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Final Observations of England Friendly Against Czech Republic (2-2)

Netherlands v England - International Friendly

It’s clear that England is really lacking in two positions – left wing and center forward. Steven Gerrard is a very good player and performed well on the left today, but that’s not his natural position and he doesn’t give England much width. He needs to play in the position Frank Lampard occupied today. Stewart Downing should be nothing more than a squad player. Wayne Rooney, as we all know, is not really a striker, and neither Jermain Defoe nor Emile Heskey (who has 5 goals in 45 appearances) are the answers for England long-term.

Fabio Capello left the best options for those positions at home, in my opinion, in Ashley Young (left) and either Darren Bent or Peter Crouch up top. Bent or Crouch paired with either Defoe or Rooney and England would be in business. Young provides the pace and on-ball qualities that England just doesn’t have. Joe Cole is a versatile option who can play either wing and as a second striker, but I’m not sure if he’s consistent enough on the international stage to start.

Wes Brown scored today, but I don’t think he’s the best option at right back. Glen Johnson brings more to the table than Brown while making half as many mistakes, of which Brown made two bad ones in this game. Luke Young isn’t a bad player. Phil Neville is still serviceable. It seems like Brown’s spot isn’t even up for contention, and that’s a problem.

The Czech Republic were the better team in this match. They’re not half as flashy as England can be at times, but they get the job done. It was nice to see them rebound with a victory after that disastrous collapse against Turkey in Euro 2008, the last game they played. They deserved the victory and were harshly done by when Joe Cole scuffled home the late equalizer.

As with the U-21’s, I was disappointed with the turnout at Wembley. Look, there aren’t too many international games played each year so when there is one, I’d expect it to be sold out or close to it. If you don’t think you’re going to get that at Wembley, move the game to a smaller stadium. There’s no need to have a “national stadium” anyway, not when there are other fully capable grounds in the country.

England’s players didn’t have the same passion as their Czech counterparts. I can’t blame it on their new captain, John Terry, I just think they need to put a little more into their performances in the future. It’s hard to explain, really – it seemed like something was missing. They get plenty of credit for their two comebacks, though, because those are hard to come by at this level (unless you’re Turkey, of course!)

All things considered, Capello can take some positives and negatives out of this game. As I said, his team came back twice from a goal down. David Beckham looked very good on the right side and still gets it done. Ashley Cole put in a solid 90 minutes. The negatives, though, outweigh the positives. England generated nothing up front. They were very, very sloppy at times. David James wasn’t at his finest, even though there was nothing he could do about Jankulovski’s fantastic free kick.

England is back in action on September 6, when they’ll pay a visit to minnows Andorra. Andorra began their qualifying campaign for World Cup 2010 today with a 3-0 loss at Kazakhstan. It’ll be England’s first game in UEFA Group 6 and should be a victory for the Three Lions. They outscored Andorra by a combined 8-0 in their two games against the 182nd-ranked team in the world in Euro 2008 qualifying.

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  1. Michael

    August 24, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Nothing personal, I just don’t think he should be the captain (as I’ve said many times before), and I think he’s losing it as a commanding center back.

  2. alex

    August 24, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    how can you still have beckahm in there?

    And richards instead of Terry??
    You must really have some personal vendetta against the England CAPTAIN.

  3. Michael

    August 22, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Here’s my preferred lineup:





  4. United4life

    August 22, 2008 at 1:50 am

    england needs speed in their team. plain and simple, beckham and heskey ain’t going to cut it anymore for them to compete. all the great teams have speed all around the field.


  5. Karthik Balasubramanian

    August 21, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Well.. as long as we are just speculating.. I think England should learn to keep the ball a lot more and attack.. I dont think this has been tried before.. but its worth a shot..

    Warnock Ferdinand Terry Cole

    Bentley Gerrard Barry Lampard Cole

    Heskey, Defoe, Noble, Young(Ashley), Woodgate, Downing, Hart

    The pace of Bentley and Cole can be used to complement Agbonlahor’s own pace with Gerrard, Lampard and Barry together minding the middle and throwing in attacks and getting those long range volley shots

  6. JLay

    August 21, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    James has always been somewhat erratic, but usually makes up for his questionable decision making with great reflexes and athleticism.

    The guy manages to give up some of the softest goals you’ve ever seen, then turns around and makes incredible saves that no other keeper could’ve touched.

    You have to admit, he’s exciting to watch!

  7. Chris

    August 21, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I think Gerrard was playing a similar position against the US, out left drifting into the middle (Lampard and Hargreaves were paired in the center). He’s played out left for Liverpool before too.

    I’d rather see Capello go with Joe Hart in goal.

  8. Michael

    August 20, 2008 at 9:25 pm


    He is England’s best goalkeeper right now, and as you pointed out, I said there was nothing he could do about that free kick. Still, he looked shaky at times today — he came all the way out on that play where England’s defense thought offside should’ve been called and was beaten, he fumbled a save and barely picked it up again in the second half. I’m not saying he should be replaced or anything like that, I’m just saying he didn’t exactly light it up out there today.

    Fair point about Gerrard, he did whiff and slip a couple times today, but I thought he played pretty well given that he’s never even played left wing before.

  9. Jackie Wilshere(formerly Alex Hleb)

    August 20, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    and i dont think you should have mentioned david james, there was nothing he could really do and you admit that, and he’s england’s best keeper right now.

  10. Jackie Wilshere

    August 20, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    another point- your admiration for gerrard is completely clouding your vision- gerrard might be good for liverpool but he’s not good for england-he slips, misses the ball, or loses a great scoring chance every game.

    watch this video on youtube about gerrard against estonia –

  11. Jackie Wilshere

    August 20, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    I think putting a striker on the wing would work. I hate to admit it, but I think Wayne Rooney would fit that position. He has pace, he can pass, and he can get around defenders. But, the ultimate solution to the left wing problem is Theo Walcott, eventually. By the time the world cup comes around, Walcott just might be the starter on one of the wings, or even at center forward.

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