Euro 2012: Manchester United's Danny Welbeck Has Balls Of Steel And Other Things We Learnt From Day Eight

Danny Welbeck might not yet be the perfect candidate to lead England's line, but the audacity he displayed deserves to be applauded...
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Danny Welbeck might not yet be the perfect candidate to lead England's line, but the audacity he displayed deserves to be applauded...

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Euro 2012: Manchester United's Danny Welbeck Has Balls Of Steel And Other Things We Learnt From Day Eight

It Can Piss Down At Any Time

The deluge in Donetsk came from nowhere, a huge torrential downpour that looked like it might stop the Ukraine versus France match as if an act of God had intervened for the home nation. As the pitch filled up like a bath it looked as if the pitch would be waterlogged for days to come and the match would most likely have to played at some other time.

However, if there were any doubt about the facilities and staff at the grounds in the Ukraine, then they should be put to rest as after only an hour or so the game was back on. Sadly for all those involved it simply made them co-conspirators in potentially sending their own team out of the tournament after France ran rings around them in the slightly soggy conditions many felt at the time would play to the Ukraine’s strengths.

Ribery Might Just Come Alive This Tournament

I’m not really a fan of the winger and that’s not just because he looks like something from that bar in Star Wars. A great talent that infrequently delivers the end product you sense he might be capable of, he also seems to be one dimensional, the sort of tricky player whose tricks are easily read by world class defenders.

If he can play like this for the rest of the competition we’ll be able to scratch his name from the list of disappointing stars

How the Ukraine must have wished they had a few of those then because in this game almost everything France did of a positive nature they did through Ribery. His dribbling was a constant outlet, usually employed thanks to the industry and accurate passing of Cabaye, and no Ukrainian defender could get close to him.

So far in this tournament there have been some big name let downs and Ribery’s most prominent contribution against England was to try and get Glen Johnson sent off for a phantom elbow. If he can play like this for the rest of the competition we’ll be able to scratch his name from the list of disappointing stars and he might just allow France to punch above their decidedly average weight.

The Ukraine Will Look To Bully England

Even in the dreadful conditions the French had too much guile and creativity for the Ukrainians who simply had to resort to hoof it and hope tactics. Most of that hope resided with Shevchenko continuing to defy the odds and propel his country forward. However, while that might work for the odd match here and there, as a sustained tactic for a tournament it’s not a good idea.

Fortunately for them they will know that if they beat England they will progress and based on the showing against Sweden England will struggle with the balls into the box. Expect then the Ukrainians to not change their strategy ahead of that game and also for them to get some joy against a defence that looked static and weak when put under pressure.

Expect Rooney to be sporting a few bruises on his shins if this showing is anything to go by.

They also were not shy of putting in a challenge and in the same way they tried to stop Ribery by foul means when fair failed, expect Rooney to be sporting a few bruises on his shins if this showing is anything to go by.

England Have Fighting Spirit

Despite looking comfortable in the first half against Sweden, once again the worrying sight of our players blowing out their arse after fifty minutes will not have come as a welcome one. When the seemingly inevitable equaliser arrived, only then to be followed by Glen Johnson’s first blunder of the tournament costing what looked like a Swedish winner. The fans looked like they knew it was over and the commentators lambasted the “same old England” for sinking without a trace.

Perhaps this new “lack of expectation” from an ordinary squad of players led by an unspectacular manager is the platform the players need to actually overachieve. Seemingly having not read the script entitled “The further adventures of disappointing England”, the players dug themselves out of a pretty big hole with belief and positive play.

At 2-2 it might have been easy to settle on a draw and go for broke against the Ukraine however they pressed on and got a winner that was just about deserved on the balance of play. Surely then at 3-2 you shut up shop? Having none of it. England attacked till the end and looked to add to their goal difference, which given how slack they were in their defensive work was unwise but strangely welcome to see.

Danny Welbeck Has Balls Of Steel

First, and this needs to be said, he really shouldn’t be leading the line for England. He’s a very good club level player and a genuine talent for the future however you shouldn’t be getting your education at an international tournament. Only the finished article should be attending. You don’t smooth the edges of a rough diamond with the hopes of a nation. No-one ever wins in those circumstances.

He’s not clinical, he’s not good enough at holding the ball up and he lacks the blistering pace of other international players. However, what he does have are absolute balls of steel, the lack of fear to try something outrageous when the smart thing to do is rely on the ordinary. We saw a flash of it before his brilliant winner for England, an audacious take with this inside of his foot that was like a mid-air Cruyff turn. The best was yet to come.

The best thing to do is try and turn it on to another England player even though it’s unlikely they’ll get there. Or you could try to score with a backheel…

At 2-2 a fairly ordinary looking ball has come into the box. Welbeck is well jockeyed by the defender. There’s no space for a shot on target. The best thing to do is try and turn it on to another England player even though it’s unlikely they’ll get there. Or you could try to score with a backheel… I mean, you do them in training, right? Why not just do them in this vitally important game?

And so it was. Welbeck deftly turned it in using the only technique that made it possible to score and it was reminiscent of something you’d see from a vintage Kanu. It put England on the road to victory and only Welbeck would have had the stones to try it. So, he might find himself surplus to requirements now that Rooney is back from suspension but any plaudits are he takes from this tournament are deserved simply for having the guts to try the outlandish.

Walcott Deserves Better From England And Arsenal Fans Alike

There have been few English players as heavily criticised for not doing a lot wrong than Theo Walcott. Hailed as the toast of the nation when he banged in a hat-trick against Croatia in Zagreb, since then he has mostly been lambasted for “having no end product” as he continues to do his wing work for club and country. Capello even threatened to “kill him” for not playing in the way he wanted, that from a manager who defended Terry and Rooney.

Of course, some of it is true. He doesn’t really know how to deliver a killer cross and often, after beating a player with his pace, he over-complicates proceedings and allows the defence to recover. By the same token it’s easy to get that he’s only 23, is England’s paciest player and insists that he would be best employed as a striker despite every manager he works with seeing him as a winger.

In the end it wasn’t the captain Gerrard, or the alleged born leader John Terry, or the powerhouse Andy Carroll that got England out of jail.

Last night, named as substitute and unlikely to see action, he was brought on when England were crashing and not only did he assume the controls to pull his team out of a nosedive, he managed a perfect landing as well.

While England fans nervously muttered about how they wanted Oxlade-Chamberlain to have come on instead, Walcott scored with pretty much his first touch of the game to equalise. He barely knew how to react, his face betraying bemusement and a slight wince of pain from his troublesome hamstring. He ignored it and instead focused on doing what he does best – running defences ragged.

After whipping in the cross for the winner it was clear he was struggling but he managed to continue. In the end it wasn’t the captain Gerrard, or the alleged born leader John Terry, or the powerhouse Andy Carroll that got England out of jail. It was a player who has been derided by the fans at length, one that many felt didn’t even deserve to be at the tournament. Hopefully those fans will be as vocal with their praise now, given that if England do progress it will be down to the efforts of the number.

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