Saturday, 12 June 2010

A Penny For Jimmy Greaves' Thoughts

FIFA World Cup, 1st Round, Group C: Rustenburg; England 1, USA 1

People of a certain vintage will remember ITV’s Saturday afternoon football preview show “The Saint & Greavsie”.  One of the on running narratives on the show was Greavsie’s stream of gags about the standard of Scottish goalkeeping, which with the emergence of Alan Rough, Jim Leighton and Andy Goram  had grown more and more tiresome.  Up to around about 1996, conventional wisdom was that England had the best goalkeepers in the world.  I'm not really sure when that started to become less a fact but more a myth, but Robert Green’s moment tonight (above, left) is the latest in a growing list of howlers for English goalkeepers.

Truth be told England did not deserve to win, and the howler gave the USA a parity they deserved.  Capello decided to start with Green in goal, and decided to go with a midfield 4 of Milner, Gerrard, Lampard and Lennon.  It is this decision to pair Gerrard & Lampard which contributed to the USA’s dominance as much as Milner’s lack of fitness and Lennon and Wright-Phillips inability to tuck in.  The USA played with a tight 4 man midfield, which lacked width but provided the USA with an advantage in the middle of the park.  Capello would have been better off playing Carrick (as Barry is possibly still unfit) as he would have been a more natural anchor for the midfield.

When England did manage to get forward, they found a soft defence, However, England did not put sustained pressure on USA, and seemed incapable of putting several passes together.  It is ironic that in earlier coverage of Argentina’s match with Nigeria, the summariser Mick McCarthy kept mentioning that Veron was a failure in the English Premier League, despite the fabulous passing range he has.  England were crying out for the kind of player to pass the ball.  Certainly England’s forwards suffered from the lack of retained possession.  Rooney was hardly in the game.  Heskey fared a little better, he set up Gerard’s goal after 4 minutes.  His pass finding Gerard in space.  Heskey also had the opportunity to win the game, but shot tamely at Howard.

It is to the credit of the USA that England became bogged down in mid-field, which again comes back to Capello’s decision not to play with a midfield anchor.  Unexpectedly, the USA may also have found out that the England defence are a tad suspect at crosses.  The USA had a couple of chances in the second half, which England (having replaced King with Carragher) were unconvincing in clearing.

The consolation for England is that the USA are the toughest opponents in this group.  Next up for England will be Algeria next Friday.   For Capello, all that he has are questions about his squad, and whether to re-shape his team.

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