England can get results without the Manchester United Striker, France struggle without Cabaye, Why Ibrahimovic is world class and all the other action from Day 12.
England Are Not Entertainers
It’s easy to forget just how drab the Sweden game was prior to the requirement to score some goals. Prior to that the France game had also been a snooze-fest. Indeed, Hodgson’s short tenure seems to have turned England into the vintage Arsenal, just not quite as defensively astute nor as good at keeping possession. There is no doubt that the Ukraine were the much better side against England and in the first half especially their passing and movement eclipsed anything put together by the England stars.
It’s hard to know exactly why this might be. Perhaps the insistence on playing Parker in such a subdued midfield role has choked what little creativity there was in midfield to death. Maybe persisting in playing strikers that simply can’t hold the ball up is a factor. Regardless, England looked anything but assured on the ball and the brand of football they are looking to play at the moment would be more fitting from a nation that lacks the players at England’s disposal.
Still, it has proven to be effective, largely thanks to the efforts of the England back line who, with the exception of Glen Johnson, have looked solid. Effective football that yields result, built on a bedrock of solid defensive work? It might be winning football against the minnows but there’s bigger fish in the pond at a European Championships.
England Do Not Need Rooney
Hodgson’s constant hype about our supposedly talismanic player has started to grate twelve days in. Today he compared him to Pele – quite a claim for a player who hadn’t scored in an international tournament for eight years prior to his unspectacular tap in against the Ukraine. It ignores the fact that there’s a reason we couldn’t select him in the first place, that once again he had got himself sent off needless through his petulance. It even overlooks even the statistical evidence that shows England have a higher win rate without him.
One notable first touch was so bad it turned into a backheel that played the ball about ten yards away from where he first made contact.
The way Hodgson talked him up I’d have expected something incredible. Instead what we got was someone who looked out of shape, overweight – his body shape tends to fluctuate about as much as Ricky Hatton’s – and lacking any of the qualities of an international footballer, let alone one in the same league as Pele.
Missing a sitter in the first half, seemingly because he was worried that a firm header might unstitch his hair transplant, his all round passing was also absolutely criminal. One notable first touch was so bad it turned into a backheel that played the ball about ten yards away from where he first made contact. And for a player that is supposed to be one capable of unlocking defences when played clean through with only one defender near him, he managed to run so slowly that by the time he’d lost the ball the whole Ukrainian team were back in the box.
History will show he scored a goal, a goal that took two deflections and was palmed to him by the worst keeper in the tournament, that put England top of their group. Anyone watching the video evidence will know that in reality starting someone else might have yielded better results.
No Matter How Many Assistant Referees You Have, Goal Line Technology Is Required
The Ukraine can feel aggrieved for sure. More possession, more chances, more shots on target and a perfectly good goal disallowed. The commentators on ITV may have tried to make out it was some form of cosmic justice for Lampard’s disallowed goal, as if the Germans, the Ukrainians and the referees were all out to get good old England.
We have the technology, time to use it. The only difference is that it’s not English voices that will be shouting the loudest.
In reality it’s just a bad decision and had it been given you have to wonder how England would have reacted. Would we have seen more of the Swedish “heroics” or would they have capitulated? We’ll never know and it’s Ukraine that suffer, earning nothing for their endeavours and denied the opportunity to finish their campaign with a little bit of pride having got a result against one of the bigger nations they would face.
How it was missed is in itself incredible. An assistant referee so close to it and yet still uncertain to give it as a lunging John Terry created a credible deception, sewing enough doubt into the mind of all concerned not to award the goal. It may well create a talking point, it may well add some drama but doesn’t it just boil down to tolerated ineptitude? We have the technology, time to use it. The only difference is that it’s not English voices that will be shouting the loudest.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Is The Greatest Swedish Player Of All Time
The Swedish campaign was cut short by a series of defensive errors, unlikely goalscorers and bizarre deflections. You’d have to conclude that because the team that nearly upset the apple cart against England, humbled France and looked arguably like the side that should be going through to the quarter-finals. Of course, at the spearhead of their attack was Zlatan Imbrahimovic, a player that has looked incredible every time he has touched the ball this tournament.
That might come as no surprise to some of you but while he might be unstoppable in Pro Evo, I’ve never really known what to make of him at club level. He always seemed to me patchy and inconsistent, playing for big clubs for short periods for reasons that always suggested he wasn’t the real deal. And yet the player I have witnessed tear apart defences and score great goals is without doubt the best thing Sweden have ever produced in footballing terms.
Of course, at the spearhead of their attack was Zlatan Imbrahimovic, a player that has looked incredible every time he has touched the ball this tournament.
His volley was the finish of a true master and while Rooney was huffing and puffing in Donetsk, Zlatan was leading his team to a memorable victory. It could have been a lot more than 2-0 and they celebrated like it meant something at the final whistle. The big centre-forward got a standing ovation and was warmly embraced by his players. Indeed, his contribution has been world class and it’s a shame we’re not going to see more of him this tournament.
France Without Cabaye Will Struggle
Whether he was left out of the team for tactical reasons or just to rest France looked a very different prospect in midfield. Diarra was still snapping at heels as fiercely as ever and Nasri was content to dribble but without a composed figure to put his foot on the ball they looked sorely lacking when it came to mounting attacks. The Newcastle midfielder has exceeded expectations and has become instrumental to the French side and in his absence they crashed to their first defeat in 24 games.
The defeat couldn’t be solely attributed to his absences – for starters people are finally starting to realise that Mexes is absolutely dreadful and will fold under the slightest bit of pressure – but he certainly felt like the missing part of the jigsaw as France failed to play the sort of possession game that they managed against England and the Ukraine.
The real acid test for Cabaye to show his worth will be coming against Spain, where the relatively inexperienced player will have to battler against the likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas. A tall order for sure but if he can shut them down and play the game that he has so far, he could be the one to keep an eye on in the next fixture.
France Might Have Got Lucky Dodging Italy
While Italy seem to be slowly getting better as the tournament has gone by, Spain haven’t seemed that impressive outside of their embarrassingly easy game against the Republic of Ireland. In truth Croatia should have knocked them out of the competition, spurning some easy chances that were far better than anything Spain created before their late winner as Croatia pushed.
Spain have instead looked wasteful and at times indolent.
France have been inconsistent, average against England, dominant against the Ukraine and woeful against Sweden. Clearly they will need a lift and where Italy are looking like having players who will start to find their clinical edge – Di Natale, Cassano and Ballotelli all starting to look sharp – Spain have instead looked wasteful and at times indolent.
A confidence team comprised of egos bigger than their respective talents France will need a good start if they are to settle and they are more likely to get that against Spain than they are against Italy. A few thwarted attacks and some good moves of their own and they might just believe they can win the tie. They don’t realise it yet though – the sombre mood when they realised they had got Spain in the next round was more in keeping with a side that had crashed out of the competition altogether.
Neither side have been impressive or lived up to what their squad should be able to do so far and while it’s doubtless Spain have much better players at their disposal, that means little if they continue to play in the manner they have. France might have just dodged a bullet without even realising it.
Other Manchester United articles you might like...
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook