Imagine Soccer Blogs

England Qualification Just Covers the Cracks

Problems for Capello to address ahead of Euro 2012

Posted Oct 10, 2011 by Chris White

Wayne Rooney was sent off for England in their draw with Montenegro

In traditional fashion, Fabio Capello’s England side made things much harder for themselves than they needed to, throwing away a two-goal lead in Montenegro to come away with the one point they needed to seal their place at the European Championships next summer.

Ashley Young headed England into an early lead in Podgorica and Darren Bent justified his selection up front with a second before half time, but the performance was ‘enough’ at best. Elsad Zverotic gave Montenegro hope with the last kick of the first half, but Wayne Rooney – who it could be argued wasn’t in the right frame of mind for the game after his father’s arrest – saw red for a kick out at Miodrag Dzudovic, and the home side made their man advantage count, looking the far superior side against a poor, immobile England team, grabbing a last-gasp equaliser through Andrija Delibasic, guaranteeing his side a place in the playoffs.

At 2-0, England looked comfortable, weathering an early storm from the home side to score two breakaway goals. Montenegro struggled to get across the halfway line in the early stages, but for some reason – only known to England and the ever cautious Capello – England backed off and tried to contain their opposition, as opposed to going out and killing the game off.

Why is it that England feel the need to do as much as they need to, rather than demolishing sides to give them some confidence and positive press once in a while? Ok, they won the group and didn’t lose a game in qualification, but two draws with Montenegro simply isn’t good enough. Neither was the team selected by the increasingly clueless looking Capello.

Phil Jones was rightly given his debut at international level, but at right back – which is not his natural position. Instead, he persisted with John Terry and Gary Cahill at centre half and the pair were turned constantly and left out of position by their opponents. These are two players who have received a lot of plaudits in their careers, but in Terry’s case, he looks past it. If the press have been criticising Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard – left on the bench despite a hat trick for Chelsea – for their performances and age, then is Terry seemingly untouchable? He had a nightmare in Montenegro.

The midfield was pathetic in all honesty. England, a supposed super-power of world football with some of the best talent around, went into a game with Montenegro, with two holding midfielders in Scott Parker and Gareth Barry…why? Were they expecting a midfield onslaught from their hosts? There is no creativity in either of those players, they’re ball winners at best and Barry just isn’t England quality. Parker’s selection is justified but Barry brings nothing.

Darren Bent scored, but was otherwise ineffective. Similarly, Theo Walcott crossed for Young’s goal but might as well have disappeared for the rest of the game because he was barely mentioned. Why Capello sticks with him is beyond me.

The sooner England find a natural finisher and a creative midfielder, the better. You have to think that a pairing of Steven Gerrard and Tom Cleverley could be the key to English success, with Jack Wilshere or Parker coming in if a three-man midfield is needed. Some fight and some quality, and a cut-throat instinct is what is missing from England – that and an English manager to put some passion back into this side.

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