Saturday, 4 June 2011

England 2 v Switzerland 2 - Euro 2012 Qualifier

Cometh the hour, err ... did anybody in North West London find a ball in their back garden after the game?

Saturday 4th June 2011 at Wembley Stadium
Euro 2012 Qualifier

England (1) 2 (Frank Lampard 37 pen, Ashley Young 51)
Switzerland (2) 2 (Tranquillo Barnetta 32, 35)

Admission £35, Programme £6,
Free Lions magazine ex gratis, Attendance 84,459

Hart, G Johnson, A Cole (Baines 30), Ferdinand (yellow card), Terry, Parker, Walcott (Downing 77)' Lampard (Young 46), Wilshere (yellow card), Milner, Bent
Green, Jagielka, Baines, Barry, Young, Downing, Zamora
Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Ziegler, Senderos, Djourou (yellow card), Barnetta (Emeghara 89), Inler, Behrami (yellow card) (Dzemaili 58), Shaqiri, Derdiyok (Mehmedi 74), Xhaka,
Wolfli, Von Bergen, Dzemaili, Fernandes, Margairaz, Emeghara, Mehmedi

Left click all images for super-sized (or slightly, barely noticeably bigger) versions
Tired, end of season, going through the motions, sloppiness.
Woeful defending at free kicks and an embarrassing public demonstration of slapstick ball control and hopeless finishing from a few yards out.
And, err ... not much more.
Whilst we were travelling back home to North Notts on 'the sensible coach', Montenegro were being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Bulgaria, which means England still top their Euro 2012 qualifying group ... more by accident than design after this performance it must be said.
This game, my 137th and final fixture of 2010-11, kicked off at 4.45pm, but that still wasn't late enough for a whole lot of people who were arriving to take their seats right up until nearly half time, when most of them were back up again to go and queue for their £4.50 short measured pint of lager.
It makes a bit of mockery of having all seater grounds, if the majority of people who actually want to watch the game are having to play musical chairs for the benefit of people who have been delayed getting into the ground.
Not that this farcical situation was entirely the fault of people who'd arrived at the last moment (though some had).
The situation wasn't helped by some of the turnstiles closing early and a number of fans not being able to get into the ground until late.
Some from our party were queueing 20 minutes prior to kick off and missed the first 25 minutes of the game.
The BBC Sports new website said:
Meanwhile, the Football Association has played down the problems experienced by England fans before the game.
Although the qualifier was a sell-out, there were a significant number of empty seats at kick-off. Angry fans made their displeasure known on the social networking site Twitter.
It is believed problems were caused due to the larger than normal numbers who arrived at the stadium shortly before kick-off.
"There were a large number of late entries to the stadium which contributed to queues at several turnstiles," an FA spokesman stated.
"Nonetheless, over 80,000 fans were in their seats 15 minutes after kick-off."
Which, more to the point, meant that the best part of 4,500 supporters weren't in their seats, Mr FA Spokesman! And 15 minutes after kick off isn't acceptable anyway. A lot of those who were denied access until after kick off are long term, time served members of expensive FA membership schemes who buy tickets for each and every England home game (and most away games too) and who know the ropes at Wembley, not one off day trippers who could be excused for getting lost or held up. Public relations are not a strong point with the FA despite the customer facing shiny image they like to project.Leighton Baines celebrated his appearance of the front cover of the Free Lions fanzine by setting Ashley Young up for England's 51st minute equalising goal.

Fabio Capella decided to start with Darren Bent playing a lone role up front and dropped Peter Crouch from the team altogether. Subsequently, it seems that Crouch has decided not to play for England again whilst the Italian is still the national team manager ... that is of course, if you can believe the speculation that was doing the rounds just prior to kick off. Time will tell.

'Right lads, two goal lead nice n' early then go easy on them'

Crouch has impressed me at club level under Harry Redknapp this season and seems to be adding new dimensions to his game all the time. He is perceived by many to be a mere target man ... and though there is no disputing the fact that when the need for 'direct' action arises he's the guy you'd want to be aiming for, there is a lot more to his all round game than that. His goals per game ratio for England is very impressive and even when he's been left on the subs bench, he's always been there to give the team different options if required.

So maybe one can understand the logic behind not starting him against the Swiss ... but dropping him from the squad just hours before the game, especially with Wayne Rooney not being available is, quite frankly, an unfathomable mystery, or not to put too fine a point on it, a bloody glaringly obvious mistake.

Darren Bent's done well for England in the last few games and he can justifiably feel a bit peeved about not going to the World Cup last year ... but today, he had an absolute stinker.
His instincts were intact and time after time he found himself in the right place at the right time, but his execution of even the most rudimentary and basic principles of playing has a centre forward deserted him when it mattered.
He'll come good again, but you'd be hard pushed to see him under perform as spectacularly again as he did this evening.
Show-piece football of the kind Barcelona played in this same stadium a week ago in a one sided Champions League final, is aesthetically pleasing to watch, but today, well ... England have a lot of players who are international class, but not actually what you'd call world class by some way, particularly with players like Gerrard and Rooney absent, so a horses for courses policy would have been quite understandable and wholly acceptable to most people, on the proviso that it got the points in the bag.
Maybe Fabio underestimated the visitors or over estimated his own side, either way the Swiss looked sharper, fitter and keener all over the pitch and when they had built up a head of steam and a two goal lead, England were chasing the game in a desperate attempt to salvage a point at times.
Noisy, numerous and red.
The Swiss came to party and party they bloody well did!

Switzerland are easily the technical equals of England if not better in some departments, but that won't stop the papers having a field day tomorrow about how 'these sort of teams' should be put to the sword and butchered like a mythical Dragon by some Greek bloke called George in times of yore.
In fairness England started the game in a lively enough fashion and Glenn Johnson nearly scored from Frank Lampard's corner kick after just a few minutes.
Most of the attacking options were coming down the left flank from Ashley Cole, but he got a knock and had to go off after half an hour.
Leighton Baines came on and is a more than adequate replacement at left back, but the tactic of taking Switzerland on down their obviously most vulnerable flank was abandoned when Cole left the pitch, as was a whole lot of focus and concentration for a short but vital time ... because while the team reshaping, Tranquillo Barnetta had helped himself to two opportunist strikes within the next few minutes.
Why on earth did they have to reshape when it was a like for like substitution?
If they weren't opportunist strikes, aided and abetted by some shocking defending and uncharacteristic errors of judgement by Joe Hart in the England goal, then I apologise ... but a free kick pumped into the area that was allowed to bounce in the box and go straight into the goal while Rio Ferdinand and Hart floundered around like fish helplessly caught in a keep net and a free kick that was allowed to squeeze in at the near post when Barnetta shot tamely at the two man wall of of Theo Walcott and James Milner, who inexplicably parted/bottled it (delete as apt) at the last moment and left Hart struggling vaingloriously to keep the ball from squirming in by his post, were soft goals to concede and nothing less than the disorganised defence deserved.
Two Arsenal players were involved in the build up to the next goal. Fortunately for England, the Swiss Gunner Johan Djourou felled the English one, Jack Wilshire after he had dribbled his way into the box and the referee awarded a penalty. Frank Lampard struck it home on 37 minutes and it was game on again ... err, maybe!
Frank Lampard drills home a 37th minute penalty as Fabio Capello's
out of sorts side have to resort to an exercise in damage limitation.

Half time came and the visitors were still in front. Frank Lampard was replaced and given that the early corner he took and the penalty were the only touches of the ball I remember him having, I'm not surprised he was ... though by that way of reckoning Theo Walcott could've gone too because I didn't even know he was playing until I saw him leaving the pitch at the interval. Walcott was eventually withdrawn on 78 minutes to be replaced by Stewart Downing, who could have left a mark on this game right at the death, but missed a sitter and fired a great chance into the side netting instead, whilst Peter Crouch watched on in his England blazer and Bobby Zamora (a striker) sat on the bench as an unused substitute.
Dear North Notts England Fans Newsletter and Journal author.
Who are you calling a lady!?

Ashley Young had come on at half time and made an immediate impact.
James Milner's free kick into the box was chested down neatly by Leighton Baines into the path of Young who equalised for England just six minutes after entering the fray.
Young's fresh legs, impetus, guile and running saw him win the plaudits as man of the match, which says as much about many of his anonymous team mates who were on the pitch for a whole 90 minutes, as it does Young's injection of life and impetus into a hitherto below par England performance.
Maybe with his Aston Villa buddy alongside him, Darren Bent would now pick up his game, or so we hoped as the second half unfolded.
Alas he just couldn't hit a barn door today and two of the chances he missed were bewilderingly, jaw-droppingly bad.
For purposes of clarification, the FIFA laws of the game (whilst we're on the subject of bent) specify that a goal should be 8 yards wide and 8 feet tall, whereas a barn door is an internationally recognised Imperial measurement and is widely accepted to be a minimum of 14 yards wide and 40 feet high, first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824.
Go look it up if you don't believe me!
Philipe Senderos, once of Arsenal, now plying his trade at Fulham was my man of the match, marshalling the Switzerland back line and reading the game well, not that he had to be psychic to fathom out England's game plan and intercept moves before they had even got going at times.
But the really hero of the day was 'the Italian Stallion' driving our coach today, get out of the way London traffic, ready or not, this guy is coming through!
And so the sun sets on another season of football travels for THE66POW
Thank you for watching, you've been a lovely audience.