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Decisive Hodgson passes tactical test

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Phil McNulty | 01:25 UK time, Saturday, 16 June 2012

Wayne Rooney has been smashing balls around England's dressing room walls in readiness for his belated entrance to Euro 2012 against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk.

And for a chaotic spell in Kiev it looked like manager Roy Hodgson might be left banging his head on the same place as England did not so much flirt with danger against Sweden but grasp it in a full-blown embrace.

Hodgson and England have been accused by outside forces of failing to enter into the spirit of this football festival on the flimsy evidence of one pragmatic draw in their opening game against France. Both answered those charges - but face others as they prepare for a decisive final game against the co-hosts on Tuesday.

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This 3-2 win, their first in competitive action against Sweden, means avoidance of defeat in Donetsk will send England into the quarter-finals. As he reflects on the victory, Hodgson will have found causes for concern and optimism.

It was the first serious test faced by Hodgson since his appointment in early May - but the manager's sound decision-making before and during the game meant he emerged unblemished and with a crucial victory.

Hodgson will be judged on the impact and results of his big calls and he could not have done much better both in acting on a tactical theory and reacting when it threatened to go wrong.

He recalled Liverpool's £35m striker Andy Carroll with a very specific purpose, one served to perfection as he exploited Sweden's aerial vulnerability to head home Steven Gerrard's perfect cross.

Hodgson then reacted to his team leaving their concentration in the dressing room at half-time to concede two embarrassingly poor goals to Olof Mellberg (though the first was later ruled to have been a Glen Johnson own goal) by swiftly introducing Theo Walcott.

He could see the game drifting from England's control and backed Walcott - who was ready to come on at 1-1 - to switch the momentum. This he did with a swerving equaliser then a cross that allowed Manchester United's Danny Welbeck to score a goal of athleticism, dexterity and pure instinct 12 minutes from time.

England headed back to their Krakow base in the small hours to debrief ahead of their return to the Donbass Arena, where they will face a night of fierce hostility against a Ukraine side knowing victory can put them through.

You could hear players shouting to each other during England's game with France - you will not be able to hear yourself think next time around.

And Hodgson will have to make the tough decisions all over again. Defensive frailties may have been exposed but he will revel in solving the attacking conundrums presented by an increasingly wide array of options.

Rooney is available and must return. For all the good work of Carroll and Welbeck, one must step aside against Ukraine - and the starting choice for me would be the Manchester United youngster.

Carroll was a specifically designed pick against Sweden and vindicated his manager. There may be a need for a different approach against Ukraine so there is sound logic in reuniting the blossoming club pairing of Rooney and Welbeck, who has shown maturity as well as an ability to score goals for England in recent internationals.

The pair will be joined by another OId Trafford attacker in Ashley Young. He will play on the left - but there will be a pressing matter for Hodgson about who occupies the other flank.

James Milner offers work-rate, the occasional good delivery and protection for Glen Johnson. Walcott, on the other hand, provides searing pace and - as he proved in Kiev - those moments that can define matches.

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Here he delivered a cameo of some class, a brief performance that allowed England to steady themselves after the dark moments and show such commendable resilience to recover and win.

Much loose talk is spoken about team spirit and camaraderie but the true test is how England respond to adversity and this was a ringing endorsement of the unity Hodgson is said to have fostered.

England refused to be blown totally off course by a horror spell after the break. They were able to right the ship helped by Hodgson's prompt and successful substitutions.

Hodgson will not merely be focusing on plus points. England's defending for both goals, resulting from set pieces, were abominable as first Zlatan Ibrahimovic's free-kick was not cleared then Mellberg headed in Seb Larsson's free-kick unmolested by anything resembling a marker.

There were also moments of alarm when John Terry appeared to be treading in mud in a footrace with Ibrahimovic, a moment that will have been noted by sprightly attackers.

England were also caught short on the counter too often by Sweden - offences which will drive at the very heart of Hodgson's philosophy.

The final reckoning is that England need to come out with a draw against Ukraine, which is perfectly workable if former disciplines are restored. They are also able to try and achieve this with their best player back.

Hodgson can think through his attacking strategy carefully with so many players stating their cases after Kiev. And most heartening of all for the England camp was that two key decisions, starting with Carroll and introducing Walcott, were a reflection of Hodgson's current clear-headedness in the heat of tournament competition.

England may have been late arriving at the Euro 2012 festivities - but they crashed through the door with some style as this tournament continues to sparkle.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Milner gave away a free kick from which Sweden scored. At the last world cup, Milner deserted the wall and a goal was scored through the hole he left. Workrate is not a useful measure, effectiveness is. We nearly lost because of Milner, we won because of Walcott. Spot the effective one!

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    @ 2

    The difference between England and Chile at the moment is that the Chilean players have the ability to play attractive football. England don't! We have players who work hard, who are effective at what they do, and have character.

    We don't have a set of players able to make 400 passes per game and score beautifully crafted goals all the time.

    England scored 3 excellent goals tonight, the same amount as we managed in the whole of our 2010 WC campaign! But that doesn't mean that we should be p[laying expansive football. Lets concentrate on results for now, performances can come in the WC qualifiers.

  • Comment number 4.

    Phew. Three moments of brilliance and a lot of wobbly defending which doesn't bode well if we get through and find ourselves facing Spain in the Qtr Finals. Was hoping for a boring 1-0 to England and not an exciting 3-2! Well done lads but you have nearly given me a heart attack.....

  • Comment number 5.

    Whichever of the two strikers who is dropped to accommodate Wayne Rooney can count themselves very unlucky but he simply has to come back into the team! Ashley Young is treading a tightrope and needs a good performance v Ukraine, he hasn't shown up so far... Looking forward to the Ukraine match already :-D

  • Comment number 6.

    Ashley Young was once again terrible for England - he has no right to start against Ukraine but the problem is that the left side is terrible. Bot Young and Downing are so average. If only Walcott or Chamberlain could play on the left.

  • Comment number 7.

    Both Miner and Young were poor against the swedes, both should be dropped. Serious questions need to be asked about how easily the england back line retreated into the england penalty box instead of holding the defensive line at the edge of the box. Noone seems to be taking control,and Terrys inadequacys are brought into sharp focus by his inability to play out of position. He needs to be "rested" in favour of jaglielka

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 4

    The difference between sweden and Spain is that we won't be defending set pieces launched into the box if we end up meeting Spain in the QFs. We will be defending against decent passing, but we have the players to do that, as shown in the recent friendly.

  • Comment number 9.

    P.S. And why England persist with Milner is beyond me. Like Young, he was awful tonight. He is quite simply a liability for England.

  • Comment number 10.

    P.P.S Start Jagielka also. Lescott and Terry are, once again, distinctively average and liabilities.

  • Comment number 11.

    My starting 11 against the Ukraine would be:

    Young (on the left)

    There is an argument for Milner against more accomplished teams, we still have the Ox on the bench if we need an impact player in the second half.

    Looking at Terry today we should have brought Rio and left JT at home.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think there has been a massive over reaction to the quality of our players at the moment.

    Milner, Terry and Young are not playing brilliantly by any stretch of the imagination, but Milner and Young fit into our style of play.

    It's all well and good playing Walcott but we need to realise that Johnson isn't great defensively and sometimes needs the cover that Milner will provide. Walcott would not do the same job!

    Also, Ashley Young shouldn't be playing left wing. His best position for England is behind the striker. He doesn't do enough defensive work to play left wing. I don't know who else could play that position from the current squad.

    At the moment Roy is doing what we have all been asking for for a long time. He is playing players that fit into the best system for us. Not fitting the best players into a system that doesn't work!

  • Comment number 13.

    Milner and Johnson were once again the weak link in our side. Milner just simply didn't deliver the crosses he needed to, Johnson is just a poor left back. He doesn't cover the area he's supposed to, leaving him having to pull off last ditch tackles, and he was responsible for the first Swedish goal. Not because of the own goal, that was just unlucky, but because he kept the Swedish player onside when he should have been running forward like the rest of the team.

  • Comment number 14.

    I wish people would stop talking about how to accommodate Rooney!

    We have played a system, with players out of position, to be in a position that when we play, the rest of the squad do not have to accommodate. Roy will tweak it, Ashley will Be out on the wing, Milner will be back up CM (as he should be) and either Walcott or the OX on the wing.

    We are in the position that was planned for! Whether Rooney can fulfill his role is another matter but you cannot fault the logic or planning!

  • Comment number 15.

    Lots of talk of positions there, but essentially Roy has put people in the role Rooney will play and played the game around that.

    Superior defence (if Wayne goes missing-France)

    Expansive attack (Wayne is on his game)

    With limited time and all permeatations we are in a position to do more than peopl expected, for once (thank god)

  • Comment number 16.

    I like Walcott as an impact sub midway through the second half. Milner is significantly worse than him attacking-wise, but defensively he stops Johnson from single-handedly throwing games away. Also, having a quick player with fresh legs come on just as everyone else is tiring could work wonders again.

  • Comment number 17.

    young had a bad game but with rooney back he his the only choice for left wing, some of their interaction for manchester united was brilliant, if they can reproduce that with walcott on the right we could suprise a few of the "superior" teams, only germany have looked apart so far.

  • Comment number 18.

    As kryten once said "garbled, confusing and just plain dull"

    Not sure if that's my posts or the article but will claim responsibility. Will repost if it's unclear, in the morning!

  • Comment number 19.

    It was just a little worrying for me to see England go from looking so solid to so vulnerable. Whilst I can't deny it was a great display of heart, if we play like that again, heart won't cut it, what I would really like is the discipline of the first match with the passion of the second!

  • Comment number 20.

    and jones has played very well at several positions last season if johnson cant be trusted then drop him' playing a winger with work rate over talent to cover an innadequent left back is a waste of two players, u cant carry anyone at this level

  • Comment number 21.

    sorry meant rght back

  • Comment number 22.

    Oh, my, god! You BBC pundits have taken leave of your senses!!! Even Lee Dixon! That was a woeful performance by England. They will be found out by better opposition if they play like that against Italy, or, heaven forbid, Spain!!!!! Andy Caroll, sure he scored an excellent goal, but he also gave away a free kick that led directly to a goal and confused the rather stupid central defenders by insinuating himself in the heart of the defence causing the confusion that led to a goal. Are you guys watching the same game? All these ratings of seven and up??? I'd give the defenders a five or a six. Terry might as well go by the name of Plod. Milner and Young are simply too average to warrant a place in the side. Glen Johnson does not inspire confidence at the back. To gloat over Hodgson's choice of Carroll and substitution of Walcott is to overlook the fact that Caroll did as much damage as good and Walcott should have started. Get real!!!!!!!! It's the English disease: to get too high when you win and two low when you lose. Man up and take a leaf from the Germans! Develop a backbone and see things for what they are: A poor performance salvaged by three great goals. Come back Rooney!

  • Comment number 23.

    @ 20

    Johnson is a right back, not a left back. And Jones is so good in that position that Roy thought it better to call up Martin Kelly as right back cover than ask Rio Fredinand to come in and cover the CBs!

  • Comment number 24.

    why is it that if that had been man united playing everyone would say how they always manage to get a result but because it's England we say how terrible they were. Go back to the defensive way of playing for sure, it suited Italy through their hey day, we exposed our limitations today so lets play to our strengths.

  • Comment number 25.

    Can't deny I was not sure about Roy, however he passed his tactical test tonight, (both proactive and reactive) well done. C'mon England, I do belive there will be a couple of teams in other groups looking over their collective shoulders, now that we have a manager that can be decisive and react

  • Comment number 26.

    I think our final third play was better against Sweden than France, but with Rooney now back, I can only hope he replaces Carroll. That would be my only change, there is no point changing the whole team around when the core of the team is already there. And they are getting used to playing with each other, every game. There are little groups of players together from clubs that can only help, I mean, Hart and Lescott (Man City), Terry and Cole (Chelsea), and then you now have Welbeck, Young and now Rooney.

    Experience playing together at club level will help a lot, as they know how each other plays.

    Walcott should be used as an impact sub against Ukraine. Everyone saw what he did in so little time yesterday, he gave us fresh legs, pace, a goal and an assist. Why change it?

    Personally my team would be this:

    Rooney in the hole behind Welbeck, Gerrard spraying passes around like he has been doing so brilliantly in the past two games. Young and Milner on the wings, providing width and bombing crosses in to Welbeck.

    I don't know why, but I have a good feeling about this England team, Roy Hodgson obviously knows what he's doing, so let's get behind the team, and hope for the best!!
    Anything can happen. ;)

  • Comment number 27.

    @ 23
    i rectified the position @ 21 and does anyone now believe rio should be on holiday?
    chris smalling would of been a better call than kelly, and jones is an outstanding footballer, so much so that the only problem is where to play him long term ? cd or cdm but he can fill in at rb solidly and allow walcott to play without fear, looking over his shoulder doubting his rb should he be dispossesed. johnson is a good player but makes positional and defensive errors.

  • Comment number 28.

    @ 8
    Yes, that's true.
    We would have to be fantastically well organised to keep Spain (if we do meet them in the QFs) out though. Spain's performances in 'friendlies' are quite different to how they play in competitions and having seen how poor we were in keeping the ball tonight I would really fear for us against them. We would be defending for our lives for most of the game and much as I would love to think that we could do that, and break away to score, I doubt it!
    That said, I take heart from the win and few could argue with Roy Hodgson's selection of Andy Carroll to start and bringing Theo on. I hope it gives them confidence and will be cheering them on whatever the next games hold!

  • Comment number 29.

    Still not convinced but, a win is a win...

    ...and will someone please ban the band, for good?


  • Comment number 30.

    You can't properly assess Hodgson after a few weeks and four games. Whatever happens here, I'd reserve my judgement until the end of the WC 2014 qualifiers. But leaving out Rio after withdrawals still looks questionable.

  • Comment number 31.

    Danny Welbeck: best opening 2 goals to an international career ever? Both his chip and his backheel were sublime!

  • Comment number 32.

    not sure that the 4-4-2 tonight represents tactical genius simply because Carroll scored a terrific headed goal. the problem with pitching traditional 4-4-2 vs traditional 4-4-2, is that the formation tends to be based around physical play and making the most of the scraps - i.e. it is a great leveller, so it is really a throw of the dice and an almost religious belief that 'our players are better than theirs'. there is no tactical advantage to be had.

    the change was crucial and well-timed, and gave us a clue to how we might progress, tactically. i would personally like to see us go with this system for the Ukraine and (hopefully) beyond:


    firstly, it gets us away from the static nature of 4-4-2, which didn't work for us tonight, and which encourages punting balls forward, and thus does nothing to encourage us to keep and play the ball.

    the midfield 3 can play in the way we did against France - i.e. provide a second layer in front of a skilled attacking line. Milner can still work hard in midfield, and can still cover Johnson. he can also make use of emerging spaces in order to provide some attacking threat, via a dynamic midfield role and simple movement, rather than requiring technical ability or pace out on the wing (neither of which he has).

    Gerrard can continue to spray the balls around and release the wide men, who again not being in rigid positons can cause positional and marking problems for a back 4. He can also make use of a flexible midfield role to make untracked runs into the box.

    The front 3 is pace, pace, pace and the all have goals in them. For me this gives us a nice balance between the Sweden goalscoring England, and the capability to defend as a pack when necessary but still have plenty of good outballs - using the wings, but also Rooney will naturally drop back to receive ball and will instantly have support around him in either direction.

    Ultimately we need to do something different. 4-4-2 is not going to win any international tournament. It left us on the first plane back from South Africa. And we can't expect to play so incredibly defensive as we did against France and hope to ride our luck all the way, either.

    So we need something in between, and something which allows us to use the pace and ability we genuinely have in the side, but most importantly, which forces us to keep the ball on the ground and not get tempted into thwacking it up the field just to relieve nerves at the back, or because we are so static there there is little other option.

  • Comment number 33.

    @ 27

    I didn't see the correction until after I had posted my comment so apologies for that.

    On the other matters....Rio should definitely still be on holiday. He isn't as good in the air as Terry and their pace is unfortunately very similar.....SLOW! Rio is better on the ball, but that's not the type of football England are playing so why do we need him?

    Chris Smalling is injured so couldn't be involved!

    Phil Jones has shown on more than one occasion that he is not a good right back! His defensive positioning is worse than Johnson's, his attacking threat is minimal due to the fact he can't shoot and can hardly pass the ball 5 yards. The only thing he has got over Johnson is a bit of pace and even with that he's not exactly lightning!

    Johnson can be a liability, unfortunately, there isn't much other cover. Walker would have been my first choice and Micah would have gone as well but he didn't want to be on the back up list apparantly so missed his chance!

  • Comment number 34.

    What a lot of whining.
    @22 is laughable by the way, "Get real!!!!!!!! It's the English disease: to get too high when you win and two low when you lose..... A poor performance salvaged by three great goals. Come back Rooney!" No-one seems to be high from this win at all.

    You won; so what if you weren't brilliant and are sometimes boring to watch.
    Results are all that matter.
    Is it your country you love whether it's wonderful or not: i.e. reality? Or is it a romanticised ideal: fantasy?

  • Comment number 35.

    Fantasy only makes people miserable, accept the fact that England are not going to be playing wonderful football until there is a massive change in coaching at grass roots level. Then maybe you might actually enjoying the feeling of winning when you win instead of this juvenile whinging.

  • Comment number 36.

    @35 you are right, playing 'wonderful football' can only happen with a massive change to the culture ofmcoaching, and a realisation that this requires actual action, and co-ordination, and planning.

    however, in the meantime, it is certainly possible for us to play *better* football than is possible using a traditional 4-4-2 in a high quality international tournament.

    that is the challenge for right now, and personally i believe an improvement is achievable.

    in the meantime the victory was most satisying, and there were some positive signs in amonst the 4-4-2 based horror ;)

  • Comment number 37.

    John Terry. Likely to be England's weakest point in their next match.

  • Comment number 38.

    Its no wonder England cant keep possession, if you watched Parker and Gerrard off the ball when we're in possession they're just walking around 10-15 yards away, not giving the player on the ball any options. They just don't want the ball. Spain would have midfielders buzzing around giving little short give and goes, pulling the opposition around, England are like statues. Playing the likes of Walcott and Ox is our only real chance, at least they offer good movement and pace.

  • Comment number 39.

    You can convince yourself of anything if you want to, Phil. Hodgson being praised for his tactical nous? You must be joking! If you take off the rose tinted specs you might see what really transpired in that game.

    Hodgson goes with the same boring containing game looking to nick a goal and then protect it. In trying to protect a lead England's defence capitulates (Hodgson's fault for leaving Rio at home and don't get me started on Johnson). Then in a moment of blind panic Hodgson abandons his principals, throws on Walcott and goes for an attacking model.

    And guess what? It works and England actually look a lot better. So why not start the game with the attitude that emerged when Sweden had taken the lead? Hodgson got lucky, not least with the fact that Walcott showed up and wasn't invisible as he is in 4 out of 5 games.

    Of course Walcott will now be seen as a must start by many. Objectivity out the window as per usual. Milner is terrible and Young has done nothing. Johnson is a liability and should be replaced by Jones immediately. There's also a serious case for dropping Terry.

    Poor performance and now the inevitable optimism is starting to paper over the cracks (should that be chasms?) in this awful England team, led by a manager who will be found out sooner rather than later.

    Rooney better have broad shoulders. He's a big load to carry to try and lift this bunch of rabble.

  • Comment number 40.

    @38. At 04:47 16th Jun 2012, bluetillew wrote:

    Playing the likes of Walcott and Ox is our only real chance, at least they offer good movement and pace.
    Are you a blinkered Arsenal fan? Walcott is best known for being invisible and inept in an England jersey. Just because he produced a little cameo last night he is now transformed is he? Six years ago Walcott first arrived in the England camp and has never established himself as a regular starter since then. A frustrating player who all too often goes missing and offers little.

    As for Ox? Who is this guy? Walcott No.2? Hardly played in the PL, has done virtually nothing to build a reputation but is riding on the same sort of blind hype Walcott rode into town on in 2006. Utter nonsense, this kid shouldn't even be in the squad.

  • Comment number 41.

    All those saying Johnson is a liability in defence don't seem to have watched him play last night. He was better than Cole in defence, something that doesn't usually happen. He always offers something positive going forward.

    @ #39, when the manager gets something wrong tactically he gets the blame. So why should he not get praise for getting things right? Calling it blind panic to throw on Walcott is ridiculous. Walcott was ready to come one before Sweden took the lead, so the decision was taken before any panic might have set in. Don't let your low opinion of Hodgson get in the way of the facts, please. You may think his approach is too defensive, but England players are playing for each other with commitment in a way I don't remember for years. It's a work in progress, but the signs are good.

  • Comment number 42.

    I love the fact that all the Gerrard haters regarding his 'Hollywood passes' have gone quiet, since it has now become a revelation that he can put the ball on a six pence. Past it, me thinks not.

    Back to the game, good performance and lots of positives to take from it along with the negatives. The best thing is Roy now has a headache after both Carroll and Wellbeck scored - I agree with Phil though that the partnership of Rooney and Wellbeck should mean he starts. A touch disappointed though for Carroll that Rooney can just Waltz back in but IMO we only have 4 world class players and he is the best (Rooney/Gerrard/A.cole/Hart). The main negative is definitely Young as pointed out above - totally non-existant. Hopefully the Utd trio can do something as they are used to playing together.

    I am quite enjoying this tournament - particularly as my fiancee is Swedish. When we scored the 2nd she just walked out the pub in a strop. Love it!!!!!

  • Comment number 43.

    @40: Harsh. I'm certainly not an Arsenal fan, but have been impressed by what I have seen of Ox during the few Arsenal games I have watched this season. And as for Walcott, don't forget his hat-trick against Croatia (the team ranked 8 by FIFA, who just drew with Italy and thrashed Ireland), aged only 19, and that was in a competitive match. That was neither inept nor invisible. I don't care if these guys are anonymous for games at a time; they have the ability to spark something special. As Walcott did today.

  • Comment number 44.

    @41. At 05:10 16th Jun 2012, Kevin wrote:

    You may think his approach is too defensive, but England players are playing for each other with commitment in a way I don't remember for years. It's a work in progress, but the signs are good.

    My point exactly, except the signs are bad, not good. That's exactly what you get when you watch the smaller nations play. Ireland, Wales, Scotland etc. are generally underdogs and accept that they are not as good as the opposition but they show great togetherness, a willingness to run all day and put it on the line for their teammates and the fans. It's admirable and sometimes gets these teams results they would not be expected to achieve.

    That's where England are now headed (if they haven't already arrived). Conceding possession and accepting that the opposition are technically better while hoping that workrate and spirit, with a bit of luck, can carry them through.

    Is that really a 'good' sign for one of the world's big footballing nations?

  • Comment number 45.

    And again @ Words of Wisdom: like most moaners, you criticise players yet fail to suggest any alternatives with the exception of Jones for Johnson.

    If Ox, Walcott, Milner, Young and Terry are all liabilities, prey enlighten us as to your starting XI... (I'll even afford you the luxury of Wayne Rooney, even though Hodgson didn't have him as an option).

  • Comment number 46.

    The more I think about it the better that win over Sweden gets!
    We've all been debating Hodgsons 'platform' and wondering where the goals were going to come from. Then Andy Caroll,who had been likened to an expensive carthorse all season slams in a classic brilliant header. Theo, who we all love but is often infuriatingly ineffectual. scores from outside the box and then waltzes into it to set up Wellbeck who showed something all us pundits were looking for, a piece of impertinent class!
    More than that, the character displayed to come from behind will instill huge confidence in the team.

  • Comment number 47.

    @43. At 05:21 16th Jun 2012, Dizzee69

    Exactly my point again. The fact that everyone recalls that Walcott hattrick (how long ago now?) says it all in terms of how seldom he has produced for England.

    That happened in September 2008, almost 4 years ago. Not sure comparing that Croatia team to the current one is of any relevance. I'd also argue that 3-1 is not a 'thrashing'........but that's off topic.

  • Comment number 48.

    We looked dreadful today. A lot of pundits say it isn't England's style to keep hold of the ball and pass it around. I disagree. It isn't our style to pass it around in the manner that Spain can but any professional player, especially those used to playing in the best league in the world and the champions league, should have the ability to pass, move, repeat, repeat, without stupidly loosing possession in order to soak pressure and relax a bit. It's actually scary to see how bad we are at doing that

  • Comment number 49.

    @45. At 05:26 16th Jun 2012, Dizzee69 wrote:

    And again @ Words of Wisdom: like most moaners, you criticise players yet fail to suggest any alternatives with the exception of Jones for Johnson.

    If Ox, Walcott, Milner, Young and Terry are all liabilities, prey enlighten us as to your starting XI... (I'll even afford you the luxury of Wayne Rooney, even though Hodgson didn't have him as an option).
    There are no alternatives. This is what England have descended to. I'm not looking for solutions........just making observations. I'm not English!

  • Comment number 50.

    Unlike a lot of us mere mortals having our say, I don't think our players are dreadful and that young et al should be stripped out instantly on one bad performance, but I do think we are incapable of playing the passing game (and I mean that in the loosest term), relaxing on the ball and playing with some unpredictability. This will be our ultimate downfall.

  • Comment number 51.

    @22 a woeful performance"? Get real. We dominated all of the key stats and scored three class goals. There was a period of around 20-25 minutes when England lost their shape, conceded two soft goals (one unlucky and almost cleared off the line), but dragged themselves back into the game. And they could have scored 3-4 more. Parker came close early on, Young should have done better, Wellbeck was clean through at one point, and there was a 4-on-1 chance at the end when Ox and Gerrard both went for the same ball. This woeful display could easily have been a thrashing along the lines of recent big wins against Croatia. Even then I'm sure you would have complained. It seems unless we win every game 5-0 and make 900 passes, people are going to moan. We are 3-1-0 under Hodgson, have a new manager, our best player suspended and an injury list as long as my arm. Enjoy it. Unlike the Swedish and Irish fans, who can't any more.

  • Comment number 52.

    @42. At 05:18 16th Jun 2012, luissaurezisamazing wrote:

    I love the fact that all the Gerrard haters regarding his 'Hollywood passes' have gone quiet, since it has now become a revelation that he can put the ball on a six pence. Past it, me thinks not.
    And how would you know that? When did you last see a sixpence? Gerrard is clearly way past his best. A couple of half decent crosses does not hide the fact that he hasn't the slightest ability anymore to dominate the opposition in midfield.

    The tradegy for England is the lack of options to replace him. Either Wilshire or Lampard, if fit, would be well worth their place ahead of Gerrard.

    Yesterday's man, and a player whose career highlights at international level would fit comfortably into a 30 second Youtube clip.

  • Comment number 53.

    The 2 Swedish goals were CAUSED by English fouls, right in front of the goal, leading to set pieces... We can avoid that by playing clean!
    Relying on Carroll's head is as simplistic as using Crouch: do we think that's all football is about? It's not enough. Tall doesn't mean good, it means you're better off at basketball!
    In general we didn't play football, we played kicking the ball for miles, HOPING an English player would get to it. Mostly they didn't. And as for holding on to the ball and actually making even a few accurate passes, can't we do that at all?
    RELIEVED at 3-2 score, but would it be too much to ask for our players to actually play the game TOGETHER?
    Bravo to wonderful Walcott.

  • Comment number 54.

    47.At 05:29 16th Jun 2012, WordsofWisdom wrote:
    @43. At 05:21 16th Jun 2012, Dizzee69

    Exactly my point again. The fact that everyone recalls that Walcott hattrick (how long ago now?) says it all in terms of how seldom he has produced for England.

    if you want to go down that route how much have Messi and Ronaldo achieved for their respective national sides? And they're the best two players of a generation!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    Why can't we just look at it that we won and have a huge chance of going through. So we weren't pretty, we haven't been for decades but for once can we take some optimism that we won, are undefeated since Roy took charge, we have Rooney back and should progress. I hate defeatist England fans - we play a tournament every 2 years (if we are lucky) so we should be embracing it. Only England fans complain with 4 points from 2 tough games. Give me a break.

    As for the Johnson bashing, he was actually good for a change and as for suggesting Jones at RB, give me a break. Personally I thought Johnson had his best game in an England shirt for a long time. The future is Walker but at least we get some attacking when Milner/Johnson double up as Milner is excellent at tracking back. It is a shame he is pretty ineffective going forward.

    Let's hope Sweden can nick a draw vs France so we top the group and avoid Spain. Don't fancy that.

  • Comment number 56.

    Did anyone spot who was playing onside 3 swedes for their first goal? I'll give you a clue, he was also the one that tried to use his right foot to clear the ball off the line and sliced it off the post into the goal. Johnson and Milner down the right are a gift to the opposition.

  • Comment number 57.

    @51 scoring goals that flatter you at he end of a game where the opposition is interested in only attacking does not mean england played well. Scoring 500 goals or 900 passes is not what we're expecting. We don't look good, we look amateur. Against France solid, against Sweden loose and vulnerable. We concede possession repeatedly.

  • Comment number 58.

    I'd argue 3-1 is a thrashing. I'm sure you'd agree Germany thrashed England 4-1 a the last world cup, and we did actually score two legit goals. It's definitely comfortable, especially in international football where games are so close. 3-0 and 4-0 wins are pretty rare. If you look at world cups, you'll see teams like New Zealand managing to draw with the reigning champions Italy, so 3-1 at this level is pretty decent. But as you said, perhaps off-topic.

    Re Walcott: what do you want from the guy? He's still young and Wenger is, and has been, protecting him. When young guys impress early and are thrown in the deep end, they often end up injured (Michael Owen springs to mind). And indeed Walcott was hampered by injuried in the 09/10 season. Nobody's saying he's Lionel Messi, but he's not bad.

    Speaking of Messi, he once described Walcott as "one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against". High praise from the best player in the world.

    And can you elaborate on exactly where we have "descended" to? Our injury-depleted team, sans their star player, is 3-1-0 under a new manager, ranked 6 by FIFA and is knocking on the door of a quarter-finals berth at Euro 2012. Unless you're Spanish or German, I don't think you have much room to comment.

  • Comment number 59.

    @56 Johnson was our best defender and one of our best players. Care to differ?

  • Comment number 60.

    @57: for a period of 20-25 minutes. My heart certainly wasn't racing in the first half. Sweden had nothing. Things only got interesting when we went headless chicken for the 25 minutes after half time.

    And of the chances I mentioned, only one was late on. Parker's and Young's chances were within the first 30 minutes. I don't remember Sweden coming close in the first half. There were a few shots from outside the box, but always comfortable for Hart.

  • Comment number 61.

    52. At 05:42 16th Jun 2012, WordsofWisdom wrote:

    Never seen one in my life but he is still Englands best deadball specialist by a mile.

    All I heard prior to the tournament is 'how is Gerrard in the squad', 'why does he keep trying 40 yard passes', 'he is past it'. Strange then that since the tournament started I have seen no such comment. I get it everyone hates Liverpool so invariably hates Gerrard but Gerrard can Waltz, Piroette and do the foxtrot in to the England team, hence why he is captain (don't get me started on the people that say he is only captain because of Roy's 'Unfinished business' with Liverpool - hence why there are more Liverpool players than any other team in the squad.). Tosh.

    Just saying it is funny.

    And he warrants his place - best player at the WC in 2010 and been good these Championships.

  • Comment number 62.

    I think ANY team that comes back from a goal down deserves credit. Hodgson deserves praise imo if he gets us out of the group. I think we are building a foundation for a pretty decent side at the next world cup.

    @40 wordsofwisdom
    No Arsenal fan here, but you seem to have somthing against youth. Would you not have taken this young kid below to the world cup then????

    The world first set eyes on Pele in Sweden in 1958. He was just 17 when he played in his first FIFA World Cup, a slight teenager who emerged from nowhere to light up the tournament with his dazzling skills. It is often said that it was player power that earned Pele a place in the starting line-up for Brazil's third match of the finals against the Soviet Union. He had been sidelined by a knee injury but on his return from the treatment room, his colleagues closed ranks and insisted upon his selection in attack alongside Vava.
    The prodigy repaid his team-mates with the only goal against Wales in the quarter-finals - and in doing so established a record as the youngest scorer in FIFA World Cup history, aged 17 years and 239 days. Having found his range, he then struck a second-half hat-trick inside 23 minutes in Brazil's 5-2 defeat of France in the semi-finals.

    Who needs youngsters eh?

  • Comment number 63.

    @29. At 03:45 16th Jun 2012, Aviatorr wrote:

    "...and will someone please ban the band, for good?"

    Were the band allowed in again? I'm glad I didn't watch it then.

  • Comment number 64.

    @58 a scoreline alone doesn't merit a thrashing, the manner of the win does.

  • Comment number 65.

    Also @57: I always ask this of people who resort to such hyperbole when talking about England; if England look amateur, then who do you rate? Surely to describe England in such a way requires a degree of comparison with other sides. So who are all these teams that are so far ahead of England, and why aren't they thrashing us all the time?

    So who has made us look bad this month? Ireland (0-0-2, conceded 7 goals)? Greece? Croatia? Denmark? Ukraine? Sweden, Belgium, Norway (all beaten this month)? France (failed to beat us)?

    I'll give you Germany, Spain and Holland, but of the 200+ countries ranked by FIFA, exactly who are these sides who make England look second-rate and amateur?

    I'm not saying we're world-beaters, I just can't stand the hyperbole that suggests England are rubbish or second rate or guaranteed to be on the first plane home, when clearly they're not. As I said, we have a new manager, an unsettled side, a bunch of injuries, and are lacking our best player. Yet we're 3-1-0 this month and still in the tournament! We're not Honduras or San Marino or New Zealand. We're doing OK.

  • Comment number 66.

    Right then, I've just seen Walcott's international performances compared to Messi and Ronaldo and now someone else is suggesting that the Ox situation may be comparable to Brazil bringing Pele to the 1958 World Cup. I'm off........I assume I don't have to explain further.

    England fans have kept their feet admirably on the ground so far but some worrying signs are creeping in now!

  • Comment number 67.

    Young and Milner were awful. young seems to lack confidence and looks nervous and anxious when he gets the ball when milner just simply lacks quality. But is changing the starting 11 the right thing to do? walcot can cause havoc when brought on with 20 mins ago against tired legs - it could be roys secret weapon. will he have the same impact when he starts is the question?

  • Comment number 68.

    @ 42. "I love the fact that all the Gerrard haters regarding his 'Hollywood passes' have gone quiet, since it has now become a revelation that he can put the ball on a six pence. Past it, me thinks not."

    I'm not going quietly Mr Liverpool fan.... Steven Gerrard was absolutely non existent tonight.... he didn't want the ball, looked like he was stuck in the mud and was strolling around as though it was a charity match. I'm a Gerrad fan, but his two recent performances as England captain and England midfielder have been well below average. Ok... you'll respond with the great ball in for the goal, the late run that should have got England a free kick on the edge of the box and the volley at the end which was a great save... to me that doesn't demonstrate a midfielder controlling a 90 minute game of football (which is the roll of your no.1 midfielder). And to be successful in this game you need a midfielder that can link play between defence and attack. How many times I saw the midfield walking in their designated channels with their back to Lescott or Terry who were in position, was embarrassing. no movement whatsoever! so static and rigid it was unbelievable. I understand being organised but this was taking the biscuit. "knock it up to Carroll!" RUBBISH!

    Gerrard needs to want the football if England are to progress in this tournament and he's needs to show some more class. A couple of decent passes (which we expect) and a late run is not good enough... Inniesta, Xavi, Sneijder, Schweinsteiger you are not! But if you pull your finger out, you can be...... ps. Might have to play Rooney in midfield at this rate!

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • Comment number 70.

    I am thrilled for England and the new boss. I am not worried about Euro12 I am looking forward to the future. I have watched England a long time and they have played like individuals stuck together rather than a team.
    I like the simple tactic of getting the ball to the attackers asap. It gives the team a purpose and they know what is expected.
    Unlike some I do not expect an average side to be world beaters over night. There are a few obvious problems to iron out but lets back the team rather than get on their backs.

  • Comment number 71.

    Looks like all the moaning muppets stayed up all night. Thought we played well last night although Young was truly dreadful and should have been subbed at half time. Slowly, slowly catchy monkey, we are improving with each game, let's see what happens on Tuesday. Considering before the tournament most people where saying we would be lucky to end up with a point after the 3 group games we aren't doing too bad (yes, that included me).

  • Comment number 72.

    @68 Yeah we haven't got an Inniesta, Xavi, Sneijder or Schweinsteiger and this isn't club football where we can go out and buy one. We have to play the players available. Can suggest a better midfield alternative to Gerrard? or you point is basically invalid.

  • Comment number 73.


    And yet Holland have exactly 0 points and only just scraped by us last time we played 3-2. We beat Spain last time we played them.

    The Germans have been pretty impressive.

    The truth of the matter is we are neither as bad as some think, or as good.
    With the right organisation and luck, we'll do ok.

    The thing with the rankings is, you can't argue with results and whatever you say in general England are there or thereabouts when you get down to the best 8-10 teams in the world. Regular qf's of tournaments and good qualifying results in general.

  • Comment number 74.

    What a good game and what a good result well done England. Lets just enjoy this while it lasts.

    I was so disappointed with Ashley Young's performance but i'm sure he'll turn it around.

  • Comment number 75.

    My respect for Hodgson and my confidence in his decisions has soared after this game. I can't recall any previous England manager making such assured tactical changes to deliver so comprehensive a success. Capello? Eriksson? I don't recall any other manager putting their own stamp so effectively on a competitive game. Not to say the team had a good game - but the manager certainly did.

  • Comment number 76.

    Am not an England fan but u guys were brilliant last nite. England have never beaten Sweden in a competition and the last time England came from a goal down to win a game in a competition was at the world cup in 1990. The defence was not at it's best but the heart was there. Those who say they will be found out against stronger teams are simply jealous because they Expected England to fail due to their disapproval of Hodgson. England played France with defensive solidity and with Rooney back, I back them to be even stronger. I love Walcott and was glad for him. This is his first real tournament and he has impressed. I hate playing against him due to his pace. Johnson has been England's best defender so far, anybody saying otherwise simply didnt watch the games. Put ur club rivalries aside and analyse objectively while appreciating a well earned victory

  • Comment number 77.

    I can't believe how many people can't just enjoy an England win. Yes Sweden were better than us at the start of the second half but you don't dominate entire games. It amuses me how moderate expectation has now become the need for perfection in all areas of the pitch!

    Three well taken goals, some poor defending, a manager who responded well under the circumstances, a hearty comeback and the right result at the end of a pulsating match. As a football fan I'd call that a good night.

  • Comment number 78.


    What a load of rubbish. Do you actually watch the games?
    England wold be an infinitely poorer team without Gerrard.

    What is the obsession with knocking the finest midfielder of a generation, just because he doesn't single handedly beat a team on his own anymore?

    You might wonder how Xavi, Iniesta etc do it and why Gerrard can't? Perhaps it's because they put 6 really, really good midfielders in the team to help out and play a retention based game. What's Gerrard supposed to do? Pass it to Parker 250 times? Would you say he was good then?

    And as for Sniejder....clearly he has magnificently controlled the games he has played in to marshal his team to 2 victories and smashing Denmark to oblivion in the process...oh hang on....

    Great example that one!

  • Comment number 79.

    @78 My point is that Gerrard, when on top his game can be as effective as these players - we need Gerrard to link play from defence to attack. He needs to want the ball and mix his game up - as he has done a million times in the past. Short passes, long passes, hollywood passes, quick balls in (as he has done), great crosses... short runs, bursting runs, one touch, two touch, quick turn, little stepover - he's capable of all of this - we need him to do it! Doing this, coupled with wearing that armband, he can inspire the whole team... and if he does and with Mr Rooney back, we could actually challenge for this championship! Come on England!

  • Comment number 80.

    Phew, that was exciting and a bit scary. Good first half performance, followed by a disaster in the first part of the second half. Credit to Hodgson for making the right change and giving Walcott a chance to use his pace to run at a tiring Swedish defence. Fantastic header by Carroll, but i wouldn't play him against Ukraine. Both Sweden's set piece goals came from clumsy fouls by Carroll and Milner, so I hope that's made clear in the analysis. I thought Terry and Cole both had iffy games and I would give Jagielka and Baines a place against Ukraine, but I'm sure that won't happen. Gerrard and Parker doing a good job in midfield but if we get through the group we might need an extra body in midfield. Nice to get the country smiling for the weekend.

  • Comment number 81.

    Ye Gods. What a bunch of whingers!
    The majority of posters whine when we get a draw against a side unbeaten in 22 matches and then are moaning when we win a match for the first time ever (in competition) against another side. Please lets just say that at the moment we're better off than Holland (not out but relying on other results) Portugal (not out but relying on other results) Italy (not out but relying on other results) Ireland & Sweden (out).
    Just for once can the doom merchants let us enjoy a win?
    Yes cause for worry with some defending but yes it was a win with a manager who prefers to do the practical AND reacts rather than just looks smart on the touchline.

  • Comment number 82.

    I see this as a great confidence builder. Lots of mistakes but we've accepted that this is a work in progress for Hodgson and we're playing to our strengths. It became a street fight in many ways but we know our players are up for that.

    Carroll was impressive and played hard. Rooney will be back of course although I think Young should make way.
    We still have some work to do and Ukraine will be a real test but we can feel better about this squad than anything Capello ever put together.

  • Comment number 83.

    Hodgson was anything but decisive. It was the players who fought back as he was biting his finger nails in shock at going behind.

  • Comment number 84.

    Milner looks and plays like a farmer - keep Walcott. Rooney in for the hapless Young otherwise no change.

  • Comment number 85.

    That was Liverpool vs Sweden for large periods of time.

    Ashley Young was the worst player on the pitch

    He worked hard, but Ukraine will pick at Terry like a scab.

  • Comment number 86.

    Spain and Germany are the only two teams that I would say England have almost no chance against. Other than them England look like they have a fair chances against the rest of the teams. That's not such a bad situation given the last-minute nature of this team and the lack of players of great quality in it.

  • Comment number 87.

    I would have Walcott as an impact sub. He is fast and is even more effective against a tiring team. Young was given too much freedom, but with Rooney and Wellbeck his role becomes better defined. However Young has a problem that he is a little to light to deal wth large attackers. Careful thought must be given to his defensive role.

    What I find curious is that Terry is cited as agreat leader of the defence. His personal positional sense is excellent, but if he is such a great leader, why do the defence often go walkabout? I certainly feel that as he is slowing up he should not play for England after the Euros.

    Milner ..... just hasn't quite got waht it takes. I would always have him in my squad as he can fill gaps, but he is not quite a first team player. I would play him deeper.

  • Comment number 88.

    sois sage
    A word of wisdom to those who suggest that Walcott is inept & invisible. What utter CLAPTRAP.
    Without Walcott brilliant performance today England would have been sent packing off the Euros instead of the Swedes.
    In comparison what has Rooney delivered in the Euros or WC tournaments to-date?
    Likewise Jones? One has been rather abysmal, inept, unproductive & a liability so far and the other is still invisible literally. I stand to be corrected.

    Walcott's performance on the other hand is the BEST so far to-date in the Euros 2012. A CI of 79.6 attest to that too.

    WoW (should be WoC) is just another Patch that is full of IT i.e erroneously postings.

  • Comment number 89.

    @68 Just about the most sensible suggestion I have read - play Rooney in midfield. I have always thought it was a waste to have converted him into a striker.

  • Comment number 90.

    This was evidence that England can play attacking football too with the right players. Nevertheless there were signs that our defense is wobbly and slow then again having watched the Ukraine game against France, I can't see them posing too much of a threat, they are highly vulnerable at the back and lose possession quite easily. That bears a certain resemblance to England doesn't it?
    We'll have to be as positive as possible and go for a win, nevermind whether we end up top of the group or not - anyway we'll be playing a top class team and so will France. If I were Hodgson I'd go for the attacking duo of Welbeck and Rooney and stick with Young on the left - we still haven't seen the best of him yet. On the right we definitely need to inject pace and Walcott has proved he fits the bill. As for Milner, I'm afraid he isn't up to standard for the international scene.
    At the back we don't have the choice and will have to accept that it might be our weak point. I can't see Hodgson taking the risk of pairing Jones with Lescott in such a fixture but I'm a bit concerned for Terry he seemed to be nursing an injury.
    Let's see where it takes us, great performance, we showed what we hadn't shown which is : attacking football and goals.
    I'd take that score against Ukraine!

  • Comment number 91.

    What I saw last night was two average teams with woeful GK/Defenders, Walcott's goal was pathetic GK at best, it was a 'just have a pop' shot and hope for the best, and the GK should have saved it.

    If England play Italy (providing both get through) they have a chance of reaching the semi-finals, and I've backed the Italians and trust me they are poor (but didn't know that before backing them ahaha), play Spain and its good night IMO, they won't get away with it against that lot..

  • Comment number 92.

    #65. Nice post.

  • Comment number 93.

    First and foremost, a good end result but the 3 points should never have been in doubt against a weak Sweden team.

    The turning point was when we were 2-1 down. At that point we threw off the Hodgson defensive shackles and actually started to reveal our attacking ability. (Contrary to reports, playing two players up front in a 4-4-2 formation is not attacking).

    With a decent manager at the helm we could show this more often but unfortunately we appear to be stuck with an avergage, negative, anti-relegation specialist in Roy Hodgson. A man so undeserving of the England managerial position that his appointment defies logic.

    It was plain to see that Sweden were awful in the air at the back so the decision to bring in Carroll was a no-brainer as was Walcott's introduction at the end. Hardly proof of being a tactical genius is it?! Both players should regard themselves as being unlucky not to start irrespective of who we are playing.

    Ashley Young was woeful, Milner hardly crossed the ball and Welbeck (apart from his fluke goal) was clearly out of his depth. Thank god we had Gerrard, Walcott and Carroll!!!

    It really is difficult to see England going further than the QF, should they make it that far, not because of the lack of talent on the pitch but the inept manager we have stood one side of it.


  • Comment number 94.

    6 years ago Walcott never got off the bench @ 2206 WC because SGE didn't have the temerity to sent him on. To suggest or alllude to his 'inept performances' when he wasn't given the opportunity is disingeneous.

    In 2008 Walcott became the youngest player in history to score a hattrick for England against Croatia (another of our nemesis) in a WC qualifier.

    He was left out of 2010 WC by Capello . In between his performance, hampered by his injuries, was unfairly slated.

    Greater man has erroneously slagged Walcott and admitted to it.

    "In January 2011, Capello admitted that he had made a mistake in not selecting Walcott for the 2010 World Cup".

    A couple of word of wisdom;

    sois sage

  • Comment number 95.

    Almost gets forgotten Hodgson was in his 90th match as an international manager.

    Perhaps the FA got it right, after all?

  • Comment number 96.

    It should be 2006 WC. A glitch.
    Admittedly my mistake ;)

  • Comment number 97.

    Ibrahimovic's reaction to Sweden's second goal was revolting. I only hope Hart rubbed his nose in it after the game.

  • Comment number 98.

    His reaction was nearly as revolting as most of the comments on here. football is all about winning, which we did. why can't you enjoy that?

  • Comment number 99.

    @68 - your post is a joke. He was far from average, got an assist and controlled the tempo of the game throughout. Don't get me wrong, he is far from as dynamic as in his previous years but the guy is playing with parker (offers nothing going forward), Milner (good at defending but where is his creativity?) and Young (who has been quite frankly abysmal). You can have the same argument with a Utd fan that Carrick is better than Gerrard because of his trophy cabinet....totally irrelevant as it is the players around you that make the team.

    Additionally, I am not mr Liverpool - I merely do not lambasting of a player that has put in good performances in the last 2 games. Maybe you should stop watching the highlights and actually watch the game....just a suggestion.

    As for post 93 - what are you smoking? We have 4 points after 2 games and you think we should sack him. Give me a break and go and watch the Teletubbies.

  • Comment number 100.

    I was more gutted that we didn't score a 4th and go top of the group. we always seem to screw ourselves on goal difference and end up playing the better team from the other group.


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