Last Monday night at Wembley Stadium, England began their brief warm up campaign in preparation for the World Cup which kicks off in twelve days in South Africa. It was supposed to be a farewell to the fans coupled with a comfortable win against a Mexico team which traditionally struggles against European sides away from home. What transpired was a flattering 3-1 win for England which raised more questions rather than offering concrete answers. It appears on examination, that England lack confidence
One of the most glaring deficiencies that England have suffered from in recent years is a distinct inability to maintain possession of the ball. Last Monday was no exception. Mexico dominated the statistics for long periods and looked much the more settled team and but for some defensive lapses from their backline, Mexico left the field that night clearly disappointed that they took nothing from the game.
The fact that England had a somewhat experimental side on display and that Fabio Capello changed tactics back and forth along with several second half substitutions only serves to paper over the cracks of an error ridden display. Midfielders James Milner, Michael Carrick and Steven Gerrard were completely overrun in the first half and only seemed to gain a grip after half time when Gerrard was switched into the middle to work with Wayne Rooney.
The defensive rotation with Ledley King and Jamie Carragher partnering Leighton Baines and Rio Ferdinand were decidedly shaky at times and only a solid performance from goalie Robert Green prevented an unfavorable scoreline at the break. The introduction of Joe Hart at half time was a welcome sight for this supporter as I feel he’s the best we have despite his inexperience.
I really feel that this England team is currently lacking in belief that they can win this World Cup and unfortunately, it is beginning to look like “same old, same old” that we heard from the previous 3-4 groups of management and player personnel. The same uninspiring press conferences where squad members go through the motions of saying ” we’re determined and ready” and then when it comes to crunch time, folding up the tents as soon as we hit the knockout stages.
I read an article following the Netherlands Mexico game where Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie said ” at times we played beautifully“. When was the last time you heard an England player say that, if ever ? The Dutch were missing Robben, Van Bommel, and Sneijder, just as England rested some of their better players. No matter. They did not miss a beat. We just have no confidence in our own ability at the international level and that bleeds off into our heart-stopping fear when it comes to penalty shootouts. Frank Lampard, our primary spot taker, claimed that some of the players ‘” were somewhat scared of taking penalties” . This comes from a professional footballer who has a target to hit from 12 yards with only a goalie to beat. This type of attitude makes the average fan think that maybe these players just don’t care.
Another mystifying concern is Lampard and Gerrard’s inability to play together. Now in my world, two things are at work here. Either they are too dumb to play together or they just don’t want to. I believe it’s a little of both. If I was Capello, I’d tell them to figure it out or you can park your ass on the bench over there and we’ll find someone who can get this done. I have no tolerance for this campaign to go up in flames on the backs of these two clowns.
I hope I’m totally wrong about this as I am as passionate an England fan as you will find anywhere but I’ve seen the same warning signs before, and even though I believe in Capello’s ability as a leader and as a manager, he’s not going to be out there on the field when the whistle blows. It remains to be seen if the Italian can instill some fire into these guys and it starts against Japan tomorrow.