Euro 2012 Day Four: Manchester City's Joleon Lescott Is The New Sol Campbell And Other Things We Learned
Joleon Lescott Is The New Sol Campbell
When the centre-back made his big money move from Everton to Man City, myself and many others were never really sold on him being able to live up to the transfer. Indeed, there were a few shaky moments that made that price-tag seem almost as laughable as his hairline. However, this season he has grown in stature for his club, being instrumental in winning the title and is now ready to convert that form to the international stage.
There was a lot of talk lamenting Gary Cahill’s broken jaw, but as he showed against France, it’s Lescott that should have been starting alongside Terry anyway. His ability to tackle, man-mark and his aerial threat on set plays will make him one of the stand-out players of a tournament that is likely to be short for England. There’s no doubt though that had he not been playing against France things would have been very different.
Welbeck Is Not An International Class Striker
After all the speculation about how weak the French centre-backs were, the decision not to start the big frame of Andy Carroll up front looks an increasingly strange one. Regardless of that debate though,it’s clear that Danny Welbeck is not ready to lead the line for England. Andy Townsend might have been impressed with his “enthusiastic” running but an international striker needs a bit more about them than chasing balls like a dog at the beach.
He lacked the ability to bring the midfield into play, couldn’t hold the ball up, went on mazy dribbles that invariably ended with him mis-controlling the ball and knocking it out of play or straight back to France. The reality is that he’s just not good enough and his statistics at club level would really bare this out if people could get past the fact that he’s a United player.
Andy Townsend might have been impressed with Welbeck's “enthusiastic” running, but an international striker needs a bit more about them than chasing balls like a dog at the beach
Yohan Cabaye Belongs In The French Team
Despite being one of the few players with just a couple of caps to his name, Cabaye was one of the standout performers for the French and looked comfortable and accomplished on the ball. What has been overlooked by the media, who instead chose to focus on France's unbeaten run that now stretches to 22 games, is that their side – like England – is also in a major transition, with big names struggling to be replaced. Cabaye can certainly smooth that transition as he looks every part the international midfielder.
Full of tenacious tackling that was allowed to continue past the point where he should have been booked about four times, his long range shooting kept Hart on his toes and his variety of passing was sublime. He has looked a great acquisition for Newcastle this season - a key factor in them punching above their weight - but to make the step up in this manner and control a midfield contested by Parker and Gerrard shows that he will continue to get better.
France Aren’t Really That Good
There’s no way the winner of the tournament was going to come from this group anyway, but anyone who talked up France as potential winners will probably feel a bit stupid after this showing. England were ordinary and despite holding the bulk of possession and a higher pass completion rate, France could do nothing with it.
On paper they have one or two big name stars but if you look at the quality through the team, it simply doesn’t bear comparison with the genuine contenders at the European Championships. Ribery is overrated and is a one trick showpony, Mexes just looks like a horse ready for the knackers yard, Malouda goes missing in games like almost no-one else in football… If you were to remove the trinity of Cabaye, Nasri and Benzema you’d be looking at a very ordinary side indeed.
Don’t be surprised to see them struggle in their other games. They’ll get out of the groups but that’s all they can really expect to achieve with this squad.
If you were to remove the trinity of Cabaye, Nasri and Benzema from France then you’d be looking at a very ordinary side indeed
Sweden Are Nothing Without Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has his fans and critics alike at club level, however there’s no denying his importance for his national team. Without him Sweden simply don’t look capable of scoring and every good attacking move they put together almost invariably runs through him. What happens when he has an off day? Well, they fail to beat the opposition that they have to in order to progress from the groups.
Despite looking like the best player on the pitch, the gangly centre forward had a massive mental block when it came to putting the ball in the back of the net and with a team around him that seemed intent on self-destructing – see the comedy defending of Olof Mellberg or the constant failings of Elmander– it was clear that no one was going to lift the weight from his shoulders.
Had he converted a few more of the chances he had instead of just the one, or had he another player around him to convert the many he created, Sweden would have been comfortable. However, in the end, it was another talismanic striker that would steal the show.
Shevchenko Is The New Roger Milla
Going into the tournament it didn’t even look like he’d be included in the squad, with the legendary striker obviously being past his best and at almost 36 years of age too old to be relied upon… Right? However, a last minute change of heart saw him included and in possession that amounted to just 15 seconds of game time he managed to single handedly win the game for his country, the co-hosts, to set off jubilant scenes in the Ukraine.
Let’s just hope Shevchenko doesn’t start bogling down by the corner flag
His status as a legend was already assured with over a hundred caps and a goalscoring ratio close to a goal every other game. However, few even the Ukraine would have dared to dream that he would be enjoying one last hurrah and currently playing himself into contention for the golden boot with two clinical finishes from the master marksman.
Interestingly enough it was defensive lapses of concentration that enabled him to get into the space and convert the chances. You’ve got to wonder what could happen given that John Terry has his mind on other things right now and France’s defensive frailties have been well discussed. Could the old man go on to propel his team out of the groups? That’d be a story almost as amazing as Milla doing the same for Cameroon. Let’s just hope Shevchenko doesn’t start bogling down by the corner flag.
Or, if you miss it live, you can watch it straight after on YouTube here
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