A Solid Start

A Solid Start By @BenDixon17

Lescott uses his ample forehead to score the first for England 

I think most England fans would have gone to bed happy on Monday night. A draw with arguably the best team in Group D is a solid start for our team with lowly expectations. However, the way in which we got that draw was not so satisfying. We started well and carved out the best chance of the entire game inside the first 25 minutes which, unfortunately, fell to James Milner. A player who has not started for Manchester City regularly enough for me to merit a place in the starting 11. I would have preferred to see Theo Walcott taking on defenders on the right with his lightening pace. Also, his final ball has improved vastly this year with 11 goals and 12 assists for Arsenal. England at this stage were in the ascendancy and made the pressure count. Joleon Lescott gave England a deserved lead with a solid header after some pretty awful marking. Now, at this stage, I’m sure all of England would have loved England to keep playing like they had to get the goal. But we all knew they wouldn't. Sitting back has very rarely proved to retain a lead in my opinion and yet again it proved. The lead lasted all of 9 minutes before the infuriating Samir Nasri squeezed a shot past Joe Hart at the front post. 1-1 and you just knew England wouldn't be the team trying to win it. In the 2nd half England barely managed a shot. France had all the possession but somehow never really managed to trouble Joe Hart and create any real goal scoring opportunities. And so it stayed until the final whistle. A result that many England fans would be chuffed about but also slightly irritated about due to the fact that we didn't capitalise when we were the better team. And the less said on the referee the better. The travelling English fans got it spot on. “The Referee’s A Wanker”. Summed it up pretty perfectly.

The day before of course was the first chance we got to see the reigning World and Euro champions in action. They weren’t at their most fluent and brilliant best. Partly due to the fact that for some unexplainable reason Vincent Del Bosque chose not to play a striker. Why? It left them with no target up the pitch and meant that the Italian defence were very rarely challenged by them. In contrast all the focus was on one of Italy’s strikers. Mario Balotelli. After picking up a fairly early ,and unjust booking he just didn’t seem up for it. The match wasn’t brilliant but after Italy’s goal it sparked into life. The goal itself was brilliantly taken and left many thinking that the two pre-tournament favourites would have lost their first match against supposedly lesser opposition.. But no. Cesc Fabregas popped up to secure a point for the Spaniards. I am one of the few who thinks Torres will do well in this tournament and the brief glimpse we saw of him on Sunday was quite encouraging. Wanting the ball and making positive runs. However his final ball was awful and he always seemed hesitant as to what to do with the ball when he got it. It seems this season has taken its toll on his confidence which is a shame because he is still one of the best strikers in world football.

Sunday also saw the Republic of Ireland in action for the first time. For many it was a must win game seeing as their next 2 games are against the 2 favourites to progress. Obviously the Irish didn't see it this way as they proceeded to gift Croatia simple goals with some pretty lacklustre defending. This eventually cost them the game and probably their chances of progressing. However this match gave me my personal highlight of the tournament so far. The Irish fans doing the Poznan after they pulled it back to 1-1. It was a moment of brilliance on behalf of the fans and Ireland probably deserved the win on that alone. The Sweden v Ukraine match was pretty unspectacular. Being quarter swede it’s a case of supporting them when they’re winning and mocking them when losing. The 2 big names of the teams provided the goals. Ibrahimovic and Shevchenko. Luckily for Ukraine Shevchenko scored twice as many so they prevailed 2-1 and sparked scenes of joy at the final whistle. Gutted….

So Ukraine top group D but England and France will feel confident that they’ll be able to beat both these teams. It’s just a question of by how many. Goal difference is going to be crucial in this group as it will be the difference as to who plays Spain. A draw which would preferred to be avoided from and English point of view. Roy must realise this, and encourage his players to play a more attacking and intense 90 minutes. Not sitting back and continuing to push forward is vital if England want to win this group. But a solid start no doubt. England is beginning to expect. Never a good sign.