During yesterdays half-time interval I, for one, sat listlessly gawping at the box as a litter of giddy, excited adverts espoused England’s World Cup chances; given the preceding performance, it seemed like a vulgar and untimely gag.
Friendly matches are always a bit of a drag and not really a fair reflection on a teams true features; especially one so close to the World Cup (injury worries, squad rotation, etcetera, etcetera). Plus, we eventually won, for whatever that’s worth, managed to overcome a deficit – a useful exercise in crisis management – and again proved we can play below par and prevail, so we shouldn’t get overly disheartened.
But, still, I foolishly sat down expecting to behold an England romp and to reaffirm my optimistic (deluded) belief that we could actually win the World Cup; a deluded belief which is persuading me to patriotically slam some money on England success.
Instead a limp lethargic display ensued, throughout which I unconsciously found my mouth making lots off huffing and puffing noises as England frustratingly dithered.
The first-half was particularly exasperating. Conceding from a set-piece is disappointing, but the defence looked a little rickety throughout. A long ball outwitted both Terry and Ferdinand as the latter was outmuscled, swung a limb, missed the ball, and offered a great chance for Japan to double their lead.
If we defend in a similar manner against stronger sides, you get the feeling they will ruthlessly strike a rusty shovel against our skulls, drag us to the bottom of the garden, spend the moonlit night digging before placing pretty little plant pot on the eventual perturbing, and protruding, mound of earth (i.e. kill the game, and England, off).
Johnson was responsible for a decent proportion of my huffy puffy noises; he sloppily lost possession on a number of occasions and still looks defensively defective. He is, of course, usually an outlet going forward and it seems there not many other options at right-back, though Carragher demonstrated that he can certainly put in a solid and steady shift in this position.
To highlight one player is probably unfair; everyone looked fairly sluggish. Walcott only reaffirmed my opinion that he is a great athlete but largely a frustrating figure of little end-product, but Lennon also missed the best chance of the half when Rooney played him through, so its ‘swings and roundabouts, mate, yeah?’ Yeah. Huddlestone and Bent didn’t get much chance to enforce and impress themselves on proceedings, you get the feeling it may be to their cost. The previously mentioned Rooney was, inevitably, probably the most imposing player throughout the game.
Overall, though, going forward we lacked any real potency.
Cue those cruel, sardonic half-time adverts.
The second half was a slight improvement, but it is also slightly worrying that we seem unable to thrust ourselves on the game from the outset and often require a half-time cuppa and a good old rollicking.
Changes of course ensued, with Joe Hart, Joe Cole and maybe Shaun Wright-Philips benefiting most. Indeed, Hart responded well when called into action and England emerged more direct and threatening offensively; Joe Cole providing the cross for Japan to score their second own-goal of the game and hand England victory. Certainly two own-goals aiding us to victory is not ideal but at least we were threatening and making a nuisance of ourselves.
Rooney and Gerrard linked-up relatively effectively on occasion, something we must utilize and exploit more often. It was also Gerrard’s cross which adeptly landed right at the head of the ineffable Emile Heskey. Heskey then dutifully demonstrated why he remains the butt of ‘couldn’t score in a brothel’ jokes; for a prospective England World Cup striker – or, indeed, any human – it really was a bad miss.
So, overall an unconvincing victory, but a victory nonetheless; going into the tournament following failure to beat Japan could have been a confidence sapper.
However, it did paper of cracks, against a very mediocre opponents; Brazil, Spain, Germany and all that crazy clan lay in wake, are you confident?
Still, it was a friendly, a lethargic friendly, a friendly we came from behind to win. The vitality and vim will surely materialize when the tournament begins; hopefully, or its going to be a thoroughly frustrating, huffing and puffing summer. Indeed, it’s the real thing now…the World Cup…it’s been a long wait, and I can’t wait…I’m excited again…I’m even smiling in giddy gormless expectation as a write…we’re gonna win baby! We are definitely, without any slither of doubt, gong to win! I’m off to throw my (limited) life-savings on England.
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