Tuesday, 25 May 2010

England v Mexico - International match at Wembley Stadium

Monday 25th May 2010. Friendly International Match
at Wembley Stadium

England (2) 3 (King, Crouch, Johnson)
Mexico (1) 1 (Franco)
Admission - All ticket, various prices, mine was £30, on the middle balcony nearly level with the halfway line.
Programme - £6 (not fuggin' likely!).
Free Lions fanzine was free and packed with all the information that the fans needed.
Attendance - 88,638
Free Lions - Free England fans fanzine
An end of season friendly and warm up game in preparation for the forthcoming World Cup.
I doubt if anybody really expected a full blooded, chase after everything, battling performance from England, pulling out all the stops to thwart the lively Mexicans or recklessly clattering in for the 50/50 challenges.
Young England fans posing with their mum in front of the Bobby Moore statue.
I can't believe that twat walked in front of my picture!

There is no such thing as a meaningless England game, that said the result of this one wasn't vitally important in the grand scheme of things ... and before kick off, to my way of thinking, the best outcome tonight would be for England to leave the field of play after 90 minutes having avoided picking up any injuries, combined with Wayne Rooney having had the opportunity to get a run out towards regaining his full fitness and competitive edge.
An added bonus would be one of the keepers stepping up to claim that number 1 jersey as his own, though Fabio Capello will no doubt have already made his mind up about that anyway.
A win would be nice of course too.
The first two of those 'best outcomes' were ticked off tonight, although there were a few worrying moments when Steven Gerrard required lengthy treatment.
The added bonus option required Mexico to put in an attacking display tonight and credit where it is due, they certainly took the game to their hosts ... and came to Wembley intent on playing a creative, up tempo, fluent and open style of play, thus both Robert Green in the first half and Joe Hart in the second got plenty of opportunity to show what they can do.
In my humble opinion, Rob Green should get the nod, not just based on tonight's performance, though he did pull off a couple of outstanding saves in the first half.
And in international tournaments you need experienced players to fall back on too, so I reckon David James will be on the plane to South Africa as well.
He's dropped some high profile clangers over the years, but all said he has a proven pedigree and bags of ability and has the presence of mind to bounce back ... he's needed to have had too!
'Lets all have a disco!' Mexican fans joined us for a drink
before the game in the Green Man beer garden.

Mexico were stiff opposition and gave England a good workout and provided Capello with plenty of questions to mull over ... and even this completely biased scribe, would have to say they were the better side and very unlucky to be on the receiving end of a 3-1 reversal tonight.
Not that you'll hear me complaining about it.
Prior to this game the visitors were unbeaten in ten straight matches, so they were never going to be pushovers.
Lily Allen's younger and much prettier sister travelled to Wembley with us
on the North Notts England Fans coach ... fancy dress was optional ;-)

I had heard a few disparaging comments about the standard of opposition in the build up to the game, but only from the sort of England 'fan' who's never actually been to an international game, but who always has a new shirt every time there is a tournament approaching on the horizon, to wear down the pub, where frankly the majority of them are just using the national football team as an excuse for a day 'on the piss' anyway.
They're usually the first ones to start with the 'Never watching them again, they're crap' anger fuelled outbursts the moment England get eliminated from a tournament ... likewise they'll be the first ones to sing 'England 'til I die' the moment the team win a couple of games.
Tsk, Rangers fans! I S'pose watching anything beats watching them.

I've got news for those sort of 'supporters', England are not the best team in the world, we probably won't win the World Cup, or get anywhere close - though I will be ecstatic to be proven wrong at this juncture - and wearing those 1966 t-shirts from the sale rail in Wilko's hardware store, or the ones emblazoned with "Two world wars and one world cup" type sentiments just makes you look like a twat.
Don't even get me started on those spastic car flags!!!
No, I didn't spell plastic wrong there.

The Wembley arch in the background
Sadly a lot of people outside England, in their ignorance, tar us all with this same brush.
Even more sadly, a lot of English people who can't differentiate between the piss heads who dress the part during tournaments (but who probaly can't even name half the teams England beat en route the the final) and proper England fans, have decreed that it's very trendy to jump on a bandwagon that portrays us all as political extremists.
What a crock of shit!
The Wembley arch in the foreground
Anyway, on with the game.
England took the lead, completely against the run of play, on 17 minutes, Peter Crouch got on the end of a Steve Gerrard corner and directed the ball into the path of Ledley King who headed home, completely unmarked, from six yards out.
Mexico kept probing and creating, while England looked off the pace at times, but on 34 minutes they scored again and once more it was from a Gerrard corner.
Rooney connected with the ball from Gerrard and got his powerful header on target forcing a great save out of Oscar Perez, the ball dropped to Peter Crouch who threw himself at it and bundled home a goal with at least one or two unconventional body parts.
It wasn't the most aesthetically lovely goal you'll ever see, but they all count.
Was there a possible use of the arm?
Was it deliberate?
Either way, it gave the score a quite flattering look and Mexico must've been bewildered as to how they were 2-0 behind after having the lions share of the play.
Time for the national anthem "Nah, nah, nah ... and we all like Vindaloo"

Rob Green had twice denied Carlos Vela, Carlos Salcido had hit the post, yet England would be going in to the break ahead.
Right on the stroke of half time Leighton Baines cleared an header off the line, but Guillermo Franco fired home the loose ball from close range to half the arrears.
Free t-shirts for all. ... XXL too, I'm pleased to say :-) But the little lad on the left
didn't want to put a red shirt on over his ROONEY 9 one though

Each and every seat had a free t shirt on it so we could all be part of massive pair of human St George's flags on either side of the stadium.
Above, 10 minutes prior to kick off. Eek! I'm glad he was in the wrong seat.
Below, his replacement had irritation potential, but it was OK once she sat down.
Contrary to appearances the guy in the checked jacket
wasn't actually the Bard of Salford, John Cooper Clarke.

Two minutes into the second half, Glen Johnson, surrounded by defenders, crashed home a third England goal from the edge of the box, restoring a two goal cushion and providing a safety net should Mexico come out all guns blazing again in the second half.
The game gradually petered out and the English midfield and defence tightened things up no end after the restart. Mexico were not going to run them ragged the way they had in the first half again and England held out to record a slightly lacklustre 3-1 win ... it was a friendly cum practice match and served it's purpose well, while the 88,638 had a party sending the national off in style from their final home game of a very successful 2008-10 campaign.
I've seen better games (and worse ones too) this season, but we all had a great time anyway.
I received a few text messages:
"I hope they don't play like this in South Africa or we're doomed"
Hmm ... it won't be a practice game with a few first choice players missing when the real stuff starts, but I doubt if any England fan really thinks we'll actually win it. Lets get that awkward opening game against the USA and the other group games out of the way before we start with all the OTT histrionics, either positive or negative.
"You didn't win the sweepstake for when the commentator would first mention 1966 tonight mate. You had 3 minutes but it didn't happen until after 9!!!"
Oh well, they mentioned it just before kick off last time.
"Rob, this is crap, it's like watching Hearts!"
Perleeze!!! It was unconvincing in spells but lets not get carried away. It wasn't that bad.
Jamie Carragher played, coming on as an half time substitute.
That is the same Jamie Carragher who had officially retired from international games, but who was talked out of that decision by Fabio Capello this week.
A few of the England fans have mixed feelings about this, in as much as Carragher wasn't around during the qualifying games, but is now suddenly available for the World Cup final stages.
I guess I can see to a certain extent why some people would feel that way, but it is Fabio Capello's decision who he picks and he's done more than OK thus far hasn't he?
In fact before Fabio took over at the helm, I wouldn't have been surprised if England hadn't qualified at all under the previous regime.
He has done great to turn things around with immediate effect.
As for Carragher, steady if unspectacular and possibly a good squad player. I hear he is retiring from international football again any time soon.
The Wembley arch in the dark of night
England never perform all that well in friendlies, but can still beat very useful sides whilst playing mediocre (at best) with a makeshift side, it hardly warrants being pessimistic.
But it is traditional when England go into a major tournament for the newspapers to start some kind of backlash against whoever the manager is.
Lord help Mr Capello if England don't win 10-0 against fellow finalists Japan in the last pre World Cup warm up game in Austria on Sunday then (I have an inkling that they won't by the way).
Hopefully Fabio will shove the doubters words down their throats, the way Bobby Robson silenced the same hacks in 1990, but I think that just maybe, dreaming of a semi final spot is being a tad too optimistic.
Was that really two whole decades ago? Bugger, I'm getting old, or should I say ... bugger I got old.
The World Cup is nearly upon us, the flights and ticket prices are out of my price range, but I'll be cheering my country on in front of the TV and I'm looking forward to the whole tournament. The best teams and best players in the world will all be there, except Ronaldinho, because the deadwood and also rans have all been eliminated now.
Here's to a great tournament and some entertaining games.
I think Spain or Argentina will win it, I REALLY want England to do well and you should all watch out for New Zealand ... they have a former Worksop Town player in their ranks.
Bring it on!
Football rocks!!!
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt

Thanks to North Notts England Fans for arranging the coach trips to Wembley so well.
It is just £15 return on the coach from the Retford, Worksop and Mansfield area.
They can sort out match tickets for you and have an arrangement with the Green Man pub very close to Wembley Stadium to park the coach there ... which is where we joined in a 'fans party' along with a good few Mexican supporters, until about half an hour before kick off.
For more details contact Stuart (see below) ... and if you are really lucky you might get to meet the lovely Joanne (phwoar).