In a previous entry I explored how England fared in the aftermath of the defeat against Italy. there was more to it than that, though.
I wasn’t thrilled watching England play. I didn’t find the England-Italy match that interesting mostly down to Italy’s profligacy and England’s inability to make the most of their time with the ball. England-Ukraine was pedestrian. England-Sweden was the best match in terms of swinging from one side to the other – chiefly because it was teams with similar mind-sets and England proving their superiority at that type of game. England-France was interesting as a chance to see how overrated the French were and how well England played as a team.
In all that England got the results their performances merited.
Some point out how well Terry played in the tournament and there’s no doubt his input was crucial on a number of occasions. What they failed to mention was how his questionable positioning in the first place lead to the chances that he had to scramble back to cover. Not to begrudge the guy, though, he did his shift for his country. (Terry = 7/10).
Joe Hart gave enough indication that he will be the best keeper in world football as he carries on in his current trajectory of quality (Hart = 8/10). Ashley Cole didn’t grab the headlines until his penalty miss, but he played well and his performances show why he has been rated the best left-back in the world (Cole = 7/10). Glen Johnson did fairly well overall, it was only the Italy match where the attacking qualities he has blossomed, and that was just in the first half-hour. He did do a disciplined houb with the rest of the defensive unit to be fairly pleased about (Johnson = 7/10). Joleon Lescott formed a decent centre-half partnership with Terry and the defensive unit as whole functioned very effectively other than the Sweden match (Lescott = 7/10).
Scott Parker is an interesting player. The system England played relied a great deal on him putting in an effort to be a spoiler. If his role in the team was solely as a spoiler he did well. The possession issue that people crack on about, however, has been notably down to his inability to pull off a simple pass back to maintain possession. Sure a lot of his work is understated, but he is not the answer to England’s future, even as the spoiler player (Parker = 6/10).
Steven Gerrard performed well as captain, doing his bit of leading by example. His set-piece work and quality deliveries were responsible for a number of England’s goals. He is of that lung-busting midfielder mould that England loves and typified that in this tournament even if it was in a more subdued and disciplined manner that saw him behind the ball more often than not. Yet he was very good without touching great. (Gerrard = 7/10).
Ashley Young didn’t impress in the tournament despite starting every match. The form he had in internationals running into the match evidently lead to his selection and at his best he can be a persistent pest to defenders. For whatever reason, however, he never seemed to hit form in causing havoc in the opposition half (Young = 5/10). James Milner came in for grief for his performances and was the most likely to be substituted. It’s unfortunate he suffered that much grief because he was hardly going to be the type of wide player to beat defenders for pace. His role was to provide some width, but be able to tuck in and do a job combating the opponents. I am a supporter of Milner and if he’s played in the right role he can excel. He didn’t excel in this tournament though. (Milner = 5/10).
Wellbeck of all the English players is likely to come back with the most improved reputation. His efforts for United last season impressed those who saw it, but here on the international stage his efforts were even wider admired and he played up to the occasion not just with his goalscoring threat, but his all round team work helping back, offering runs for midfielders to pick, causing stress for defenders with his harrying and hassling. I wouldn’t say he was England’s best player, but he wasn’t far off (Wellbeck = 7/10).
Attention fell on Wayne Rooney for him to turn up and turn it on for England at this big stage. He scored the vital goal against Ukraine … and that was it. He came in for criticism in the Italy match for not doing enough in helping the midfield cope with Pirlo. He didn’t really impress at all other than the goal. You may want to present reasons for that – the long lay-off, the first two games not playing, etc. but if you’re in the squad you’re there because you can do a job. The deal was that even a half-fit, or partly match-fit Rooney would be able to do a job for England. That was not the case. Whilst Ronaldo gains plaudits for his role in pushing Portugal forward Rooney misses another chance to establish his international credentials in tournament football (Rooney = 5/10).
There were bit part players who made cameos of varying degrees, but none of them will have improved their rating because of their input. Carroll played alright in the Sweden match. Walcott came on and did well in the same match. Oxlade-Chamberlain got his chance and will at least learn from the experience. Henderson likewise did nothing of any worth in his brief cameo appearances.
There’s also the manager Roy Hodgson. He didn’t show a great deal of tactical flexibility to deal with situations when they were not going his way, whether that was making it with France, or stopping the Italian Job. Yet his changes in the Sweden game helped to turn that around. His imposition of discipline and organisation in his way helped England to keep two clean sheets in four games. He didn’t need to be Churchill in being inspiring, he evidently did enough for the England squad to unite in a way that they hadn’t in previous years. To have done that at relatively short notice is to be commended. His honeymoon period is over now, though, because the qualifiers will call for a different approach and that’s where the real hard work begins (Hodgson = 7/10).
There’s been talk that there’s enough for England to be optimistic about going forward. IF England can build on the platform of discipline and organisation that marked their tournament and then push on from there there’s every reason to believe they will thrive in the qualifying matches to come. This offers time for Hodgson to make a team in his own making and image, sure using some of the experienced players but also utilising the young up and coming talent to shine and point England to a progressive future.