Often Partisan


A few hours have now passed since the match with Slovenia, and I thought I’d jot down some notes about the game as I saw it.

Bearing in mind the hullabaloo from the weekend about his inclusion (or non-inclusion as it turned out), I think Fabio Capello was justified in not starting Joe Cole. Whilst I agree entirely that Joe Cole has got the talent to really open up a game, I don’t think he brings it often enough to the England team to justify his inclusion when we absolutely had to win. I’m glad we didn’t put Shaun Wright Phillips in either, who I think is one of the most over rated players in the team.

All the talk before the game from the pundits was that England were going to start with a diamond formation, and it appears Capello pulled another fast one across the journos by going with a straight 4-4-2, with Gerrard once again on the left hand side. I think there was an element of gamesmanship from the wily Italian here; and I’m impressed by it. The media are too ready to try and knock down the England team after building them up prior to the tournament – a subject I’ve discussed before – and I think Capello has had enough of it. I hope he continues to do things his way; he can be judged then on his methods and his methods alone, rather than on failing to live up to media hyperbole.

I wasn’t convinced by Defoe starting up front, and in the first twenty minutes he barely touched the ball which reinforced my personal belief. Then, as so often happens in these kinds of games, a moment of magic opened the game up, and ultimately decided it. Milner was being derided on some of the forums I frequent just before he whipped the ball in deliciously from the right, and Defoe showed what a predator he is in the six yard box with a finish that the keeper couldn’t keep out despite getting both hands to it. One cross, one shot, one goal.

I like Milner a lot as a player, despite him playing for our hated neighbours. I first saw him at a reserve fixture as a precocious sixteen year old, playing for Leeds reserves against the Birmingham City stiffs. An evening taking the piss out of Nigel Martyn by myself and a couple of others behind the goal was punctuated with some fine play, and three goals from Milner, including an imperious 30 yard strike that drew applause from the home fans. It was obvious then he had class, and it was no surprise he became the Premiership’s youngest goalscorer that season, breaking the record that was previously held by one Wayne Rooney.

Milner apparently ran 12,000m during the game, which doesn’t surprise me at all; whilst some gave the man of the match award to John Terry, for me it was James Milner. One of the main things lacking in previous games was that graft; whilst Lennon got up and down he didn’t put anywhere near the shift that Milner put in and especially towards the end Milner and the aforementioned Joe Cole did a lot to take the pressure off England by keeping the ball at the right end of the pitch.

So, the next round it’s our old friends, the Germans. I thought that they were quite average against a decent Ghanaian team, and I think with some better finishing than the profligate Africans we’ll do fine. No doubt the media will do their best to whip things up between now and then, but I’m sure Capello will keep things under wraps until then nicely.

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2 Responses to “Anti-hyperbole”

  • MrMustard says:

    Milner, like Defoe, had an awful first twenty minutes. He failed time and again to get the ball in from good positions. He did improve dramatically, and I would put him ahead of Lennon and tiny Shaun, but man of the match? I don’t think so. I’d have given that to Upson. The most assured and confident defensive performance by an England player thus far.

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