Possibly daunted by such grandiose allusions, England’s players spent much of the first half passing it to the team in white, which unfortunately for once, wasn’t them.
After the expected half hearted booing of John ‘Big Man’ T, the disposed captain responded by putting the ball out of play with his first touch, a move Theo Walcott would attempt to emulate for the rest of his time on the pitch.
England started well however, and should have had the lead on 6 minutes through Frank Lampard when found by Walcott in a fleeting moment of relative quality, but he hit his shot straight at eccentric Egyptian keep Essam El-Hadary, who seemed to be playing the role of one of the kids from Fame in his own head.
After Rooney had had a rather lame shot spilled by the woman from Flashdance, Egypt started to compose themselves and almost had the lead on 10 minutes when Jermain Defoe had to clear a header off the line. They went close again a few minutes later when Mohamed Zidan headed over Robert Green, but also the bar.
Defoe should’ve given England the lead again on 14 minutes when Rooney put him clean through, only for El-Hadary to deflect it wide with his leg. By this point you could’ve been forgiven for thinking it was exciting, but somehow it wasn’t. After riding their luck with England’s chances, but not with their own play, Egypt took a deserved lead on 23 minutes when Zidan gave off the air of his namesake by coolly slotting home after Matthew Upson had fallen over. England then decided this was a good time to start trying to play sexy football, but awkwardly and inappropriately – like a substitute Geography teacher trying to flirt with one of his pupils – and Steven Gerrard’s back heel in the center circle was intercepted to start another Egyptian attack.
Wes Brown was looking shaky, Upson and Terry slow and Leighton Baines wasn’t sure whether he was meant to be there or not but thankfully England didn’t embarrass themselves too much more by the interval, and were booed off in a lovely display of comradeship with their evil and despicable former captain.
The second half was much more promising, with Capello presumably indulging in some strong words at the break. England still looked partially lost but the introduction of Michael Carrick calmed the midfield area and Peter Crouch proved more adept at keeping and winning the ball than Defoe had. He also proved more adept at scoring as England drew level on 56 minutes after a lovely (ish) sweeping move ended with Crouch prodding the ball home in a gangly fashion that would have probably been genius if Rooney had done it. England suddenly came alive and at one point even attempted a 3 way bicycle kick routine that saw Crouch, then Rooney, then Barry, all fail completely to execute one.
With the increased danger of Shaun Wright Phillips – on for the rather unimpressive Theo Walcott – and James Milner – on for the try hard but not well skipper Gerrard – England started to attack with a real threat and both players combined to put them ahead on 74 minutes. Milner attacked down the left and after exchanging passes riffled in a volley that was well parried by El-Hadary. His heroics were undone a second later however as the rebound fell to little Shaun, who prodded the ball into the middle of the goal only for the Egyptian stopper to flap at it comically and let it ricochet off him and into the net. England added a third shortly after thanks to the internationally prolific Crouch and the incomprehensibly blind linesman.
The rest of the game was comfortable, and England eventually showed some of their class once they’d got a goal, but it was touch and go in the first half, and not a particularly good day for messes Wes Brown and Theo Walcott. The plusses for Capello will be the assurance of Michael Carrick and the directness and comfortableness (if that’s a word) of James Milner. As well as the knowledge that Peter Crouch will continue to be inexplicably good at scoring goals as long as he’s picked. Same old England? Yes.
Green – 7 – Not troubled for the most part despite having one of the weakest England defences in some time in front of him.
Brown – 5 – Poor performance from Wes Orange, looked nervy on the ball at times, just as he has for United this season.
Terry – 7 – Probably the best performer in defence, which isn’t saying much. Skinned for pace on occasion but did his job professionally.
Upson – 7 – Always looks like he’s got a mistake in him. Fell over for the opening goal but was decent from then on.
Baines – 6 – Didn’t really do much at all, but didn’t do it badly.
Walcott – 4 – Kicked the ball in front of him then ran after it. Sometimes kicked it to an Egyptian player then ran after it anyway.
Lampard – 5 – Not his greatest performance, missed a sitter in the first half and his passing radar was a bit askew.
Barry – 7 – Best Midfielder until the replacements came on. Looked assured for the most part.
Gerrard – 6 – Tried to put in a captains display, but didn’t really. It hasn’t been his season.
Rooney – 6.8 – Quiet for the most part despite rushing around and doing his usual thing of wanting to be involved in everything. Heavily marked which didn’t help, but does almost everything well enough to be always good.
Defoe – 6 – Missed a great chance in the first half, didn’t really do enough to impress but his movement complimented Rooney’s at least.
Wright-Phillips – 8 – Goal and an assist. Looked dangerous and small whenever he was on the ball.
Carrick – 7.5 – Impressed by virtue of actually being able to pass it to his own team.
Milner – 7 – Impressed as well. Wasn’t really on the field long enough but would’ve surely gotten a higher mark had he been
Crouch – 8 – When a second half substitute wins MOTM, you know it hasn’t been a good performance.
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