All our supporters were hoping tonight for this final warm-up against fellow finalists Costa Rica, to show-off an England team that didn’t fall-away in the second half, as they did last Saturday in a 2-1 win against Nigeria, didn’t they?
You see, ‘on results’ England was up against a better team here than Nigeria, so it promised to be a good test before flying-off to their St Petersburg training camp and the real action commencing against Tunisia in ten days time at Volgograd, Russia [a critical ‘must win’ game?], eh?
Now, England have had the last four years to establish their best starting eleven, so surely in this the final warm-up match against Costa Rica before the World Cup, we would have expected Manager Gareth Southgate to have fielded his ‘final selection’, rather than giving potential substitute players a run-out, shouldn’t we? But NO, in the line-up instead ONLY 1 player started last time as he has fielded 6 players who never even got on the pitch against Nigeria last Saturday (and 4 of the others were subs last time given so few minutes they were irrelevant] – does he actually know what he is doing, or is he floundering around at the final hour [like we have seen before from past managers], eh?
Well, this is how it went tonight ladies and gents:
England made a good start with their pressure overriding a tentative Costa Rica [who looked a bit jaded – perhaps they were still jet-lagged after a long trip here?]. Marcus Rashford had a great game and scored a marvelous long-range first-half goal that demonstrated fantastic confidence (though the keeper should have saved it).
The musical chairs’ half dozen substitutions late in the second half (starting in the last 30mins), broke-up any rhythm England had, so the match became a bit meaningless thereafter [though after a good build-up, substitute Danny Welbeck scored a fine headed second goal for England with a quarter of an hour to go].
England were absolutely dominant for the whole game, with Costa Rica not able to get in the game and basically unable to clear their lines [hemmed-in they did a lot of back-peddling and back-passing and often resorted to playing the long ball]. Costa Rica did though have a couple of unconverted chances, when England were lucky to get away with it after the defence were caught-out
England’s movement off the ball was only sparsely good, not enough chances were made, and at times the pace of the game was very slow, which doesn’t auger well for England’s prospects against the best teams, does it?
So, the end result was a clean-sheet win 2-0, but a convincing win here doesn’t really provide a basis for confidence of success in the coming weeks, surely?
Certainly, we now have no idea who will start in the game against Tunisia – but does Southgate have a clue either, eh?
This time round our fans need to be more realistic about England’s prospects of success at the World Cup. That is because we are no longer one of the top-class teams, are we? What fans have a right to expect however, is a team that performs to its potential, has a bit of spunk, and shows a British bulldog fighting spirit even when facing defeat – and that is something that has been badly missing in past international tournaments, hasn’t it? It does our prospects no good whatsoever when the likes of ‘likely’ captain Harry Kane claims that he is there to win the Trophy, or the somewhat untested Manager Gareth Southgate (only 20 months in charge) over-stating the team’s chances of progression, eh?
Just remember as well though, that this is young and inexperienced squad of 23 players [not least the goalkeepers with less than ten caps between them all three when squad announced], and only half of them are likely in fact to get more than a couple of hours playing use in Russia, won’t you?
[It turns-out that the England’s squad is the least experienced of all 32 countries at this World Cup].
Moreover, there are a number of issues impacting our national team’s demise, don’t you think?
The biggest of those is certainly the FA’s shambolic failure to protect home-grown first-class football, and instead have incompetently and irresponsibly handed-over control of English football [the FA’s sole responsibility] to foreign money. That is why our Clubs are predominately ‘foreign owned’ cash-cows or vanity projects for overseas rich men (some of dubious character and source of wealth), the influential Managers (some not even English speaking) are imported mercenaries, and the Players world tourist gold-diggers to who the word ‘loyalty’ is an enigma.
The consequences of all that is that the bulk of the money going into English football [TV rights, advertising, gate receipts, merchandising, etc] is siphoned-off and disappears over the waters (without substantial taxes being paid), major players (and agents) crème-off obscene payments in transfer fees, wages and xx rights (while avoiding tax), leaving very little real cash to support grass-root football, let alone fund the very talented kids [often working-class], who will never make it unless their families can stomp-up large sums of money to support their son playing in a cub’s academy team.
Nor is there the major funding needed to encourage the increasing volume of women and girls playing football (despite their talent) and that is compounded by no encouragement or incentive [for example the Premiership clubs’ ladies teams aren’t allowed to play at their stadiums [have to go elsewhere], and the ‘famous’ Manchester United ditched their female team over a decade ago because they figured it was not part of the core business, no less?].
In the men’s game we no longer as a nation produce world class players, and that is because playing experience is the paramount developer – and our English talent can hardly get a kick in the most competitive matches because teams are packed with expensive imports. Just now we probably have only one really world class player (Kane), with only a few that might visibly make that grade (Sterling, Rashford, Stones, Alli, are still short of the mark)
In the past though we have had numerous world class players, like say arguably Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Alan Shearer, Ashley Cole, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville, David Owen, Kevin Keegan, Gary Lineker, John Barnes, Glen Hoddle, Ian Wright, Matt Le Tissier, Stuart Pearce, Paul Gascoigne, Sol Campbell, John Barnes, Robbie Fowler, etc, but not any longer, eh?
[Fingers crossed for England’s tournament in Russia and hopes they don’t let us down this time]
World Cup Finals’ Rules for progression
Group Stage: 4 teams in each of 8 league groups [A B C D E F G]
Top 2 teams in each Group qualify to progress
Round of Sixteen Winner A v. Runner-up B = 1
Winner B v. Runner-up A = 2
Winner C v. Runner-up D = 3
Winner D v. Runner-up C = 4
Winner E v. Runner-up F = 5
Winner F v. Runner-up E = 6
Winner G v. Runner-up H = 7
Winner H v. Runner-up G = 8
All winning 8 teams to progress
Quarter Finals Winner 1 v. Winner 3 = A
Winner 2 v. Winner 4 = B
Winner 5 v. Winner 7 = C
Winner 6 v. Winner 8 = D
The winning 4 teams to progress
Semi Finals Winner A v. Winner C
Winner B v. Winner D
The winning 2 teams to progress
Final 15th July