Sunday, 27 June 2010

No Defence For Poor England

England's dreams of lifting the World Cup in South Africa 2010 have come to an end, as they were crushed 4-1 by Germany this afternoon in the round of 16 knockout stage. In what has been a terrible tournament for Fabio Capello's men, England's "golden generation" limp out of another major international competition. And we thought it couldn't get any worse than failing to qualify for Euro 2008...

I am not blaming Capello for the mess that is the England football team, not entirely. Sure he is stuck in his ways and seems reluctant to alter anything, but you can see on his face how passionate he is about his job; the guy is a winner, as his CV will show you. I honestly don't think he could have gotten any more out of the players than he did, but I do have issues with his squad selection and substitution choices. For a manager who constantly reiterated that he would only take players who were fit and on form, what on earth was he doing selecting King, Heskey, Carragher and Upson? The prime example of Fabio's failure here is Darren Bent, who had a very good season at Sunderland and was in the form of his life in the run up to this World Cup. Bent has 25 goals in all competitions this season, in 40 appearances for the Mackems. Yet poor Darren is left out of the final 23 man squad and Emile Heskey is taken instead. Now I have to give credit where it is due, and Heskey had a fine first half against the USA in the first game - but that was it. When Emile Heskey, the striker who doesn't score, is chosen over real centre forwards like Darren Bent, then you know England have problems. Fabio's odd decision to take off Defoe this afternoon in exchange for Heskey most likely bewildered every Englishman in the world. I don't understand Capello's thought process just after Germany broke away and scored a very simple but crucial third goal, why not bring Crouch on instead, who typically plays well for England and who does his job - scores goals - unlike Heskey.

I know most of the press and many fans will focus on Lampard's goal that was but wasn't. However this view completely ignores England's fundamental problem that they simply were not good enough. Germany were technically superior in every way, and their football is actually fun to watch, and effective too. When was the last time you said you had "fun" watching England? If Lampard's goal had been given, the game would definitely have swung in England's favour. At 2-2 the Three Lions would no doubt have carried that momentum on and pushed Germany right to the edge. Even when they got over the fact the goal wouldn't stand, England still bossed the last few minutes of the first half and looked very dangerous in attack. So it is easy to blame the linesmen for England's defeat, and there is no doubt tonnes of Facebook and Twitter updates have cried out WE WUZ ROBBED! But the reality is that Germany were better, a lot better, and probably would still have won even if the score was 2-2 at the beginning of the second half. England's poor defence would have ensured that. Johnson, Terry, Upson and Cole were torn to shreds by Germany's blitzkrieg attack, as Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Podolski and co had their way with England. I know Terry is good in the air, and gets his fair share of goals from set-pieces, but to leave just Ashley Cole in defence was suicidal, and the Germans made us pay dearly, as Bayern's wonderkid Thomas Muller put the game to bed with a brace with twenty minutes to go.

I didn't want to spend too long talking about this horror show of a game, so I'll leave it there. But rest assured England have a lot of work to do and I think it all starts at the lowest foundations of the English game: we simply do not produce the technically gifted players our opponents do. We have no playmakers like Xavi, Iniesta, Forlan, Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Kaka and Messi. Don't even get me started on the enigma that is Wayne Rooney. I already wasted far too much time on him in my last post. Argentina play Mexico tonight in which is surely going to be an entertaining game, so I'll continue enjoying the World Cup and start to forget dismal England. Be honest, you knew they wouldn't go far, so there's little surprise to see them exit so early. They'll be no tears from me this year, not for England's under-performers.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 18 June 2010

English Football... Pure Shit!

Well Fabio Capello's men have just completed their second game of this World Cup campaign and lets just say it hasn't exactly been a bundle of laughs. The 1-1 draw last Saturday against the USA was disappointing, but not a complete waste of time. We all knew America were going to be no pushovers, and despite Rob Green's nightmare moment, the game wasn't too bad. However, after tonight's depressing match against Algeria, I am downright annoyed and only French football fans could possibly feel any worse. Oh, and not forgetting the England fans that are actually in South Africa, having paid hundreds of pounds to watch that crap.

Tonight was the chance for England to make a statement of intent to the rest of the competition; to show the world that we are legitimate contenders. Algeria came into the game in pretty poor form, having lost 5 of their last 6 games and only scoring 1 goal, which was a penalty, so nobody expected them to give England much trouble. But Algeria obviously didn't get the memo as they ran rings around England throughout most of the first 45 minutes. The Algerians were dangerous, they looked creative and had pace and flair in abundance. Obviously their lack of skill and talent showed, as they consistently made mistakes over the course of the game, but at least they were trying to get the ball down and attack. England had nothing, absolutely nothing. Apart from a 5-10 minute spell towards the end of the first half, where we managed to fashion a few decent chances, England were toothless in attack and couldn't keep hold of the ball at all. The second half wasn't much better, it was in fact arguably a lot worse! As the England team made their way onto the pitch after half time, you knew Capello had given them a roasting in the locker room; they had to play much better, but of course they did not.

Throughout the second half it looked more and more likely that the game would end in a draw, or worse, Algeria would steal a goal on the break or from a set-piece. England kept giving the ball away, were slow in their build up, and the Algerian pressure disrupted any decent moves the English side could create. To be fair the referee did not help matters, as he constantly disrupted the flow of play with his need to blow the whistle for the smallest of fouls. However England can have no excuses at all. They were terrible tonight and deserved to be booed off at the final whistle.

Gerrard looked very poor in midfield, a shadow of the player he was against the USA where he looked sharp and similar to how he plays for Liverpool. Lampard was equally ineffective, and never really looked a threat, even when he had a chance to score towards the end of the first half. Gareth Barry was alright, if not a bit rusty which was to be expected really considering the time he's missed. Aaron Lennon was useless, as was SWP, both of the wingers never receiving much of the ball and normally fell over when they did. Terry was shaky all night and nearly gifted Algeria a goal with a shocking back-pass to David James (who was easily the best England player on the pitch - not that he had much to do!). Heskey didn't enjoy the success he experienced against the USA, and was his usual mediocre self which most fans expect when they see "Emile Heskey" on the team sheet. I still don't understand why he was even taken to South Africa, especially when Capello said he chooses players based on their form. Darren Bent (who I'm not really a fan of) would have been the natural choice in this case, having had a great season with Sunderland, yet Capello leaves him out of the squad and takes Heskey instead. Which leads me onto Wayne Rooney...

Now being an Arsenal fan, I am no admirer of young Wayne. In fact, most of the year I despise the hairy scouse Shrek lookalike. However, after the season he has just had for United, where he was simply unstoppable, I begrudgingly accepted that Rooney had finally realised his potential and become the best striker in the world not named Messi. Naturally, England's hopes of winning the World Cup pretty much rested on his shoulders, and he finally looked the player to lead us to victory, as surely he would tear apart the meagre defences of Algeria, Slovenia and the United States. But this has not been the case. Not even close. Against the USA, Wayne was quiet and ineffectual, never getting into the game and was left out of most of England's promising moves. Tonight he was downright awful, probably one of the worst performances in an England shirt I have ever had the displeasure to witness. Rooney struggled to control the ball for the entire match and constantly made the wrong move and decision when he actually could get it under his control. He looked uninspired, miserable, and never even close to threatening the Algerian defence, who coped with him throughout the 90 minutes with alarming ease. Apparently when he left the pitch, reporters heard him say it was "nice to see your own fans booing you". Well you didn't really give them anything to cheer for did you Wayne?

So Slovenia are our next opponents, who looked very good today against the the USA, and really should have won that game, before the US made a terrific comeback. After tonight's letdown Capello has a lot of work to do, and some hard decisions to make ahead of the must win game on Wednesday. In my opinion its about time he used Joe Cole, as there was really no point in taking him and giving him the number 11 shirt if Capello has no intention of playing him. I think a more attacking team needs to be chosen for the Slovenia match, and after his shocker tonight I would even consider dropping Rooney in favour of a Crouch and Defoe partnership up front, who have played together at club level for some time now, at Portsmouth and Spurs.

Whatever Capello decides, England fans expect a lot better than what we received tonight and we must salvage something from what has been a pretty dour tournament so far. I'll be watching on Wednesday, hoping for a win of course. If we lose, well I might consider moving to Slovenia and supporting a proper football team. We'll just have to wait until then...

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 12 June 2010


No, not that guitarist Carlos Santana and his 1999 number 1 US hit. This is much more important...

The messiah is finally here. Carlos Santana made his much anticipated debut for the Indians last night in a 7-2 victory over the Washington Nationals. With Santana's arrival, Cleveland fans are hoping the highly rated prospect can usher in a new era of Indians baseball, one of success and triumph.

As most fans already know, the Indians acquired Santana from the Dodgers in the trade for Casey Blake in July 2008 - obviously one of the better deals Mark Shapiro has executed in his time. Since then Carlos has set fire to the minor leagues and quickly became the most talented prospect in the majors (forgetting Strasburg and Heyward). He had a fantastic season with Akron in 2009 and so far in AAA Colombus this year he was batting a .316 average with 13 HRs and 51 RBIs, along with 45 walks and even 6 stolen bases (for a catcher too!). There is no doubting the power and quality of his bat, but many in the media felt Santana was not called up sooner because the Indians felt he needed more time to develop his defensive tools, particularly throwing out potential base runners.

Well it was only a matter of time before Santana got the call, and he acted quickly to put any doubts to rest about his ability to throw out would-be base stealers. The Nationals tested Santana in the very first inning after the speedy Nyjer Morgan had reached base on a single off of Westbrook. Morgan got a good jump but Santana was quick to his feet and made a close play to get him out, a play which proved to be very important as Westbrook was struggling early on and really needed the help to get out of that inning without too much damage done. As for Santana's offensive performance in his debut, he didn't have a great night but nobody can expect the guy to produce the goods straight away; gotta give him a few days to get used to his job as a major league player. Manny Acta surprised most fans by opting to place Carlos in the heart of the lineup right away, instead of putting him towards the bottom of the order as many expected. Unfortunately he couldn't record his first hit, but he did reach base and get across the plate for his first run, and managed to record his first walk later on as well.

It is unlikely Santana will play again tonight against the Nationals, as Carmona prefers to have Mike Redmond as his personal catcher, so we're set to see Strasburg vs Santana on Sunday, the battle of the prospects. I'm sure Santana will continue to develop well this year - I also have him in my fantasy team so I too have promoted him into my lineup and hope he'll quickly start producing the goods if I am to maintain my challenge for the title. With Santana finally arriving in Cleveland, hopefully this puts an end to the pain many fans still feel towards the loss of Victor Martinez last year. We now have a new number 41 to cheer for.

Thanks for reading.

Oh yeah, England play the USA tonight in the World Cup (like you didn't know that anyway). So apologies to any of my readers from across the pond, but COME ON ENGLAND!