Whilst all the pre-match talk was of Tottenham’s Scott Parker being handed the England captaincy for the game against Holland, surely the post match analysis will consist of all of the cliched but totally valid criticisms of our style of play. Parker may have been carrying on the proud tradition that started in 1872 when Cuthbert Ottaway lead out his country in England’s first ever international match but not much else has changed.
Our game might have morphed into what has become our modern game but the structure of our footballing DNA means essentially we’re still stuck in the nineteenth century. Even when the Scots introduced us to the concept of the passing game, we’ve still held on to our basic, paint by numbers, DIY style. Basic? It’s Victorian.
Parker’s appointment as captain, whether temporary or permanent, only goes to strengthen this point further. He’s an inspirational footballer, a “doer” who leads by example in the way he plays but his first half performance totally encapsulated the ethos which has become our downfall. Throwing himself into blocking two blockbusting shots on the edge of his own box, he looked like he’d been possessed by the spirit of Bryan Robson. Putting your body on the line is commendable but it’s much more difficult to play triangular passing combinations around the Dutch midfield and that’s the sort of talent that is required in international matches.
England's battling qualities are not enough to beat the superpowers of world football
Forget about excusing the result and performance on this not being England’s strongest side. That’s immaterial. Watching Smalling, Cahill, Barry, Parker and both of England’s full backs needlessly exchange five yard passes between themselves only served to show up our deficiencies in imagination and movement. Some pundits commended England in their recent win against the tiki taka specialists of Spain but the last time I saw someone less comfortable with what they were doing, as England were that night, was when David Guest was getting hitched to Liza Minelli. It was stiff, staid and safe not free-flowing and vibrant as their opponents were.
In contrast, you look at the speed and precision in which the Dutch progressed up the pitch with short sharp forward passes that were made possible by their ability to position themselves in between the steel rod-like structure of the England team.
It’s not like the Dutch were racing around the whole of the pitch at one hundred miles an hour but when they do make a run into space or drop short to receive the ball, it’s done quickly and then the ball is moved on again before an England player gets the chance to close them down.
This is the very elite level of our game and we were shown to still be the rigid, straight-line passing, two dimensional football nation we’ve always been by a Dutch side that has managed to marry together the physical and technical aspects of the game perfectly.
If we want to give plaudits to England for almost rescuing the game from two nil down then we can but again that only goes to reaffirm that although our battling qualities cannot be denied, it’s just not enough to beat the footballing superpowers of the world.
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