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England doesn't expect

Robbo Robson | 12:55 UK time, Monday, 8 September 2008

Let's get the clichés out the way first. A win is a win. We'll take the three points. There are no easy games in international football. We all gave two million per cent.

Now let's get real. Andorra are rubbish. It's not surprising. All the men of marriable age play international football. Frankly there is no point whatsoever in a team like that playing dozens of qualifying matches.

They are about as likely to win an international football match as Andy Murray is to win a beauty pageant.

Andorra do not really play football - they play a football version of piling up the furniture against the door stop a baddie getting into your bedroom. It kind-of works too if the baddie in question is as witless as England.

But surely it's time that the minor nations - and I mean the ones that are not so much minnows as krill - can have their own pre-qualifying shindig and we can find out which one of San Marino, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg and Andorra and Scotland (joke!) are allowed to join the party.

Actually, I give it four years before England have a bit of pre-qualifying to do.
The question that really arises from Saturday - and might well be confirmed come Wednesday is this - is it time to accept that England are a poor football team?

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There's not a bloke in that squad who can raise his game to the heights necessary, is there? Why is it that Lampard is still there, plying his horribly average trade when there must be a case for putting a bucket of cod in there in his stead?

Why is it that Rooney is a worse player now than when he was 17? Shrek is slowly but surely turning into the bloody donkey!

Look at the lad Murray last night - brilliant! How can a sportsman get progressively worse between the ages of 17 and 21?

Why is Beckham still there, mobile as a fencepost, when Walcott, Bentley, Agbonlahor, Young, Lennon, my mum, the bucket of cod's brother are all left out?

I like Becks, but he's done with and it's time the lad was left to his showbiz pals and we play a footballer on the right and not a brand.

Even a Boro fan has to accept that Stew Downing is not up to it at international level. Defoe is still a desperate pick, Heskey without Owen is pointless. All right Emile had a great season last year - three goals he scored - and he's honest. But that's it.

Until Joe Cole came on I've seen more wit and invention in a Jeremy Kyle monologue. Not that I saw the game live cos I'm one of millions who think Setanta is some sort of drab Eastern European car that runs on potato peelings.

Is it beyond the brainless trolls of terrestrial TV land to cough up for a highlights programme? Frankly you'd think Setanta would be paying us to watch highlights of Andorra v England any road.

I mean, ITV were happy to show the Soccer Aid farce last night on prime-time. Obviously it's great to raise the money for UNICEF but why does the attachment of the word "charity" to a big event seem to give permission for the product to be rubbish?

Actually I'm going to stop there cos if I'm honest I'm just gut-wrenchingly narked that Gareth Gates gets to share the Wembley turf with Romario and Figo and the rest of us sit around with envious faces trying to work out who the hell half the celebrities are.

Mind you Deayton marking Figo is more comprehensible than some of the omissions from the Fab squad.

Though they seem to turn the three lions on their chest into the toothless flea-bitten kind that mince along Yellow Brick Roads with the other friends of Dorothy, I'm not sure the players are entirely to blame.

No Ashton, no Agbonlahor, no Young, no Owen, no sense. At least there are some reasons for optimism.

Capello's obvious fury makes a welcome change from them tiny frowns from Sven and Smiley Steve's feeble brolly and coffee faff.

Two-up and Cole and Rooney start to coast around the place like it's job done. Good lad Fabio, give 'em a good old slagging.

But the fact is that this England side scares no one. Except their own fans. Ferdinand and Gerrard would help, even if Stevie G is bleating that he never got his favourite position ever.

Ask Paul Scholes if he thinks it's fair. I think Wednesday night against Croatia, that reality will bite and we'll finally realise that we're not good enough.

And that could - only could - result in England playing a brand of football that is, God help us, English.

Obviously we'll miss the scintillating continental style interplay between Terry, Lescott, Johnson and Cole at the back, with no one more than 200 yards near them.

But maybe a lot of pace, energy, direction, verve... you know, the way Liverpool play when Rafa wants them to win...the way Man Utd play...hell, the way Chelsea played in the opening game of the season might just mean that the team can become greater than the sum of its parts.

It does require that the players understand their roles - and that means 4-4-2. Dull yes, but then that matches an England footballer's mind. Remember when McClaren played a Donadonian 5-3-2 in Zagreb? A lot to ask of a team with the IQ of an armchair.

But when I think about England I feel like a bloke looking for a date at a supermodel convention - I'm just clutching at straws.

In fact let's just settle for supporting a Scot for a change. C'mon Murray, son.

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