England Starting team : Hart, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose, Dier, Rooney, Alli, Lallana, Kane, Sterling
Subs used : : Wilshere for Rooney, Milner for Sterling,
As soon as Roy Hodgson announced his team for this first match yesterday in France, we either feared or knew we were in trouble, didn’t we? Yes, what ought to have been a consolidating practice match against Portugal last week, turned out to be another disastrous experimental foray (which included using FIVE substitutes) in the image of what he has been doing for the last two years, since his last debacle at the World Cup.
His starting XI for this critical encounter against Russia at Euro 2016 differed notably from the one he fielded last week as Rooney ‘nominally’ a forward was playing behind, with Lallana, listed as a midfielder was playing as a striker, as was Sterling who shouldn’t have been picked anyway as he was in poor form last season, and sadly that simply continued in this crucial match, didn’t it?
It would seem that Hodgson had ’lost the place’ – and he was picking his team in a state of panic, don’t you think? But the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say – and so its proved, eh? England got a dreadful result against Russia, though not a disastrous one, don’t you think?
The bottom line is that England came away with a 1-1 draw, despite a thoroughly dominating first half display, when they had countless chances to put the ball in the back of the net and failed miserably. As a Rooney disbeliever (in particular as him as a striker), it is only fair to record that his display in this match, playing in midfield, was credibly outstanding. On the other side of the scale Harry Kane had a mare, so obviously should have been substituted, and exactly why is the Country’s top striker taking corners when he is supposed to be in the penalty box scoring goals, for goodness sake?
This team was billed to field an unstoppable attacking force that would strike fear into the heart of opposition defences, but that was a fallacy, as many of us cynics suspected. England certainly thoroughly tormented a poor Russian side, BUT they failed to score a single goal from open play, and indeed NONE of the players selected for the match as so called strikers/forwards got the actual goal – it was banged-in from a set-piece by a defender turned midfielder no less (with a scoring record second to everyone?).
Rubbish (oops) Roy Hodgson is consistent in failing to deliver a start-off win on such occasions, and as we saw he certainly wasn’t blessed with good luck on this one, was he? But nevertheless it is difficult to fathom his mindset when it comes to his substitutions – which without doubt cost him this match. When he ought to have made substitutions that were being cried out for, he failed to do so (as normal), and he compounded that with making ones unbelievably late-on, that were incomprehensible, surely?
Initially, just 5 minutes after England scored and with barely 12 minutes to go, he took-off Wayne Rooney who had proved effective, and brought-on his hero player Jack Wilshere, an injury prone midfielder who hasn’t played a full match lately. At one-nil up with a dozen minutes to go Hodgson, if anything, should have been thinking of sealing the match with another goal, using the pace of extraordinary striker Jamie Vardy to make a breakaway run behind and stretch the Russian defence, shouldn’t he? Instead he uses a player who as a weak finisher hasn’t scored a single goal all SEASON, only half a dozen goals in eight seasons, and just a couple of goals in thirty-two appearances for England.
Then just 3 minutes from fulltime, Hodgson compounded matters and further upsets things by finally axing failing Raheem Sterling in favour of yet another midfielder James Milner, who has been described by some as experienced but an ineffective squad player, so is not really somebody to beef-up a suspect defence under violent attack in the closing minutes of a key game, surely? This single substitution didn’t specifically cause the Russian goal, but it certainly contributed towards it you can be sure, eh?
Even if Hodgson had put on a proper defender for the last few minutes, it ‘might’ have been excusable, or at least a defensive midfielder but not a central midfielder, indubitably?
This result has undoubtedly been a setback for England, not only by the loss of two points but more so by the loss of credibility and team confidence – when you don’t win a match like this, it both sows the seeds of doubt and increases the moral of the next opponent, and on Thursday, that happens to be Wales (who not unexpectedly won their opener against lowly Slovakia) -England daren’t lose that one, eh?
[It is not all over for England by a long chalk, but Roy Hodgson faces four sleepless nights before he comes-up with his next dream-team – and you can bet it won’t be the one he fielded last night, will it?]