England – It will be alright on the night

by Matt Quinn

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Reasons to be cheerful

I’m not totally sure how or why I believe England will comfortably beat Croatia tonight, but I just do. I don’t think anything can be taken from the Andorra game in terms of form or analysis. The minnows, predictably, placed 11 plumbers behind the ball and simply put off the inevitable until the second half. I wasn’t overly concerned that we didn’t score 5 or 6 as England will be aware that the real qualification campaign starts this week against the increasingly cocky Croats.

I believe it’s this away game in Zagreb that we will see Capello’s tedious friendly experiments come to fruition. During the earlier friendlies, Capello was totally unruffled by performance, goals conceded or lack of entertainment. The one thing that enraged the England coach was the squandering of possession. Clearly Capello realised that the major flaw in the English International game was that we never retained the majority of the ball during 90mins. This was not particularly a problem against the minor teams, but against the likes of Brazil and Russia when we were holding onto a lead, this was ruthlessly exposed. Once ahead in high pressure games, England would resort to being happy to hoofing the ball out of the “danger area”. In the short term, this backs to the wall approach would work for 5-10mins, but by simply returning the possession to the opposition meant that the English backline would have to thwart wave after wave of attack before crumbling under the pressure.

By way of example, Englands performance away in Paris under Capello, where they kept the ball for long periods, could be the blueprint for future matches.

Capello wants a more studied approach to defending that involves keeping the ball away from the opposition rather than defending with last-ditch tackles and bloodied Terry Butcher captain fantastic performances.

This clearly places the burden of defence on the entire team, and that is why the likes of Barry and Downing appear to have courted favour with the Italian as, while not being explosively decisive like a SWP or Aaron Lennon, they retain possession on a more regular basis. While Capello must start to integrate a degree of thrust and penetration into this framework, I believe that England will triumph with these methods on Wednesday. I predict a Man of the Match performance from Wayne Rooney, and a comfortable 2-0 England victory after grabbing an early goal and controlling the tempo and possession throughout. These might be ridiculous predictions based on recent England matches, but Capello is no mug and he has been drumming into the England players that football doesn’t have to be about immediate rewards. Capello knows what he is doing and Croatia away will be the turning point for English football.

(If England lose, however, I say sack the stupid Italian Postman Pat)

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  • Leg Puppy

    This is the time to judge Capello, forget the last 6 matches, it starts for real in Zagreb.

    I’m pretty confident too, it’s been so bad that it has to get better. Don’t forget he went to Real Madrid and won the title with them for the first time in 5 years.

    We are already seeing the evidence that he will drop the big stars. I’m hoping he sticks with Walcott, we all know that pace is a major weapon in international football, it’s something that Croatia lack.

    Lets get behind Capello and our boyz!!

    Croatia 1 England 2

  • Stevie

    I’m afraid I really don’t understand your positive outlook , we’ve been here to many times before, all the hype, all the build up, all the disappointment!

    We’ll huff, we’ll puff and we’ll lose 2-0.

    A team of superstars with one thing missing, there’s no team in superstars!

  • Martyn

    It all depends on who he selects to start. He needs to start Joe Cole, Johnson, Bentley and (in the absence of anyone else Heskey). I would even go so far as to replace Lampard with Jenas but that is because I think, as much as I’ll get abuse for suggesting Jenas, there is more chance of him delivering for England than Fat Frank!! Obviously he wont drop Lampard but he shouldnt put Becks, Dowing or Brown in.

  • Matt Quinn

    Croatia are without Eduardo, without Krancjar and that will test them. Last time we played Croatia in Zagreb, we had the 3-5-2 formation with Scott Parker in central midfield.
    Im never optimistic about anything, least of all Villa and England, but ive just got a feeling in my waters. (unless thats a by-product of the black hole machine thing)

  • Martin Tibbetts

    I don’t think we will be beaten, but I can’t see where the goals are going to come from. With Defoe useless at this level, and Rooney looking more like a midfield player every day, I can’t see us scoring. I say throw in Bullard and hope we get a free kick 25 yards out……

  • Stevie

    could agree with you more Martin, Rooney should just play center mid in place of Lampard, why not? Have Crouch and Owen up front. We all know William Dafoe is not an international player!!

    It says something when we are praying for a boring 0-0.

    Croatia are average, they were pi** poor in the euro’s apart from the Germany game. They are very over rated yet they have the one thing we don’t, team spirit!

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    Matt Quinn you’re a bloody genius!!

    How good was that? we’ve waited 4 years for a performance like that. I’ve been very critical of Capello over the last few weeks but to play Walcott was a tactical master stroke.

    We kept the ball, we all wanted the ball and most importantly we played as a team.

    Lets not wait another 4 years!

  • Stevie

    it was against 10 men, calm down dear!

    Terry was still knocking hopeless long balls up to no one and Rooney was still playing as central midfielder until they went down to 10.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    what do you mean it was against 10 men?

    Brazil had 10 men in 2002. Some people are never happy. Enjoy it why you can mate!

    What we need to do now is drop Lampard for Gerrard, bring back Crouch & Owen to the squad, slowly introduce Ashley Young and Agbonlahor and we can move forward.

    ps: You’ve had 10 men this month!

  • tef1on

    I’d say lets enjoy tonight, but… let wait for 2 more games to actually see if anyone has learnt anything

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    true, I’m usually Capello’s biggest critic, but he passed his first test with flying colours.

    how proud was you for Theo? Hopefully now the Spuds will shut up about us and England players. When was the last time a Spud scored a hatrick for England. Mexico 86?

  • Matt Quinn

    I think Heskey may be the key. People are blinded by goals. We play much better as a TEAM when he is playing. Rooney was outstanding and theo provided the pace weve needed for a long time. I dont agree with bringing Gerrard in for Lampard. When has Stevie Me last performed for England? Lampard has done it on occassions- won England player of the year 2 years running.
    Also we dont need Owen…. he doesnt contribute to the team. Heskey/Ashton and Rooney looks good to me. With some pacey, creative wide players to feed off them, we are fine in that department.

  • dexylongshot

    On September 1st, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Dexy Wrote:
    “Fabs the man, mark my words”
    I’ve said all along, give Fabio time and he will come good.
    I was right, it was never in doubt.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    Heskey is very important to England, he brings other players into the game, he may not score tons of goals but epitomizes team ethics, he plays for the team unlike Dafoe. He’s a handful to mark and holds the ball up very well.

    I think Bilic and Croatia were extremely arrogant . They looked very poor indeed. All the friends they made during Euro 2008 quickly vanished after last nights woeful performance. Their dirty tactics were a total disgrace , add to that the racists chants for their fans.

    Boban, Bilic, Suka, Slavenska, Ivanisevic, Vladimir Prelog, Ruzicka, Andrić, your boys took one hell of a beating!!!!

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