Sunday, June 11, 2006

Can England do it?

-Michael Steele, Getty Images

As Skysports commentators Martin Tyler and Andy Grey never fail to remind us, England last won the World Cup in 1966 and this is their best shot of repeating that feat in the last forty years. That is probably right, if only Sven Goran Eriksson would get his men to throw off the chains and start playing real football.

With the wealth of attacking talent England have, you really have to wonder at the pragmatic approach adopted by Beckham and co. After a perfect start against a very average Paraguay side, England's failure to build on the momentum was extremely disappointing. Instead the team sat back, and allowed the Central Americans to come on to them in hopes of an equaliser, hopes which should have been extinguished for good in the first twenty minutes itself.

Eriksson's post match comments regarding Michael Owen's fitness were baffling to say the least. The Newcastle man is a pale shadow of the tearing forward who so terrorized Argentina in 1998. His pace is gone, his touch has deserted him and it looks as if his predatory instincts are failing as well. And as to his substitution, why, oh why Sven, did you bring Downing (left winger) on??? What was the point of taking Theo Walcott to Germany if not to unleash him on defences in situations like these? If you were never so confident about him, you might as well have taken Defoe. Also, what's with this Owen Hargreaves fascination you have? Why remove Joe Cole, your best attacking player on the night, for a defensive midfielder? You weren't protecting a one goal lead against Brazil or Holland, you know.

Another thing which could end up being England's downfall is Sven's insistence on playing Steven Gerrard out of position. The Liverpool man is not a defensive midfielder and has never been one. He is a creator, not a destroyer. And moreover, he is better than Lampard. The absence of Rooney's genius and Gerrard's drive (in the attacking role) were major contributors to the listless display we saw yesterday.

If, in spite of Eriksson's caution which verges on the absurd, were England to win the World Cup, it would be in the same pragmatic manner, and it would get them few fans. Learn from the Dutch, Sven, that in the long run it's better to lose beautifully than win ugly. You have a team, which on their day, can give the Brazilians a run for their money. Use it well.


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