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Five Alive – 10 Things From England v Croatia

By | 10th September 2009

england-fans1. We are the champions – of the world – So, it’s now pretty close to absolute certainty that England will win the World Cup. In fact, England will not just win it, but ruthlessly crush all opposition into a bloody wheezing pulp, gasping for air on the sidelines and ruing the day they were drawn with her Majesty’s brave and irrepressable Lions. Grrrrrr.

In fact, with Portugal unlikely to qualify and Argentina still not certain, we’ve already won it to be honenst. We only need to turn up.

Well, I mean, there’s Spain… yeah, I suppose they’re quite good aren’t they? Yeah, okay, Spain are pretty good, but we’ll get to the final, definitely. Brazil? Yeah, well, yeah they’re good, I mean they’re not as good as they were. I mean, they did beat Argentina 3-1 away. Yeah, I suppose that’s quite impressive. Well, I mean we beat Croatia 4-1 away. No, it’s not really the same, is it? Yeah, okay, but we’ll get to the semifinals, like certainly, guaranteed and that.

Well, of course Germany always have a chance, clearly, but… yeah, and Italy obviously… yeah, but we played well against the Dutch I thought, well true, but… yes, Russia do look very good, and Serbia yes but… yes, France are capable of beating us, true…

Okay, fine, quaterfinals. Quarterfinals for sure, maybe semifinals. We’ll definitely push for the semifinals, wont we? I mean it’ll be a battle in the quaterfinals, but we’ll take it all the way. Okay, quarterfinals and then out on penalties. Yeah, well that’s still good though, isn’t it?

I mean it’s better than… erm… oh…

2.  We’re on our way to Wembley, our knees have gone all Trembley – Joking aside, it was one of the best England performances in a long while. It’s certainly the first time I’ve walked out of Wembley as part of a smiling, chirpy, and delighted crowd. Usually we walk out in a muffled huddle of blithe indifference. Often vaguely pleased but emotionally blase, like we’ve just watched an alright but overly long Ocean’s sequal.

Some of the performances were entertaining but it dragged on a bit and was quite a lot like the other ones. And some of the cast weren’t even trying. I’ve been gasping for a fag for almost two hours now, anyone fancy a quick pint? Sometimes of course I’ll find myself in a completely silent mass of disconsolate zombies walking through a barren part of a random country with no idea where I’m going  and hoping we’re all sort of blindly shuffling towards the hotel.

So a time when it’s actually a pleasure to have watched England is to be cherished. Yesterday the general air of delight was palpable, the performance was slick and almost (dare I say it) world class, and the atmosphere in the ground was the best it’s been since those fleeting few minutes when it looked like we might qualify for the Euros two years ago.

The singing was non stop (and credit to the Croats as well who put in a good showing despite being thrashed) and Mexican waves abounded in joy rather than boredom. A few more games like this and Wembley could finally become a stadium fans actually want to go to.

3. Just the two of us (we can make it if we try) – As if to emphasize the progress made under Don Fabio, one of the major ‘What is it with <insert name of player or position> for England?’ questions always asked under his predecessors seems to have been answered. Why can’t Lampard and Gerrard play together?

The answer, seemingly, is that they can, providing Gerrard is given an attacking wing role and Lampard is allowed to boss the midfield and make forward runs through the middle whenever he wishes. Both were excellent yesterday but it’ll all surface again when Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves are back in the picture.

4.  Beauty and the beast – Well actually ‘the beast’ and ‘the best’, but in terms of playing style, Rooney and Heskey don’t have that much in common. While Capello, and numerous managers before him, obviously see all the good work Heskey does for the team, it can be hard for us fans to be as observant at times.

Hussle, jump, lose the ball, fall over, repeat, hussle, jump, fall over, jump, miss chance, lose the ball, lather, rinse, and repeat. Heskey’s job in the side is not to score goals (and he’s doing that side of it brilliantly at the moment) but to create panic and space in the opposition defense with his movement and tenacity.

Rooney thrives when someone else is doing the donkey work for him (his partnership with Tevez at Man United is testament to that) but I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking there must be someone out there who’s able to do that whilst not possessing the touch of a space hopper and the finishing skills of a student hippy on ketamine.

Heskey is obviously useful, our last three managers have used him frequently and they weren’t all completely clueless  (well two of them weren’t at any rate) but surely Carlton Cole could be just as effective as a hold up man whilst also being able to score occasionally?

5. Yours is the Earth, and everything that’s in it… – And which is more, Rooney is the man, my son. Problem is, he’s still not getting forward enough. I know his goal record so far this season has been exemplary, but he still can’t resist the schoolboy urge to wander back to wherever the ball is. Whenever England broke, or looked like there was a break on,  the only person in the opposition half was Heskey, which wasn’t much help to anybody.

Rooney was still involved in almost everything England did – his touch and vision layed on countless chances – but the fact that he was milling around by the half way line, ocassionally drifting out left again, meant that there wasn’t much pace in the attack. This is possibly the only flaw I can find in the performance and a reason why someone like Defoe, who can’t hold it up as well as Emile but can dart forwad when needed, would make England that little bit better asthetically.

However, if this were to happen, Rooney would have to be up in support. Discipline Wayne, the ball doesn’t need you there at all times, it’s perfectly happy with Frank or Stevie for a while.

6. Fatboy Slim - Everyone looked incredibly fat in the new kit. I don’t know why… maybe it was just me, but all the players looked much fatter than normal. I like the kit, it certainly looks better on fat middle aged men than any of the others, probably because it’s essentially a baggy polo top rather than a skin tight nylon sportswear thing with trendy desings on it. Maybe that’s the reason? Maybe it’s intended to make everyone look fat so the fat people feel more comfortable and therfore more likely to buy it? Trouble is it makes England look like an Inner City junior Fat Fighters team in their PE kit.

7. Keep on runnin’ – Aaron Lennon has the strangest run. He runs like a middle aged woman tip-toeing through a puddle. Arms out, hands raised  like he’s either going to shield himself from a splash or start flapping them at any minute. He played very well, though – he actually managed to get a few crosses to his team mates. I’m still skeptical of his ability against really top class sides… unless he plays Patrice Evra of course, whom he almost always seems to flumox.

8. Monsters Ink – Another Cameo for Beckham, another rapturous reception from Wembley for his every touch, another poisonous diatribe from Alan Green on Five Live, and another fresh batch of tattoos it seems (although I did first notice them against Holland in truth).  He now has complete sleves on each arm. He’s obviously completely addicted now. Someone really needs to stop him before he starts doing his face. Though if he can get Lennon or Walcott’s face tattooed over his he might get in the starting line up a bit more.

9.  Steward Downing - Do stewards really need to be as overly aggressive as they sometimes are? Granted, a drunken fan ran on the pitch, took his shirt off (why?) and hugged Eduardo, but it was clear he wasn’t going to stab any one and just wanted a hug. He would surely have walked off calmly and merrily if simply escorted. Instead, five of them hurtled at him and pummelled him to the ground. What’s more, it was the stewards from the other side of the ground that did it; the stewards he’d just managed to get passed just stood there. Entirely pointless escapade from all concerned.

10. I Believe I can Fly – While I joked in my opening point that we tend to get ahead of ourselves, I don’t in actuality see that much of a problem with it. Shane Warne was once asked the difference between the English and Australian fan mentality. His reply was that when you ask an Aussie if they’re going to win The Ashes they will universally reply “yeah, of course, mate” and if beaten simply shrug it off and say “fair do’s, we’ll do you next year though”.

When you ask an England fan they’ll inevitably say “hmm, well maybe, it depends if so and so is fit, or if so and so can regain his form, hopefully, possibly, we’ll give it a jolly good go though” And that’s the difference.

The Americans are the same. They go into every Olympic competition convinced they’ll win, and they do. Whenever someone brings up the possibility of us winning something it will almost always be slapped down by the ‘realists’. Despite what many of them look and sound like, our players do read the papers (or have them read to them). It filters through like a trickle down effect.

The nation’s will and belief can inspire our team, so I say bring on the Brazils and Spains, and let’s believe we can beat them, even if we really think we can’t.

Once more onto the pitch, dear friends, once more…



Reader Comments

The below views are those of our readers and do not reflect the opinions of Premiership Talk or its employees.
  1. Thomas O Loughlin says:

    God bless to everyone who hates the England soccer team……and the England rugby team….. and the England cricket team…..and so on.

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