The England national football team have received mixed reviews from their performances and 7 points picked up in the group stages of Euro 2012. Roy Hodgson’s side haven’t played the most attractive football, but it’s been effective to date. However, I cannot see it taking them much further. Here’s why.
A 1-1 draw with France in their opening game seemed like a good result. In reality, the French haven’t been all that good, and England only had 1 shot on target. Steven Gerrard supplied a great free kick for Joleon Lescott to pull away from his marker and head home.
France equalised with a 20-yard effort from Samir Nasri as the England defence backed off. Joe Hart was forced into 6 saves in that match, mainly from long range efforts, including Karim Benzema, who has done little more than shoot from outside the box in this tournament.
Samir Nasri was as lively in that game as the Manchester City playmaker has been all tournament. Glen Johnson received praise for keeping Franck Ribery away from goal and from creating chances. At the time it seemed like he’d done a great job. Two games later and Ribery failed to cause any real problems to the Ukraine and Sweden defences.
The French centre back partnership of Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes held England out for the majority of the game. James Milner’s attempt from a wide angle after rounding Hugo Lloris was the only other noteworthy effort on goal other than Lescott’s opener. French newspaper L’Equipe gave both defenders a 3 out of 10 following the Sweden game.
The second team eliminated from the tournament, I was expecting a comfortable victory after a poor performance from Erik Hamren’s side in their 2-1 defeat to Ukraine. And that’s what England looked set to do when Andy Carroll headed England ahead midway through the first half.
However, a disastrous start to the second saw England fall 2-1 behind with a brace from Olof Mellberg (ok, the first has been credited as a Glen Johnson own goal). Without being disrespectful to Sweden, it was an embarrassing sight. Both from set pieces. Just think what the Italians can do in the quarter-finals with Andrea Pirlo and their reputation at set pieces. Not to forget that 75% of their goals in this tournament have come through that method.
England were handed the first lucky escape of the tournament, when Theo Walcott’s attempt straight down the goal from outside the box managed to find the back of the net. A week on and having seen the replays numerous times I am still miffed as to how Andreas Isaksson let that in. That spurred Walcott on to create the winning goal for Danny Welbeck, which was expertly dispatched after he burst in front of Mellberg inside the six yard box. That has been the Manchester United’s only contribution to this tournament so far.
Another one of the weakest nations in Euro 2012. Ukraine had been comfortably beat 2-0 by France in their second group game ahead of this. England allowed the home nation to put pressure on them and made hard work of it.
Wayne Rooney’s match winning goal from a couple of inches out came, once again, thanks to a goalkeeping error. Otherwise, the only other occasion we tested Andriy Pyatov’s goal was an Ashley Cole effort after the goalkeeper flapped at a cross. A better attacking side would have scored at least one in this match. Artem Milevskiy, who was not flagged for offside despite being more than a yard ahead of the defence, headed over from close range in the second half. And later, John Terry cleared from behind his own goal line. A fortunate 1-0 victory if you ask me, against a weak nation.
Joe Hart – 7
Beaten from long range by Samir Nasri, question marks over the two Sweden goals, Joe Hart has made some good saves in his first three games of international tournament football. One of the best goalkeepers in the world, had been expecting more than one clean sheet in the group stage.
Glen Johnson – 7
I was expecting Glen Johnson to be one of the weak points in this English side but he’s defended better in this tournament than he has ever done. Kept Franck Ribery quiet and has made a couple of timely interceptions. Not offered much going forward though.
John Terry – 7
Despite playing as the right centre back as opposed to his usual left-sided position inside Ashley Cole, John Terry has been England’s best defender in this tournament. He’s blocked shots, made tackles and numerous interceptions to this point. Could do with organising the defence better with set pieces and was caught out a couple of times against Ukraine.
Joleon Lescott – 7
The 2011/12 Premier League-winning centre back has taken plenty of compliments for scoring England’s first goal at Euro 2012. He’s looked decent, but hasn’t racked up as many tackles or interceptions as John Terry. Which is a role he’s use to when playing alongside Vincent Kompany at Manchester City.
Ashley Cole – 7
Hasn’t bombed forward with as much frequency as usual in this tournament, although was denied his first international goal by a good save from Andriy Pyatov against Ukraine. Not been greatly tested in this tournament so cannot say he’s done anything special to this point.
James Milner – 5
Seemingly in the team to help protect Glen Johnson at right back, James Milner has done nothing in the way of attack since rounding Hugo Lloris and scuffing an effort wide in the first half of England’s first game. He nearly setup Samir Nasri in that game too, helped out by an underrated save from Joe Hart. He’s been a passenger since then.
Scott Parker – 7
The Tottenham captain has done the best he can to his ability. Although I’m not keen on him as an international footballer, he has made a number of tackles and thrown his body in the way of shots in this tournament. Always a danger to conceding free kicks around his box and being dribbled past, Italy may not be a good matchup for Scott.
Steven Gerrard – 9
Captain fantastic. For once. Steven Gerrard has performed immensely for England through 3 games. Something that I have not said about the captain before. Assisting goals for both Joleon Lescott and Andy Carroll with brilliant crosses, he provided the cross leading to Wayne Rooney’s winner against Ukraine too. Combative performances in midfield, Gerrard has been winning the ball for England and distributing it well. Frank Lampard’s name hasn’t even been mentioned.
Ashley Young – 4
This is as lower score I’d give before feeling guilty. The Manchester United winger was barely noticeable on the pitch in England’s first two games. Apart from a delightful through ball to James Milner and a great cross for Wayne Rooney in separate games, Young has not created much for the England attack. His runs have not been penetrative and he’s done little work defensively.
Danny Welbeck – 5
Apart from his great finish against Sweden, the 9-goal striker in last season’s Premier League has barely had a shot on goal. The return of club team mate Wayne Rooney didn’t make any impact against Ukraine either. For a striker, I’d like to see him test the opposition goalkeeper. He’s not been doing this.
Andy Carroll – 5
Apart from his headed goal against Sweden, Andy Carroll hasn’t been very impressive in his limited time on the pitch. Conceding possession with the ball in the opposition half and conceding a couple of free kicks hasn’t helped his team mates either.
Theo Walcott – 6
His impact against Sweden certainly won us the 3 points in that game. He scored a goal that a Sunday league goalkeeper would be expected to save and his winning assist came courtesy of sprinting past a slow defence. He still deserves credit though. Apart from those moments, Walcott hasn’t had much time to make an impact, but barely touched the ball as sub against Ukraine.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6
Played as well as he could against France, but any chance of catching them out on the counter was denied by a couple of cynical fouls or attempts at fouling the youngest player in the squad. Did his part defensively but hasn’t had much time to make an impact since.
Wayne Rooney – 5
Would have been a lower score but for getting himself in the position to score against Ukraine. Wayne Rooney looked very rusty in that game with a number of poor first touches and giving away possession. Missed a glorious headed opportunity at 0-0 also.
Overall, it’s not as bad as the debacle in South Africa two years ago, but it’s not the greatest of improvements. England progressed from this group with help of two defensive mistakes and the better nations just won’t give those goals away. Gianluigi Buffon will not give those goals away.
I don’t want to criticise Roy Hodgson at this point as he’s been thrown in at the deep end and won a group that included a French side on a long unbeaten run, and the hosts. But work must be done before Brazil 2014, particularly with a qualifying group that includes Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro – three developing football nations.