorly aside from the goal.

Up front, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, and Ashley Young all played, with Young coming on for Rooney just three minutes before the match ended. Wazza dropped deep in the first half, as is his usual playing style, and then ended up in a wide left midfield role for most of the time in the second half. The Manchester United man continued his lack of production at the international level though as he had numerous shots, but none of them seriously threatened Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio (sounds real Swiss to me!!). Crouch was more useful than Rooney I thought; the big man has an incredibly soft touch, and can win balls in the air and control them to his teammates or to himself, and he showed these skills today. Personally, I feel that the lone striker formations which Capello favors cater more towards Crouch’s strengths than Rooney’s, so I’ll be looking at that position more closely in the future.

As I said, I think the play of the midfield was England’s lone bright spot today and if Switzerland had any offensive punch, they could’ve easily gotten a result out of this game. Not the most impressive way to begin under Capello, but a victory is a victory.

My Man of the Match: If I was forced to pick, it would be the captain, Steven Gerrard.

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  1. wanderer_abroad

    February 7, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I think that most people have either been too harsh or too generous to England. It was a decent performance but nothing special. I don’t think England’s defence was quite as bad as you say Michael but its obvious that Rio and Upson don’t work, and even more so that England need an upgrade at fullback. Having said that England were impressive in midfield and the only thing that stopped England scoring more was a) a true target man to fill space by Rooney’s deep probing b) the ridiculous amount of subs and a lack of true incentive considering it was a friendly.

  2. Dave M

    February 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Re: David James shanking his goal kicks and his clearances from back passes – that’s the ONE area where you’d want Robbo back there. Someone probably knows the stats, but he must have more straight assists than any GK in the prem.

    Unfort, Robinson is shaky between the sticks at times. So England has had a choice between a GK solid in defense, with not much distributing abilities or vice versa, but so far not one with both.

  3. Simon

    February 7, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Actually i can tell you that and i just did.
    England changed their shape – Rooney went out left instead of being up front, Crouch became the target man – things changed , the focus of the attack changed. England were very disorganised there as they adjusted to the new attack and were caught out at the back . I believe that had the subs not happened, England would have remained on top. Of course the subs did lead to the second goal with Crouch’s flick on leading to the goal.

    Michael I have seen a few of your posts here and they tend to border on gross exaggeration. How you got this gig of posting as an authority I dont know and you are clearly entitled to an opinion but just remember thats all it is and as a football expert you are well short. Bring back the Gaffer.

  4. Michael

    February 7, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Simon, there’s just one flaw with your argument.

    The two changes that were made came in the 57th minute and the goal was scored just one minute later. You can’t tell me Peter Crouch and SWP were at fault for the Swiss goal, it was the poor play of the center backs that led to the equalizer.

  5. Simon

    February 7, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Sorry guys I totally disagree, we had lots of attacking chances last night – Rooney had several shots, Jenas was denied again by a great save and overall we dominated the game. We only conceded because Capello made 2 unecessary substitutions and the team lost its shape and got caught out – if that had been a real game Capello would not have subbed Cole and Jenas who had performed well. Overall I was delighted, football is a 90 minute game and so what that we didnt score for 38 minutes – we won it and we won it well. The last 20 minutes were garbage as subs galore came on from both sides.

  6. BillE Shears

    February 6, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    It honestly should not be that hard for England to formulate an attacking lineup. They have three brilliant footballers in Rooney, Gerrard, and Cole who all work best as attacking midfielders. Why not use Crouch as a target man and let him drive defenses crazy and set those players up in space?

  7. Patrick

    February 6, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    The main issue with Peter ” he’s big, he’s red, his legs stick out the bed” Crouch, is that at the international level he gets to many fouls. Fair or not referee’s see those big elbows swing and stop play.

    This also effects his game as he is a bit prone to sulking, and getting lost in the flow of a game.

    Was very odd not to see Owen. The 4-5-1 is a crap tactic. Trust me I’m a West Ham fan… It bogs down the midfield and makes chances sparse. and as for Upson’s form. look at goals against WHU… then again why Robert Green is not England’s #1 is just beyond any thinking football fan. What has James got to prove at this point? His ability to paint????

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