Five things learnt from England vs. Portugal


London (AFP) – England and Portugal warmed up for Euro 2016 in a friendly at Wembley on Thursday. Here AFP Sports looks at five things we learnt from England’s 1-0 win:

Diamond doesn’t sparkle

After prolonged calls for Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane to play together, the vaunted trio’s maiden outing was a disappointment. With England manager Roy Hodgson using a diamond formation, Rooney was the deeper of the three, while Kane and Vardy played up front. However, with no width from midfield or the full-backs, Kane and Vardy were forced to take up wide positions far too often. That deprived England of the predatory penalty area instincts that brought Kane 25 goals and Vardy 24 in the Premier League this season. Rooney, now a fixture in midfield for Manchester United, looked the most at home. But Hodgson must remedy their lack of cohesion before England’s Euro opener against Russia on June 11.

Defensive deficiencies masked

Chelsea’s Gary Cahill lined up alongside Manchester United’s Chris Smalling at the heart of England’s defence as the pair auditioned for starting roles in France. Given John Stones’ shaky form for Everton in the latter part of the season, they already looked odds-on to keep their places. But they were hardly tested by a Portugal side badly missing Ronaldo and which played with only 10 men from the 35th minute. Far tougher tests lie ahead.

Midfield muddle 

Deploying Tottenham’s Eric Dier in the holding role in front of the back four, Hodgson was looking for Dele Alli and James Milner to supply England’s attack. Dier was solid enough but Alli and Milner were often too deep to link up with the front three and when they did have possession in good areas they did nothing with it. They were also spread too wide at times, giving Portugal room to seize control. Jack Wilshere replaced Milner in the second half and could start in France.

Sturridge ahead of Rashford

Marcus Rashford’s meteoric rise has earned him a place in England’s Euro squad less than 100 days after making his Manchester United debut. The 18-year-old became the youngest player to score on his England debut when he netted after less than three minutes of last Friday’s friendly against Australia. But that dream debut doesn’t appear to have persuaded Hodgson he should be anything more than a last resort in France. Rashford remained confined to the bench as Daniel Sturridge, finally recovered from a calf injury, was sent on in the second half, a move that suggested he remains Hodgson’s preferred impact substitute.

Portugal drab without Ronaldo

With Cristiano Ronaldo on holiday in Ibiza as the Real Madrid forward rests after helping his club win the Champions League, Portugal were given a glimpse into life without their talismanic star — it wasn’t encouraging. Portugal coach Fernando Santos made eight changes from the team which beat Norway at the weekend and there was a disjointed look about the visitors from the start. Bruno Alves’s first-half dismissal for a crazy head-high lunge at Harry Kane hardly helped, but Santos could at least take heart from the way his players buckled down to frustrate England for long periods.

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