By Matthew Pearce.
England’s winning performance against Slovenia was not perfect but left a lot to be positive about for England fans. Most significantly it proved the Capello doubters wrong as both of his voluntary changes to the line up (Upson’s inclusion was forced) were vital to England’s victory. Milner, who replaced Lennon on the right hand side of midfield, swung in a fantastic cross that was finished off expertly by Defoe, in the side in place of Heskey.
While it could be argued that the Slovenian goalkeeper should have done better, the movement and predatory instincts of Defoe prove his worth as a striker and justified his inclusion. Of course there will be arguments that he should have been in the team for the first two games in England’s World Cup campaign. However people are quick to forget Heskey’s contribution during the qualifying campaign where his presence undoubtedly brought the best out of Wayne Rooney. He deserved his chance in the World Cup having helped us to get there in the first place but when changes need to be made Capello was willing to accept Heskey wasn’t the best option and bring in Defoe.
Many wanted Joe Cole to start for England however Capello resisted the pressure from the fans and, according to John Terry, the players as well. Instead he went with the more industrious James Milner. While Joe Cole is a brilliant player, and may well have a huge role to play in England’s World Cup, Capello demands more from his midfielders than attacking flair and may well have doubts about Cole’s defensive capabilities and willingness to track back. He would not be the first manager to feel this way. Ancelotti didn’t always favour him last season and famously Jose Mourinho had his own frustrations with Cole. Milner, on the other hand, can never be criticised for lacking when it comes to grafting for the sake of the team. More to the point though he offered a lot going forward putting in more quality crosses in one game than England had in the first two combined. He proved, as David Beckham always did in his career, that a winger doesn’t need to be full of pace and skill but just find a yard of space a whip in a quality cross.
There were many calls for England to change to a 4-5-1 formation however we shouldn’t forget Ericsson played that exact formation with very similar players in the knock out games in the 2006 World Cup and the result was a fortunate victory against Equador and a penalty shoot out defeat to Portugal. We sometimes get too caught up in formations and tactics. The most important thing is the style of play. England need to play the “English way”, that is high tempo attacking football and there were many encouraging signs that we are getting back to that against Slovenia.
Fans and pundits alike are quick to react and have seemingly very short memories. Capello successfully guided England comfortably through qualification with performances that were unanimously praised and, contrary to what some are now saying, there were some quality teams in our group. We need to have faith in Capello and realise there is a reason his managerial record is virtually unblemished. The performances in the first two group games were poor because of the players, not the manager.
Everyone has their opinions but Capello sees the team train and is best placed to pick the team. Overall we have drawn against the USA because of a freak goal, been held to a draw by an Algeria side intent on not conceding rather than scoring and have beaten Slovenia with a very encouraging performance. Better teams will be more open and will therefore leave more opportunities for England to create chances.
There is much to be positive about and with a potential second round match against a beatable Germany side this World Cup is becoming very exciting. England can still win this World Cup with one of the all time great managers at the helm and we all need to back Don Fabio.
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