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England win wasn't pretty ... but neither were the Greeks

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Phil McNulty | 06:00 UK time, Sunday, 3 June 2012

At Wembley

The weight of expectation will not add much to England's baggage when they fly to Poland for Euro 2012. It is a load so light that it may not even register on the scales.

And it seems manager Roy Hodgson and his players are happy to keep it that way while many observers weighing up two 1-0 wins over Norway and Belgium against their realistic ambitions over the next month content themselves with attaching the label of "the new Greece" to England.

Not damning with faint praise - simply recalling how unfancied Greece responded to the fierce tactical discipline and defensive organisation of veteran German coach Otto Rehhagel by winning Euro 2004 against odds stacked a mile high.

No-one can seriously put England forward as potential winners on the evidence of two friendly wins but Hodgson and his captain Steven Gerrard have both name-checked the Greeks as "Exhibit A" to state their case for how surprises can be sprung.

Roy Hodgson and Gary Neville

Roy Hodgson and Gary Neville on the Wembley sidelines. Photo: Getty

And as Hodgson puts his tactical theories into practice, it is clear England's approach in Poland and Ukraine will lean heavily on the resilience and tactical structure that may not make them easy on the eye but could make them fiendishly difficult to break down.

England conceded possession to Belgium for long spells within Saturday's Wembley friendly, settled by Danny Welbeck's delicate 36th-minute finish, and yet emerged with a second successive victory for Hodgson that was built on similar foundations to the first.
They barely troubled Belgium keeper Simon Mignolet and came away with the result that will enable them to take the journey to Euro 2012 with guarded optimism.

Of course the policy has its risks. Norway and Belgium have both failed to profit from England's willingness to let them have the ball, either by accident or design. They may find a greater threat to their aspirations should they do the same against superior opposition with a greater idea of what to do when they get in front of goal.

Brutal honesty dictates that much of England's performance was less than sparkling and there were times when they were too careless in possession. But with a manager barely into the job before trying to make an impact at a major tournament, Hodgson's imposition of such a rigid tactical structure is understandable.

It was not a night without its irritations. Gary Cahill underwent a scan on his jaw thanks to a nasty, needless shove by Dries Mertens that sent him clattering into the not inconsiderable frame of England goalkeeper Joe Hart. It will be of no consolation to the Chelsea defender should he miss Euro 2012, but this was the sort of cynical foul that could easily have resulted in serious injury to Hart, which would have been the ultimate calamity for Hodgson.

John Terry sustained a hamstring injury that also required a scan - but there were positives to consider too as Hodgson crystallises his thoughts ahead of meeting France in Donetsk on 11 June.

In what was effectively a rush job as he replaced Fabio Capello so late in proceedings, his first task was to impose his tactical will on England. And one of the opening moves for any new manager is usually to ensure his team is difficult to beat.

Early days of course and the true proving ground will be Euro 2012 but England do look as if they might be a tough nut to crack. Greater tests lie ahead but Hodgson appears to have got his message across to his players in the sort of "hands on" training drills witnessed during the open sessions he has conducted so far.

It was also interesting to see Hodgson's new coach Gary Neville emerging as a more visible presence in the technical area at Wembley - and rightly so. No need for him to feel he has to get his feet under the table having proved he is in possession of such sound opinions and knowledge of what is required at this level.

Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard will patrol central midfield, while Hodgson may yet have a decision to make on the flanks. Arsenal's gifted teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got his first England start against Belgium and, while he showed quality in flashes, his realistic starting point is surely as an impact substitute.

Liverpool's Andy Carroll looked to have moved into pole position to partner Ashley Young in attack against France after his late resurgence and a performance of industry and promise in Norway - but Welbeck may just have muddied the waters in the nicest possible way for Hodgson.

Welbeck's goal was a moment of real finesse and its creation was not without significance. He demonstrated a smooth link with Manchester United team-mate Young, whose clever pass allowed him to loft over Mignolet in the game's decisive moment.

He also showed intelligent running and awareness, particularly in setting up a first-half chance for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Welbeck has given Hodgson some thinking to do.
Hodgson's early days will fall firmly into the "more solid than spectacular category" but he has enough to be pleased about.

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    With the best English midfielder of the past 20 years skippering the team, two wins on the trot we can dispel the naysayers.

  • Comment number 2.

    Those who criticise England may wish to take a look at some of the other European sides and how well they have performed lately. Italy haven't scored in 3 games and have lost to the USA and Russia (as well as managing only a draw with New Zealand at the last world cup), Germany were thumped last week, Portugal were convincingly second best against Turkey today, Spain failed to win against Costa Rica and lost to the Swiss in the world cup before grinding out a bunch of 1-0 wins. And we're moaning because we've played 2, won 2? Who cares about technical ability? This isn't gymnastics. Goals win games, not stringing 800 passes together and maintaining 56% possession.

  • Comment number 3.

    Insipid display

    We will be lucky to get out of the group

    If we do we should class that as a major achievement

  • Comment number 4.

    The FA are to blame for the plight of the England team, run by clubs for clubs, Hodgsons handling meant no disruption to his club, then he gets 2weeks to get the English team playing his way, its mad, playing for England meant a lot years ago, it meant players tried harder all year to get in the team, clubs are not at all nationalistic, look at man u, ferguson talks them all out of international football, scholes is the obvious example, arsenal are the same, chelsea have a more positive attitude.

  • Comment number 5.

    @3

    Insipid display!

    What will you call MU exhibition @ the recent derby then ? Impotent & garbage display? No creatvity by the twin pylons (non-wannabe England players) or providing any goal opportunities.

    At least England have as many goal attempts (infinite more times than MU) with a winning display to boot.

  • Comment number 6.

    Re: goluby #1. Surely you say this with tongue in cheek! in last 20 years Gazza, ince, Beckham all rank higher. But for me schools at age 37 is England's best midfielder of present and had he been used properly when he was an England regular we might have a championship to reflect on.

  • Comment number 7.

    Anyone who thinks that you automatically win because you have more possession obviously hasn't watched Liverpool play over the last 10 years. I'm sick of all these self-righteous barcelona fans preaching about their style of play somehow being the best in history blah blah. Late 80s Milan would beat them easily. There is more than one way to play football. Long ball football does work if you have the right players, Stoke have no right to finish where they do in the league. Chelsea under Mourinho didn't mind smashing it up to Drogba as a plan B either. If every team played the same way ie 4-2-3-1 with 10 men behind the ball (which is the way the premier league is going) then it will become a borefest.

    Not a big Hodgson fan, but he does know his way around international football. England could have a good tournament playing in this style.

  • Comment number 8.

    England have played pretty in previous tournaments and got beaten quite easily. Now there's a change in orientation and tactics although unpretty, it's looking effective and working. England are gonna Do well in the Euros from what I've seen so far. I saw Portugal with Ronaldo and Nani got beat 1-3 by Turkey. Even Croatia were unable to beat Norway. I think starting Walcott instead of Milner will add pace and bring dat balance between the obvious defensive solidity and the expected attacking improvement. At least a quarter-finals for England!

  • Comment number 9.

    @5

    What have ManU got to do with England's performance last night

    What a strange posting

  • Comment number 10.

    That game was woeful. No movement at all until the final 20 minutes with the introduction of Defoe and Rooney.

    These two used their experience to really change the game up for England as Rooney dropped and Defoe used his experience to spread their back four. Balls were now being played down the channels which is always an effective method to stretch defences and hold attacking positions. I think Welbeck can adopt this role too as he has done with MU. Rooney is only available for the third game so maybe a better approach would be to have Carroll and Welbeck/Defoe starting with Carroll dropping off.

    Anyway, Milner for me, eurgh. Not good enough really. I'm not the biggest fan of Parker but I understand why he's there but he had a really poor game for England yesterday, likewise with Gerrard. I don't understand why people are complaining that he didn't move the game forward enough, that's not his job, for all you harping on about Carrick, Parker provides the same service. Also you'll see with Parker that his first touch is excellent, as soon as he touches the ball, he's facing the opposition. Glen Johnson was terrible, caught out, long balls and all that nonsense, not good at all!

    Hart
    G.J - Terry - Cahill - A.Cole
    Walcott - Parker - Gerrard - A.Young
    Rooney/Carroll
    Defoe/Welbeck

    Milner, Henderson, Downing should all stay away from this team, Milner/Jones would be our defensive substitutions, Defoe/Ox/Welbeck should be the impact ones!

    I think Roy is undermining England a little and I would rather us play with a bit more style. I feel disappointed with this but with his proven track record, I'm prepared to cheer on our England team however we play!

  • Comment number 11.

    If these two 1-0 victories had been achieved in the group stages of the Euros, and virtually guaranteed qualification to the quarter-finals, we would have taken them gladly. But too often a body just managed to block the ball or it was luckily deflected for a corner by an out-stretched boot, with England continually soaking up pressure.
    At no time did England put together any sort of passing movement in the way that the tooth-less Belgiums did. I can't see this luck holding out much longer for England and I'm sure that Ribery and Benzema will not be so wasteful in the opening group match next week.

  • Comment number 12.

    We will be lucky to get out the group stage. This Championship should have been used to blood the young creative players, instead it is the old guard who need to be moved on ASAP if we are ever going to have a good side at the 2014 World Cup.

  • Comment number 13.

    The problem with the national team is the playing frequency that doesn't allow the players to gell and find the best form of the team. Not to mention the changing manager that make the players adapt new strategy. England look solid in the back, and can just improve from there. Gerrad and exhausting Parker need to work much harder in the middle to support the attack.

  • Comment number 14.

    " what a loada Rubbish "
    " what a Loada Rubbish "


    etc etc.

  • Comment number 15.

    @6
    I beg to differ.
    Gerrard is a better WC player than Scholes was or will ever be.
    To wit who was England top goal scorer in 2006 WC.

    Scholes is just a OT Trundler; just an average player surrounded or riding on the coattails of great MU players like Keane et al.

  • Comment number 16.

    OOpps bad news, Terry and Cahill are injured. Another massive blow for the three Lions.

  • Comment number 17.

    @ 9
    If you were to describe objectively the 2 matches what would your description of them;

    Relatively speaking.

  • Comment number 18.

    @15

    Gerrard is a great player but below is what some of his rivals say about him

    In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything. He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.
    Xavi

    Rooney is one of the best players in the world and I love watching him play. But if you had to pick out only one, then for their history and for all that they have achieved it would have to be Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs. They are two shining examples for any player.
    Andres Iniesta

    Out of everyone at Manchester United, I would pick out Scholes – he is the best midfielder of his generation. I would have loved to have played alongside him.
    Pep Guardiola

    He is a very complete, spectacular footballer. He always fights for the ball and tries to lose his marker to help his team-mates – either to defend or to have a shot on goal. For any football player in the Premiership, Scholes is a player you want to emulate. I would happily end my career with the medals that Scholes has. I am young and I hope that I will be able to surpass him – but it is not going to be easy.
    Cesc Fabregas

  • Comment number 19.

    @17

    Gave the ball away to easily and could not keep possession

    Looked solid enough in defence

  • Comment number 20.

    @8
    Something new & innovative to consider.

  • Comment number 21.

    My kind of take on that was: keep doing what you are doing defensively, but use a completely different mindset when you have the ball.

    After all, once you have the ball, it only takes keeping the ball for 10 seconds for the formation to change into something more fluid and dynamic. And if you must hit it long, usually best for your best, most accurate ball strikers to be doing that, eh?

    Class finish by Welbeck though. One chance, one goal. Just what you want from a striker. He and Carroll have both staked a claim: just what a manager needs. Defoe showed he knows where the goals are too. Nice problem to have...

    I'm sure all England fans would take three 1-0s in the Group stage of the Euros, wouldn't they?! They'd probably take 0-0, 1-0 and 1-0 also. But probably better to try and win the group - let others worry about how to beat Spain in the QFs....

  • Comment number 22.

    I can't believe a Norse god can offer a footballing opinion!

    Way I see it I have some optimism for this method of play. If we grind out those results we'll progress in the group we may have to do counter attacking to school but if we get the wins it will be even more satisfying

    Here's to a good summer of footie!

  • Comment number 23.

    Re 6

    Scholes was used in his 'proper' position at his peak, the fact is that Gerrard and Lampard both overtook him around 2002-2003, and so he was tried on the left. Before anyone quotes Zidane and Xavi saying that he is best midfielder of his generation etc, they've said exactly the same about Gerrard and most probably for about 5 others.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think how people are desperate for us to play flowing, attractive football is irritating. If our players played in the Spanish or South American Leagues then that type of football would come naturally. But our players are not brought up that way. This is not to say we should consistently aim to play as we did against Norway and Belgium, but I would rather watch England play like this and be a difficult team to beat, than try to emulate Spain We cannot beat them at their own game.

    I think that England will struggle through the group stages, come up against a good team, hold them to 0-0 or 1-1, and then characteristially lose on pens. Although, like most England fans, by next week I will probably have got myself into a state where I feel England do have a strong chance of winning

  • Comment number 25.

    @18

    Have you heard of French, Spanish & Latin satire in gamesmanship?

    Zidane: My biggest regret was not playing with Scholes.

    French wit or trashtalking to tease Scholes sycophants or supporter wishing to place hom on Zidane's pedestal ;)

  • Comment number 26.

    @23

    You are right there and it's a pity that these blogs keep on turning into a Scholes/Gerrard/Lampard/Carrick bashing session

  • Comment number 27.

    @23

    Cogently pointed out!
    What a bunch of sheeple to believe our rivals will have good things to say unless...

  • Comment number 28.

    I support France and am not convinced either with the le bleus. England leaves very little space to play in, making it difficult to penetrate. England have been largely disappointing in recent past trying to play like other countries witout having the required talents. And talking about Paul Scholes, i just feel he's a very effective player albeit massively over rated. I've watched him for years and cannot remember a game where he made all the difference and was the hero, for both club and country!

  • Comment number 29.

    @25

    Respect there mate as you must personally know Zidane and knew what he was trying to say

  • Comment number 30.

    Find it quite amusing when you see pundits, commentaters and even fans complaining about the way England are now playing. Hodgson has been managing and coaching for 36 years and so there was plenty of evidence as to how England would play. THIS IS A ROY HODGSON TEAM.
    It may not be pretty but when your luck is in it can be effective. Look back at the Fulham side that reached the Europa League final - the season he was named Manager of the Year - there was the same dogged approach with moments of brilliance from Zamora, who had a particularly good season (struggled since) and a lot of luck, and with a bit more they could have won it.
    Anyone who has worked under Hodgson will tell you that his main concern is shape, he plays 442 with real rigidity. The 2 wide men in his set up must be disciplined so I suspect he will go with Downing and Milner mostly and just possibily use Carroll and Welbeck or Defoe (Young, Walcott and Oxlade Chamberlain and hopefully Rooney as impact subs - thought Rooney when he came on was poor last night, gave the ball away far too easlily - but then he always does). We saw last night, that without Carroll, we rarely got the ball forward and threatened their defence and as Hodgson prefers the game played in straight lines any way, getting the ball forward quickly is vital as well as his prefered route.
    Don't expect a Roy Hodgson side to keep possession for long periods and dominate opposiition but do expect dogged organisation and determination a'la Charles Hughes, who was the big footbal thinker in this country at the time Hodgson began Coaching

  • Comment number 31.

    England were not very pretty in South Africa in 2010 either, and look how far that got us.

    Essentially this England side is still playing the drab football we have become accustomed to. Also unable to string 3-4 simple passes together without conceding posession cheaply. Lacking any real goal threat, (Rooney was anonymous when he came on). Looking at the match last night, you would have said Belgium were playing at home. Poor is an understatement.

  • Comment number 32.

    Well,this time results should be the main target.Greece is the main example but not to forget Ireland with Jack Charlton.He assembled a squad with players that they were older (Mc Grath,Aldridge,Moran etc) and probably would have not played for England national team and he had success.England have a much bigger pool of players and yet still there is a problem.Should get the team together,difficult to concede goals and try for the best.If they have a decent tournament they will build for next time.Let's just say you do what works best and that is about results

  • Comment number 33.

    Hello Folks but lets just stay on the ground. We just beat a team that didn't qualify for the European Championship with a team that didn't differ very much to that playing yesterday and containing, in my mind, some highly overrated players i.e Hazard, Witsel, Fellaini Lukaka etc. I ca still remember people talking about the "bright future" of Belgium football containing all these socalled 2talents" only nothing seems to have become of it.
    So lets take yesterdays game for what it was .....a workmanship like victory over an average opponent and a moral booster as a victory is always better than a defeat......disregardíng as to how it was achieved.
    As to talk about us winning the EC i think we should wait to the upcoming matches in Poland and the Ukraine and re-open this subject if...or when we have reached the semi finals.

  • Comment number 34.

    Up front, the question seems to be about who will partner Young - Carroll or Welbeck? Why not play them both up front, Welbeck playing the number 10 role and put Young out wide where we have absolutely no decent options?

  • Comment number 35.

    Roy Hodgson and Gary Neville.........................!

    No wonder expectaions are low to non existant. A buffoon and a football 'pundit', Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble without the comedy or wit.
    The England team have just beaten "two significant powers in world football" apparently, according to the buffoon earlier in the week. I wonder how we will get on with the teams who DID actually manage to qualify for the Euro Championships?
    We ground out a 1-0 will against a very poor Norwegian team and yesterday were completely outplayed by Belgium in the second half.

    You know -On second thoughts - this Buffoon and Barney Rubble partnership could actually turn out to be very amusing indeed.....

  • Comment number 36.

    i dont know were the peoples eyes are but this was again awful to watch,,cole makes blunder after blunder and terry cant run the length of himself these days ,but still they are called up ,i think its always going to be the same old thing with this manager also ,stick with the old ones.good luck i say your going to need it

  • Comment number 37.

    we havent got a hope of getting out of the group stage,the other teasms can string 10 passes togather without going backwards and losing it.i just cannot believe the talent in this country,it is appalling and the "good" players we have are so hyped up to believe they are world class the only world class player we have is cashley cole,and that is because he is in a specialised posistion.the best thing that could happen to us is that we get humiliated so the huge egos who havent done anything for england can be come down a few steps.playerds like downing,henderson,welbeck,young etc etc are average and in henderson and downings case are below average with very little talent.

    performences like this make me ashamed to support england when we are being owned by belgium at home,although we didnt have much to deal with.france,ukraine, and sweden will hurt us

  • Comment number 38.

    The problem with England's passing over the last 10 years is that we don't have players who can pass and retain it in centre midfield. Gerrard cannot pass the ball (he always looks long and won't hold, and neither could Lamps, who is a Platt-style box-box scorer). These are the two players who have held English football back over these years and I don't understand why they are so feted - Lampard was chosen over Scholes and ended that great player's England career (he would still be in the Spanish squad now were he that nationality) - huge mistake by Ericksson. The best 4 passing midfielders in the country right now are Carrick, Scholes, Cleverley and Wilshire, the latter two hopefully giving us hope for the future if they can get fit and stay fit. Carrick and Scholes would have given us options for this tournament and the team could have played 5 in midfield - Young, Carrick, Scholes, Parker, Walcott with Wellbeck/Carroll/Rooney up front. That team could then switch to 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 during the game with Walcott, Young or both joining the striker if the match situation asks for it

  • Comment number 39.

    morethansam makes a good point about playing through the channels -straight lines as I said - and when Rooney did, rarely, hang on to the ball long enough he looked in those areas. However both chances for Defoe came from Walcott cutting in and playing through the channel which is why they make great impact subs.
    However Walcott et al are not disciplined enough for Hodgson's brand of 442 so they will rarely start.
    Big problem for Hodgson is what does he do against Ukraine if we have got results against France and Sweden. Remember Mclaren made the same mistake when he began as England manager, first 3 games, 3 wins, 9 goals without Rooney, brought him back against Macedonia at Old Trafford drew 0-0 and eventually failed to qualify.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's hard to imagine a team other than Spain, Germany or the Netherlands winning this tournament, but in the European championships no team is a no-hoper.

    I think we all know what to expect from England with this group of players. If they can't keep the ball then I think they need to start Carroll as a target man.

    The France game is critical, England need to step up a gear and win that game. If they don't they could struggle to break down Sweden and Ukraine while under pressure to win. If they do beat France they can afford to be cautious and let the other two teams come at us and attack on the break.

  • Comment number 41.

    Is England going ti win the tournament? - no

    Should we be building a squad and a team for the next World Cup - yes

    I think Roy Hodgson stabalised West Brom and was looking to kick them on again next season and that the Baggies' fans were sorry to see him go.

    England will be well organised and hard to beat but will be undone by better opposition than Norway and Belgium.

    After this tournament Roy Hodgson shoud focus on the squad he wants for 2014 - its straight into the qualifiers aanyway. If the likes of Ferdinand, Lampard, Terry etc find that they have played their last games well so be it.

    Oh yes - and if England reach the final at the Euros or even win it, who here will be disappointed??

  • Comment number 42.

    Now the hard work begins!
    I would much prefer to see England win three group matches "a la Chelsea" (or Greece I suppose) than lose three "a la Barcelona" (I won't say Spain as I didn't think they were all that attractive in the last World Cup)
    Very much a transition team with the old (??) and the young which, hopefully, will gel before the end of the tournament.
    Please though. Get behind the team & management. All this "Typical Hodgson rubbish" etc.etc.etc. is frankly a bit pathetic. It's very much "I know best cos' I talk loudest down the pub".
    And as for "performences (sic) like this make me ashamed to support e(?)ngland when we are being owned by b(?)elgium at home," etc.etc. No 37. At least find something with spell check & capitals to write your posts on.

  • Comment number 43.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 44.

    We are a poor team, how many of our players would get into a World 11, Rooney and Hart.
    So we have to be well organised to combat this, but our passing is rubbish, giving away too much possession will kill us in tournament football, as will diving in- Scott Parker beware.
    I want to see more from our wide players and thought there was a big difference when Walcott came on as well as Defoe. Walcott to start ahead of Milner apart from that it should be the team that started the Belgian game.

  • Comment number 45.

    @6

    This is my take on why Scholes is a 'cherry picker' riding on the coat tails of other great MU players.

    Remember the season why Keane went out with an injury for almost the season. Scholes was moved to the central midfield position and MU finished the season without a major trophy a rare occurrence for United then.

    Likewise recalling Scholes for the back end of the past season (littered with matches against minnows) ; did MU win any this past season?

    Scholes had the opportunity to impress England's manager in previous international tournaments but was found wanting (as in post 28).

    Gerrard on the other hand did impress us!

  • Comment number 46.

    Pleased with the result. A win is a win. Given the timespan and choice of players available Roy has cut his cloth accordingly, solid at the back, perhaps a work in progress further upfield.
    Pointless to speculate on who should or shouldn't be in the squad, or indeed manage the team, lets deal with the reality of the situation.
    Personally I do not care how pretty or ugly it appears on the eye as long as we win.
    England are playing to their strengths in a formation well understood by the players, to attempt anything else at this juncture would be folly.
    Good luck England, good luck Roy.

  • Comment number 47.

    @ 35
    Rooney shouldnt be in the squad either. Take the boy away from Old Trafford, where he is in receipt of vast amounts of favourable decisions, and he pales into an insignificant if somewhat petulant bystander.
    Was Terry carrying an injury yesterday? It didnt seem to affect his snail like pace. He still had the turning circle of an North Sea oil tanker.
    Cole on the other hand has the pace, but to coin a phrase from Dave Bassett, "has the brains of a rocking horse".
    With the Buffoon & Barney Rubble steering the ship we are likely to hear the call...

    BOOM................................ahem.......... "land ahoy".

  • Comment number 48.

    Regarding my previous posts;

    This is to preempt all the naysayers who (touting for non wannabe's Scholes & Carrick) from continuing castigating and vilifying our skipper.

    Get behind our boys.

    Don't be a plastic fan.

  • Comment number 49.

    Perhaps its time to dispel a few principals on which British football is based.
    4-4-2, 3-5-2, etc are defensive formations that you create quickly when you lose the ball. When you have the ball good players and teams will support the passer with quick movement, they wont stand on the touchline keeping the width ( alf ramsey dispelled this notion 60 years ago ).
    Winning teams work harder when they have the ball not when they dont have it.
    The team is only as good as the sum of the parts, if the parts dont fit no matter how expensive they are you will end up crashing.
    The manager is the most important individual for any sporting team. Not the players
    You cant play tiddlewinks never mind top proffessional sport when you have worries on you mind. 75% of the game is played in the head if you cant hack it you crumble ( englands sending off record isnt great is it ? ) and then you lose.
    One of the best coached , tactically disciplined, mentally strong , well managed, great players, and team spirit, to ever win a world cup was the last England rugby Union team to win it. That they beat Australia by a whisker in the final shows just how good you have to be in all aspects of your preparation just to compete with the very best. I dont think we have the blueprint yet in football and so performances will reflect that, we still rely on a club manager stepping up to international management and applying his principles to the way we play, rather than we play this way for the next 50 years no matter who the manager is.
    Germany are of course the greatest example of this philosphy.
    Well done to the manager and all the players on a job well done so far we seem to be getting there on the tactical discipline side but a long long way to go yet lets hope we can take something positive from the Euros and build for the future.
    Come on England !!!

  • Comment number 50.

    @
    Cogently pointed out.

    Lest we forget Fergie did also play ugly. Against even the minnows of Europe and giants Barca, at home parking the red bus @ the derby. All for nowt
    'All that follow united' not a pipsqueak against him for his tactics and strategies.

    Chelsea did and manage a champion result.
    If Roy can do @ the Euros gooding for him.
    If not we expect the same Fergie treatment afforded to Roy for trying.

  • Comment number 51.

    It wasn't pretty last night but then again it was never going to be.
    England do not have the strength in depth they once had and the midfield options look threadbare in particular.
    England will have to play a pragmatic game against the more gifted technical sides of Europe and I can see England's percentage of possession being very low indeed.
    Still I'm glad the media have been largely uncritical so far as it is time to face reality.
    England are likely to face a lean spell until we can generate players with greater technical abilities on the ball.

  • Comment number 52.

    Few points worth mentioning. Criticism of Gerrad passing long, sorry to have to tell you that is what he will have been asked to do, and when you can strike a 40 or 60 yard pass well why not? He certainly didn't play that way under Rafa where he was the lychpin in 4231 formation.
    As for Scholes truly wonderful passer with great imagination but poor defender, not just can't tackle he also drifts away from danger. Remember Brazil 2002, Rivaldo equalised a Micheal Owen goal following some quite awful defending by Beckham and Scholes - in fact Scholes was so poor that day he was slated by pretty well everyone. Don't think he would have the legs to hack it at international level any more either.
    And remember Ramsey took some very unfancied players over the likes of Greaves etc. and made them a team. Hodgson may just do the same. It won't be a pretty team but it could be effective. If any thing will be Englands undoing it will be Hodgsons tactical inflexibility - by that I mean not being able to respond if the opposition score to create pressure or chances

  • Comment number 53.

    Dizzee69 is completely right. I really feel our football correspondents should watch other countries' preparations for competitions. They usually have as poor performances as we do. They are not trying to win at all costs. They are trying out formations and players and to avoid problems. They want to peak in the competition not before. We do not want our Olympic athletes winning BEFORE the Olympics, but AT them.

  • Comment number 54.

    i wish people would stop living in this dream where england are meant to be good, Our players are poor technically compared to the likes of spain. Playing like greece is the only way for us to get out of the groups. just got to improve on the counter. hart, cole, cahill, terry, johnson, parker, gerrard, welbeck, young, walcott, carroll.

  • Comment number 55.

    I suppose that with the team set out as defensively as Roy dictates, it's only natural that many of it's fans are also defensive over the criticism it's sure to get. Not only about the lack of style but the lack of ambition, and reinforcing everyone elses view of how english teams play, or rather can't play.

    The way I see it, Hodgson recognises that in pure football terms England can't compete with the rest of the europe. Taking inspiration from just about all of English teams Champions league and european cup success, he's set his team up to concede the ball but not critical space. Sit deep, hold shape but stay sharp. With one mighty kick an awake forward can latch on and score. One - nil, and back to the barricades.

    At least it's a plan. It plays to strengths. It's simple. Everyone understands it. Nobody has to try to pass to a teammate, so nobody can be criticised if the team can't keep the ball. Who wants to see their team make more than 3 passes anyway.

    It could be a winning plan. Theres nothing that gives more satisfaction than 'winning ugly' against the odds. Thats what champions are made of. So we are told.

  • Comment number 56.

    @52
    As for Scholes truly wonderful passer with great imagination but poor defender, not just can't tackle he also drifts away from danger. Remember Brazil 2002, Rivaldo equalised a Micheal Owen goal following some quite awful defending by Beckham and Scholes - in fact Scholes was so poor that day he was slated by pretty well everyone.
    -----------------------------------
    See my post 45 too;

    Precisely why 'all that follows united' can't see the woods for the trees. Selective vision & memories.

    To place Scholes (the cherry picker) in a pivotal and central midfielder would be a disaster on the international level.

    At home he might be effective given the 'clout and admiration' MU have.

  • Comment number 57.

    good to see all you ex spurts on here,in my days its been called support,lets see how they go

  • Comment number 58.

    @47
    The Buffon and Barney Rubble Blue print for England's success:

    A unique set up of 10-0-1 instead of the usual 442

    Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Long-Ball Larry, Red Card Rooney.

    We are in safe hands boys and girls.....

  • Comment number 59.

    @56

    What is your problem with MU?

    You keep bringing them into this blog

  • Comment number 60.

    Eagledan touches on the Simon Kuper Stefan Szymanski book "Why England Lose and other football phenomena". In this they show that essentially we do about as well as we could expect and occasionally slightly worse and occasionally slightly better.
    Hopefully this time around we will do the slightly better.

  • Comment number 61.

    im sorry but comparisons with greece in 2004 are WAY OFF.

    Greece actually played good football. YES they were based in defense BUT when they got the ball they could keep possession and be dangerous. Using the ball and being clinical in front of goal

    England can do this and have the same old problem. they cant keep the ball. Against any decent team it will be exposed. The pressure will be too much.

    the other thing is hodgeson loves the 4-4-2

    and CLEARLY england do not have the players to play in that system. 4-2-3-1 is a far better option, but because Roy is so limited tactically he cant adapt.

    England will fail in euro 2012 the media and pundits will brush it off and make excuses , quantification for the world cup will be HORRENDOUS...

  • Comment number 62.

    @ 52
    And may I add @ the Wembley Derby Carrick pass got picked off by Yaya. What was Scholes doing (dreaming or 'drifting')?

    So to 'those that follow united' please no more thrashtalking about 'what a garbage Barry is' etc etc.

    Remember Barry (who completely outplayed the twin pylons in the recent derby) is the quintessential English midfielder who doesn't shirk from his responsibility when his country calls.

  • Comment number 63.

    England weren't convincing which is true, but from where did this second part of your blog title come from?? Why do you even have to compare this England team to Greece???. Even Latvia, Bulgaria were not convincing in 2004!! The problem is England media and fans always expect them to win every tournament and they even boldly believe that they are capable of winning them! Unfortunately its not true.

    England might still win this cup just like Greece did abd it was just one-off thing that happened. Is that what you want England to be?? I am sorry true champions dominate the game for 4-5 years, Thats what every big country has done.

    And this is possible only by proper planning for 4-5 years, just like what Germany did after 2002. For this the FA may have to compromise some of the financial gains(look at Germany). For now this England team lacks quality...

  • Comment number 64.

    After the injury to Lampard and Barry , England is left with only three recognised midfielders ; Gerard who is out of fitness and form , Scott Parker who can only chase and hassle and when he gets the ball he immediately turns backward and give a three yards side pass , and Henderson , who really does not have the right to wear the England shirt . So it is obvious that with these three options England will naturally struggles in midfield , give the ball away repeatedly and eventually get overwhelmed . I really cannt see why classy midfielders such as Carrick and caldemore are left out of the squad when they are o desperately needed . England may not lose heavily in Euro 2012 with this approach and tactics , but I will be damned if they will win any match there ; The new Greece , My foot !!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    I love this idea that Hodgson has sacrificed England's 'style and flair'. Lol! I'm 36 and have never seen any England manager get his team to play with style and flair, the odd fluke aside (4-1 Holland being the obvious choice).

    England and 'style and flair' go together like politicians and honesty, or bankers and morality. You cannot turn 11 lumpen proles into 11 Ronaldos.

    Hodgson is like a mechanic working with an old banger. He'll get it running, but understands that's about as far as it can go.

  • Comment number 66.

    erm...twin pylons?

  • Comment number 67.

    I think its understandable that since all the posts about team England (Roy & his team selections) by Phil are related its fair that opposing POVs are presented.

    Remember Roy's midfield selection (Gerrard, Lampard, Barry et al) is vilified by 'all that follow united'.

    We should dispel the gloom & doom by those naysayers just because their favourite players are not particiapating ;)

    Fair?

  • Comment number 68.

    Why are people so surprised at the way Roy's Rovers are playing.

    This has been his style of play for all his teams - We're getting exactly what it says on the tin - 100% Roy Hodgson.

    It's not as if England have an abundance of flair players that can play the fast flowing attacking football we all seem to crave.

    If we don't do well then I think it would be unfair to put all the blame on a manager who is working with what he's got, and with a limited pool of resources.

    It may seem an odd thing to say but looking at these Euro Championships I think this could be a tougher competiton to progress in than the World Cup.

    As for Gary Neville, who despite all his time with Fergie, will learn that it is a lot easier being a wise head in the TV studio than at the side of the pitch directing operations.

  • Comment number 69.

    Young is great but he's best on the wing. If we're going to play a 4-4-2 then I don't see why we can't play Welbeck and Carroll up front, Young and Downing on the wings, and Gerrard and Parker in the centre. We'd still have flexible, dependable reserves in Walcott and Milner.

  • Comment number 70.

    @66

    MU duo - Scholes & Carrick. Whose Inept perfomances, no creatvity or chances for Rooney @ the derby. Completely outbarca by City's Barry et al.

    And to those that think Carrick & Scholes (non wannabe England players) would enhance our England midfield. (shakingmyhead)

  • Comment number 71.

    @68
    As for Gary Neville, who despite all his time with Fergie, will learn that it is a lot easier being a wise head in the TV studio than at the side of the pitch directing operations.
    -----------------------------------------
    We shall see. His true calibre 'without the prompters, technical aid and human support'.

  • Comment number 72.

    2 wins in 2 games, 0 goals conceeded in 2 games, yes lack of beautiful Spainesk football but the facts are simple. Norway had not lost at home in 2 years, Belgium have only lost 1 game in there last 16 matches and that was agaist Germany when Belgium where missing Hazard, Vermaelen and Fellani.

    For me so far so good... i think also clearly the amount of injuries we are having is a clear indication that English football needs a winter break.

  • Comment number 73.

    Everyone's going on about how England don't need to be pretty or hold possession and can grind out 1-0 results (a la Greece) by nicking a goal on the counter-attack.

    But what's our plan B if France or Sweden score first?

    Truth is we don't have one.

  • Comment number 74.

    England will do well in the tournament, the rest of Europe will have written us off, and Roy will show the real team and tactics when the real competition starts.....as has been said if we play like the last 2 friendlies and win all our games we will be Champions ...and no one will care ...just celebrate

    Good luck Roy and Boys

  • Comment number 75.

    @68
    If we don't do well then I think it would be unfair to put all the blame on a manager who is working with what he's got, and with a limited pool of resources.
    ______________________________________________________________________

    Hodgson just added to that limited pool by employing Gary Neville. Will someone tell the buffoon that he doesn't need to keep lowering expectations any further.

  • Comment number 76.

    @1@5@15@17@20@25@27@45@48@50@56@62 ect ect ect......... ad nauseum...

    Wind yer neck back in son, we get the gist of your myopic view, and it aint putting you in a good light. Have a brew, feed the cat, take a deep breath...and relax.

  • Comment number 77.

    Cahill in the side would be a real asset. As far as expectations go, i think no one should be dumbfounded if England are humbled in their group and fail to escape from it; but by the same token, if they get out they could get some traction, and pull off one or two surprises. Or they could 'do a Henman' and go out in the quarter finals. I think that covers everything.

  • Comment number 78.

    @72

    Thats more like it. A true England fan!

  • Comment number 79.

    @74 "if we win all our games we will be champions"

    True, but don't you think that other teams might have the same idea?

  • Comment number 80.

    @79

    You've just scuppered Roy Hodgson's cunning plan.

  • Comment number 81.

    @76
    Stop foisting that its a FACT that 'Scholes is the greatest English midfielder'. Its just you and your sheeple OPINION. Stop harping that.

    Yes we should relax and take the ride with Roy. Get onboard.

  • Comment number 82.

    Hat's off to Hodgson.

    I was the first to criticise his appointment, but he hasn't put a foot wrong.

    He's got the defence in order, played the juniors and won two tricky matches.

    Fair play.

  • Comment number 83.

    @81

    In your opinion who is the greatest English midfielder?

  • Comment number 84.

    After rubbishing the Norway game, this was a much more positive performance from England. Parker and Milner worked their socks off, which is exactly what they are in the team for. Even Gerrard showed signs of life in this game which is very encouraging because when he does drive forward the team takes on a whole new shape and belief.
    A poor performance by Glen Johnson who seemed to be on the brink of disaster all night. I am a massive fan of Joe Hart but he seemed a bit nervous for some reason. A little faster off his line and Cahill wouldn't be in the wars today nursing a damaged jaw. Although the shove from the Belgium forward was totally out of order and could easily have been a red card for dangerous play.
    Wellbeck and/or Defoe were far more dangerous than Carroll and should start against France.

  • Comment number 85.

    #44 - Rooney wouldn't get in to a world team because, as the stats clearly show, he isn't world class. Given his persistent record of failure and liability in tournament finals, it's a shock that he's even in the England squad.

  • Comment number 86.

    Not sure what all the chat about Scholes is for - he is not going to play for England again. As I recall it was Scholes who gave up on England, not the other way around.

    As to last night, I think it's clear that we can defend half decently and we have a good keeper. But on the evidence of the last two games our ability to keep the ball is almost non existent. It's possible that we might do OK in this tournament, in the style of Chelsea in the Champions League. But even if we do, few people on here will be happy.

    What should Roy do? Try to achieve the best possible results with the players at his disposal, or sacrifice all on the altar of 'decent football' and get walloped? It was frustrating watching the team give the ball away last night - but I liked the scoreline because I'm an England supporter. So good luck to Roy and the team! If we beat a few oh so beautiful teams 'undeservedly' then I for one will be loving it.

  • Comment number 87.

    It was ugly, but it was a win against decent opposition which should be a morale boost.

    In truth we're worth about 2 points in our group - France beating us, and drawing with Ukraine and Sweden - so anything above that should be considered some form of progress.

    I's love us to win it, but my head tells me we're not a great team with a decent, if unspectacular, manager throw in at the last minute - so let's just be grateful we've two wins in the bag, and hope we don't embarrass ourselves in the Euros.

    If in two years time we're still looking wonky - well, wonkier than recent years - then will be the time to grouse.

  • Comment number 88.

    The funny thing is, England may actually do better playing Roy's style than by playing the style of better "technically and tactically minded" coaches in the past.
    We have the players to defend heroically and we have the players to sneak a goal.
    We've already seen that in the last two games.
    I don't expect us to win the tournament, but I can see us getting to the quarterfinals . Neither do I see us playing attractive football, but I don't see us getting taken apart by our International superiors.
    If this style of football at least gets us a win, who cares? It's futile comparing us to Greece and what they achieved because that doesn't mean we can do that. Too many variables. However, Greece have their name on the trophy and couldn't give two hoots if their football was good or not. Same for Liverpool 2005 and Chelsea 2012.

    I am currently an uninspired England fan, but England is my country and I support that, whatever state it is in.

  • Comment number 89.

    82.At 09:33 3rd Jun 2012, dogeared wrote:

    Hat's off to Hodgson.

    I was the first to criticise his appointment,
    ________________________________________________

    No you weren't. There were several million people in front of you. Unfortunately non of them were FA mandarins.

  • Comment number 90.

    Missed the first 20 minutes last night but from what I saw I'm starting to feel more positive about this England setup. Plus Roy's saying the right things about improving possession and movement in attack (e.g. wide men moving infield to find the 'pockets' behind the midfield), and the defence really did look solid - only caught on the counter once in the whole game.

    Strategy seems to be a solid 6 man wall in defence, with full backs barely venturing forward, but with 4 attacking players trying to stay upfield as much as possible. The benefit of that is that the opposition can't commit too many men forward when the opposition have 4 forwards ready and waiting to link up at any time. So that should actually make backs to the wall defending that bit easier.

    True it's not pretty for the most part. But if the 4 attackers put constant pressure on the ball when the opposition defence/midfield have it, and if they support each other more effectively when the ball is knocked long, I can see it working. Moments of excitement and quality, like Welbeck's goal (for me, he should be a nailed on starter against France), may well make up for what goes on in between.

  • Comment number 91.

    When Greece won Euro 2004, there were many who dismissed their defensive style, but Otto Rehhagel was a realist who knew he had no Messi in the Greek team. And so, in brutal and typical German efficiency he managed to help Greece win Euro. The question for England and Hodgson is if they are able to truly use the 'Greek Euro 2004' style in an efficient way. Time will show. But if this wins Euro, who is to feel bad about this? Pity only about those who at the time had nothing good to say about Greece but ultimately history records the winners - just check how Chelsea won their last European competition.

  • Comment number 92.

    @81..
    Since when have I mentioned ANY player by name on this blog yet?? Since when have I harped on??? Check YOUR facts pal. I aint the one with the pathological obsession.

    How's the cat?

  • Comment number 93.

    There is a very peculiar blend of opinion regarding England at the moment. There are those who are saying 'England have no chance, which gives them a chance'. There are those that bemoan the fact England are so poor in possession and quite negative with their tactics. Finally there are those who are fairly happy and realise that England are simply playing within their limitations.

    That last thought is the key really. The current England team is not particularly good. There are one or two 'world class' players like Hart, Cole and Rooney but in the majority, we don't have great players. Therefore, those that say we should be much more expansive and attacking are being naive considering we don't have the players to actually achieve that! Open up against the French in that first match and they will pick us apart.

    People talk about statistics and try and use them to predict what will happen, its utter nonsense. England won't have much possession against good sides but that doesn't mean they can't achieve results. The appearance is that England have not been good enough, yet the results show that England have only lost 2 of their last 17 games. Results are the only statistic that should have any meaning.

    Everyone would love to see England play great attacking football and storm the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. But we can't because our players are not intelligent, creative or technically superior. A manager can only base his style on the players at his disposal. England players, pundits, the media and fans need to realise where we are at the moment. That said there is no reason why England can't pass the ball properly. It isn't a difficult technique. There is a real lack of confidence in those players.

    The first game will be vital for England. Attain a decent result against the French and momentum can build quickly. Get soundly beaten though and the tournament becomes an uphill struggle. Most of all, England need to show that they can survive in a tournament situation, be tactically intelligent and believe in the plan the manager has given them. They probably won't threaten this event but it can be a building block for future development.

  • Comment number 94.

    yawns.

  • Comment number 95.

    @85 So a player who has won the Premier League numerous times, the Champions League has scored 180+ goals for the biggest side in England and was named in FIFA's team of the year shouldnt get into this average England squad???

    Who should be in the squad instead then?? Holt or Zamora??

    And the term world class gets attatched to players with a lot less ability than Wayne Rooney thats for sure!!

  • Comment number 96.

    I don't think this tournament, and especially these two warmup games are going to be fully indicative of Roy Hodgson's England. He's only officially been in the job less than a month. He's missing Wilshere, Rooney for the first two games, not to mention the players he has already lost from the squad. Well, personally I don't think Barry is too big a loss but maybe thats just me...........

    I remember when Hodgson got the job someone (I think linked to WBA) was quoted as saying "Roy builds teams that are difficult to beat". England are looking to be in this mould for now. But this was always going to be the case - Parker (and I am a huge fan) is good at retaining possession but rarely does much with it, he does what he is good at and not much else. But you need players like him in the team. Gerrard is not a playmaker in the same way that Wilshere, or Modric etc. are, and without that kind of player on the pitch to not only retain possession but use it consistently productively then we will struggle to break down a well organised team and fashion an acceptable number of chances. This is true at any level. Although arguably it's not so much about the number of chances as it is how you take them, which we seem to be doing right now.

    Stop complaining people. Give Roy time, especially if what 'they' say about there being minimal pressure on England at this tournament is true. There's no point saying that and then harping on about disappointing play/results/whatever. If we can win the group then anything can happen, it is tournament football after all. Chelsea won the Champions League this year against all odds, nobody saw Greece winning Euro 2004, nobody gave us a chance against Spain last year but England still won the friendly. This isn't me saying "If we get out of the group then England WILL win!", it's just a fact of knockout football. Upsets happen, and who knows? This time England might get the roll of the dice.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 2 Dizzee69 "Goals win games, not stringing 800 passes together and maintaining 56% possession".

    Spot on. Spain won Euro 2008 and WC 2010 with 1 - 0 wins. And Spain is the European media's best idea of Brazil of the 1970s. Argentina put together a sting of 23 passes against Serbis at WC 2006, but they could not proceed against the discipline of the Germans in both 2006 and 2010. Netherlands have won nothing significant since 1988 with possession Football. And I don't want to even go into comparison between my own Arsenal and Chelsea or ManU.

    The simple mantra for tournaments is this: participation is good; performance is better; BUT WINNING IS BEST. Ask the Italians about WC 2006 when one of the worst ball juggling teams won.

  • Comment number 98.

    @89

    lol, indeed. Yet, for me, he's done everything right.

    Although if I was the manager I would have looked at the base camp arrangements, which are clearly ridiculous.

  • Comment number 99.

    95.At 09:48 3rd Jun 2012, min999pant wrote:
    And the term world class gets attatched to players with a lot less ability than Wayne Rooney thats for sure!!
    ___________________________________________________________________

    No. That's not possible.

  • Comment number 100.

    @94

    Opens window.

 

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