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Cause for Optimism After England’s Surprising Victory Against Spain

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.

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  1. Pakapala

    November 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    So to England fans, friendly games don’t matter, they are a waste of time, they’re just a way for greedy FIFA/UEFA to make more money……. that is until England beat the World Champions in a friendly, then it’s like a light bulb switches on! Oh yes friendly games are IMPORTANT. And England beat the World Champs!

  2. ish

    November 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    i think if england play a 4231 the question will be where to play people. parker is basically locked in as one of the starting members of the central mid, but the other one is still a toss up. do you play barry or rodwell or jones or wilshere??

    In attack england have options, personally i would see a milner, a.young and possibly some1 like a.johnson in the attacking midfield roles, playing behind rooney. they are all quite comfortable along that front 3. England would still have the option of widening play with 2 orthodox wingers or they can have inverted wingers and swap milner for a more classic midfielder like lampard, wilshere, gerrard or even welbeck.

    add to it the options of pace of sturridge or walcott as well and in attack england look like they can scratch out a nasty rough counter attack win. for more control they have a couple of decent ball playing options as well.

    the sweden game will be interesting because i think sturridge and walker are getting call ups. walker for me could displace g.johnson as the starting rb, especially if capello decides to use an inverted winger as a preference, g.johnson comes inside from very deep positions much too often, sometimes coming centrally before he hits the final third, works fine in some instances but can cause congestion in the midfield and he is unable to link up well with his winger.

  3. Neutral

    November 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I thought that England impressed defensively but more importantly they managed to expose Spain’s biggest weakness. I realize that Barcelona and Spain are not synonymous by any means but when you look at the way both sides play you’d have to be somewhat ignorant to say they don’t have the same style. But what’s more important to note is that they have the same weakness: Set Pieces. Barca was the shortest (height-wise) team to ever win the UCL and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone informed me that Spain was the shortest group of World Cup winners. Yet for some reason teams never quite expose their set piece weaknesses as often as you would expect. I realize Puyol and Pique are gritty players, sometimes even dirty, but at the end of the day there are a lot of players who should be able to get heads to balls with more ease than them. This game was a perfect example of how to beat Spain, defend well and beat them when you get a set-piece. Mourinho tried to use a similar tactic last year in the UCL semis but his approach was a bit off and Pepe’s red card solidified Real Madrid’s fate. Capello did it the right way, he showed Spain the respect they deserve but at the same time he had enough faith in his team to bring out a spectacular performance from them. There is no doubt in my mind that Spain is still the best team in the world, but I would not be surprised to see them lose the Euros. My personal choice for the Euros now is the Netherlands, I think that if they can keep their talent physically fit and healthy they will be champions. Memories of set piece dominance against Brazil may be what puts the Dutch above Spain in this tournament.

    • efy007

      November 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm

      Don’t think Barcelona-Spain are weak for set pieces. Yes they are short, but the opponent doesn’t have the ball much to get set piece opportunity. Barca-Spain know they are short and their weakness, so they rarely give up/allow set pieces. I do not know the stats, but from what I have seen, most of their goals against have been opponents getting through the defense. Of course it has not helped that Puyol and Pique have not played most of the season.

      Now Arsenal on the other hand, big time weakness in corner kicks-set pieces, but well that’s a whole other thing.

  4. Andyb

    November 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Went to watch Wales at the CCS at 3, went home happy not only because of the win, but because I was looking forward to watching England get battered. Sad that it didn’t happen, but at least expectations will be higher now for the England team so when they do go out in the euros next summer, fans will be more disappointed!

  5. Pete

    November 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    The Gaffer isn’t happy, he was hoping to get at least four articles of trolling out of the England vs Spain game. Oh well Gaffer, cross your fingers for the Sweden game, you may just get lucky 🙂

    • The Gaffer

      November 14, 2011 at 6:17 am

      Pete, I’m happy. I’m half English. And I gave Capello’s side full credit. If they can keep on playing well, they’ll get their deserved credit.

      The Gaffer

  6. Tony Butterworth

    November 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Did anyone listen to 606 with Alan Green. Holy christ it pissed me off. Alan Green starts the show ranting about how crap England were. Instead of just listening to the calls he kept telling the callers they were wrong. I’m far from an England fan but they put out a team that did the job and won. It’s not his job to criticize England in my opinion. It REALLY annoyed me.

    • trickybrkn

      November 13, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      Tony actually it is his job as a football pundit. That’s why they have him and not Tony from Essex hosting.
      and frankly, he is right, England where lucky… they where way to defensive, and frankly boring.

      • Pete

        November 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm

        Which team goes out and attacks Spain or Barca? They always control the game no matter who they play because at this moment in time they are the best team/s in the world, so yes, England could have been more attack minded but then again they might have got smacked 5-0 for trying it.
        They won, which is more than most teams can say when they come up against Spain

      • Ardwickian

        November 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

        The reason Tony from Essex is not hosting is he’s probably a hammers fan and still wanting to talk about how he got in the shed thirty years ago rather than Cappello only using one up front.

  7. Trickybrkn

    November 13, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I am actually enjoying the first round FA Cup matches over the England match. England was so negative that around the 40 minute I realize that it was still nil nil. Once England got the goal it was like watching a plus 40 team play a u21 team. Parked bus, and the u21 squad missing every major opportunity.
    At present Wednesday at Morecambe is thrilling affair of real English football. End to end, open play and the players working their boots off. Plus Morecanbe is raising money with Movember… some classic porn staches on the pitch.

    • Dimitar Dimitrov

      December 8, 2011 at 8:46 am

      Definitely well-said!
      I’m writing an article for my journalism course (i’m only a student, not a real journalist, so the article won’t be published). It’s referring exactly to the poor national team’s performance and fans’ attitude to it, so I strongly agree with opinions like yours!
      Do you mind answering a few questions about the way you feel about England? I really need to include direct quotes from fans in my article, otherwise it will fail, and I won’t pass my course. I assure you that your comments won’t be published anywhere. If you don’t mind giving me an email interview, mail me back on

      Thanks a lot in advance!

  8. Smokey Bacon

    November 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

    No surprise that minus Shrek and some of the other big time charlies, England finally put in a performance that had the workrate of the English game combined with the tactical defensive awareness of the best Italian teams. The threat of being humiliated at Wembley was enough to motivate the players. Lescott and Parker were superb. Only minor criticism was the lack of cutting edge but you can’t have it all. I’d take this 4-2-3-1 formation and a bunch of 1-0’s next June.

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