As a nation, when it comes to the national team the mentality is usually ready for disappointment, as we have suffered a lot of disappointing World Cup Finals after huge expectation. But recently the usual hype we have around England has been of a lower tone. In qualifying we became a defensive team and were just supporting the team knowing we’d be organised and taking every game as it comes. However the last two qualifiers put us into a state of delirium due to the attacking nature of the team, with the break-through of Andros Townsend they came up with the results, even with a large slice of luck on the defensive side. And brought back the dangerously over expectant England fan, which we all fear.
Germany and Chile were the last two internationals until next year and to finish of the celebration of the FA in its 150th year. They have however been a slap in the face for all those over expectant England supporters. As all these games have done is bring up the same issue of how our football compares to sides of quality, than that of San Marino who will take advantage of just one defensive mistake. Most people say these are just friendlies and we shouldn’t overreact in a negative manor but these two games are key opportunities for us to see what England have to offer for next summer. The game versus Germany last night was more significant than it seems. ITV’s pre-game VT showed how Jürgen Klinsmann used the Premier League as a basis to shape his German team to tackle the rest of the world. Which makes sense because at the time the Premier League was on top in Europe, with Manchester United winning in 2008 against Chelsea, it was hard for people to argue. But now it’s like a mirror as the Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich final this year shows that the Bundesliga has evolved along with the national team which the Premier League has hit the heights and left England behind. But there is change.
England started the game superbly with a good amount of pace and pressure which was lacking in the Chile game, the problem was that the one touch football and widening play was all in the England half or on the halfway line, due to Germany’s pressuring well as a team. There was a huge lack of movement in the forward areas, even with Townsend taking on players, and this is because the midfield was overrun with lost long balls hopefully punted up field and with the only decent chance being a looping header from Rooney, around the half hour mark.
Before the half could end the Germans started to attack themselves, with still not the threat of an Ozil and Co. Germany still took advantage of Ashley Cole going forward on the left and gained a corner which resulted in a fabulous double save from Joe Hart against Per Mertesacker, which seemed to be the start of a means to continue, but sadly from the resulting corner not being cleared properly, the return ball was planted once again on to the head of Mertersacker as the Arsenal defender rose higher than Cleverly and a sprawling Chris Smalling, who couldn’t get back into position quick enough, planted the ball home past the keeper. Just before the half could end, a long range shot from Gerard couldn’t be the catalyst for a comeback as it went over weidenfeller’s goal.
The second half had more to offer with more interchange with the front four but still not enough to open up German’s defence. A shot from Townsend once again the one man who seems to be able to create a spark for England, with Rooney in the team came to the forefront again, sadly his shot hit the post. Sturridge also missed an opportunity to be the hero after a good ball through from Henderson, couldn’t be met with a similarly good touch, for the opportunity to go begging. Hart made several good saves after Germany counter attacked. But Hart did make one mistake clattering into Smalling after rushing out, which he got away with. Many fans are screaming “why is so far out of his goal.” For me that is a good sign, as all the best goalkeepers need to also be a sweeper for their defence, the likes of Buffon and LLoris both can come off their line, and be on your toes in no time. For Hart it’s something he needs to work on, as he is just coming out a little too quickly, without enough communication which causes confusion and incidents like we saw.
Throughout the game England were unable to put the right kind of pressure on the Germans, Rooney several times was left alone on pressuring and when cleverly also went to press was left outnumbered and Germany easily found a way around. England did lose to a German side without; Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Ozil, Klose and Poldoski. But three of the back four were from the first team. And Jerome Boateng showed the comfort and aura on the ball every centre back in a passing team needs and for modern defenders to look to.
With all the good and the bad we also saw a contrast in depth for both teams. Germany has great quality in the first team but also proven talent in the wings with Gotze etc. But even though England doesn’t have the proven talent, there is talent making it known for all to see. This can only be positive. The players I’m talking about are; Lallana and Rodriguez of Southampton, Ross Barkley coming through from Everton, who has been praised heavily by Martinez as one for the future. Townsend of Tottenham who we’ve all seen, Wilshere is still young and has a lot of promise, Smalling, Jones, Walker, Gibbs and Henderson who has started turning his career around after a tough start to his Liverpool career. He still has a lot to prove but with regular football, it can only help. At the same time we still have Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, and Walcott etc in the wings. These are players of a decent quality to have to choose from. And with St Georges Park it can only bring more and more players through with the right knowledge and technique.
There is one player that deserves a large amount of praise is Jagelka, even though he isn’t a youngster he is showing his quality and importance in defence more and more. He was able to defend well with crucial interceptions, strength and once won to play the ball into midfield simply or out wide.
Taking the lessons learnt from not winnings these games, the World Cup should be seen as a platform, to get as far as possible, maybe a quarter final as a target and beyond that would be fantastic. It should be a way to keep the good work going forward for future teams. Fans need to cut the booing and whatever the result, cheer to the raptures and keep the hysteria from the media at bay. The targets need to be realistic for the short term and to be able to enjoy a very hot summer in Brazil!
In all, England can compete but just not consistently to be put into the top bracket, so with the future looking bright, we should concentrate on that and keep believing as there isn’t a quick fix, it takes time and the right structure to get there.