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England 2-1 Japan: Match review

Japans Kawashima saves a penalty from Englands Lampard during their international friendly soccer match in Graz

By Jack Young.

Nobody really expected this match to liven up their Sunday afternoon, but few would have anticipated such dreariness, perhaps the most shocked is England boss Capello. Yesterday’s game would have given him a  massive headache, not only through selection but formation…

During a recent interview Capello has said he has already decided on 20 of the players going, so surely for players like Huddlestone and Bent this was their 45 minutes to play their hearts out and make a claim for seat on the plane. Bent had numerous chances that normally he wouldn’t have thought twice about bagging for Sunderland large inflatable ball or not. Despite the 24 goals this season, Bent has shown that himself and Rooney simply do not work as a partnership, expect Heskey to get the nod over the Sunderland striker.

Similar to Mexico, the first half was just lacking in spirit, and in all honesty the whole game just reaked of laziness, those who were assured a place didn’t seem to have much energy except a Mr. Wayne Rooney. Despite not scoring in his past 4 games in an England shirt, Rooney seemed as eager as ever to get control of the ball, tracked back exceedingly well and played with the hot-headed passion that has come to be the re-ignition of him this season.

On the wings, pace pace pace. An interesting decision to play Walcott again,his inability to do anything other than run fast and fall down was showcased again and should be a clear signal to play Lennon in his preferred right position, giving Adam Johnson time to stake a place in a position that is crying out for a naturally left footed player. Despite a lot of objections, it seems Capello’s number one man for the spot is Walcott, with SWP missing out.

At half time Capello could be forgiven for giving the team the hair-dryer treatment, but this was the last time the team could gel together and work on the same wavelength. So on came the subs; Hart, Carragher, J.Cole, SWP and Gerrard, the first four all with something to prove. J.Cole seemed lively, his cross set up a scorching own goal by Tulio Tanaka.

One talking point in the second half was when England were gifted a lifeline in the form of a handball in the area by Endo. The third penalty miss of the season due to a good stop by Kawashima. The commentators were speculating now Rooney becoming the new number one taker but dismiss this as pure tosh, the ‘keeper today only conceded goals by his own players and looked certain of keeping England out all game.

Perhaps some good news in that Gerrard is starting to look like his former self, a decent shot from outside the box and a scintillating cross that Heskey should have scored with will be very encouraging for the England coach.

So come Tuesday we will find out 23 players that will represent us in just 11 days time. In the meanwhile Capello must decide whether to stick with the 4-4-2 or the 4-5-1 that he experimented with for 30 minutes against Japan. On a side note, watch out for Japan this tournament, looking good to finishing second in the group could result in a nice run for them.

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