Monday, 7 September 2009

England must step up a gear against Croatia

I know England's 2-1 win over Slovenia was just a friendly and that you can only beat the opposition put in front of you, but Saturday's Wembley show wasn't good enough. Fabio Capello must instill in his team a greater sense of urgency if we're to earn a decent result against Croatia and qualify for next summer's World Cup Finals.
Slovenia passed and moved nicely enough - but frankly, England allowed it and the visitors deserved their late consolation goal.
We've seen England lose their way after lacklustre friendly displays. I had the indignity of schlepping to the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen to watch our 4-1 mauling by Denmark in 2005. Although, Sven sent out a virtually different England side in the second-half with a mammoth selection of substitutions that night, it remained our heaviest defeat for 25 years.
With nerves well and truly jangled, the defeat spilled over into our next competitive game as England got the shakes in Northern Ireland, losing 1-nil and putting the skates under our potential to qualify for the World Cup. Luckily we did, but it was on the backfoot.
That's why we've got to snap out of it. Get among the tackles, the man-marking, be first to the loose ball.  This is England. This is Wembley. This is a place in the World Cup Finals.
We've already thumped Croatia 4-1 earlier in the group. Theo Walcott's hattrick exorcised the ghost of New Wembley when the Man with the Umbrella saw his charges lose 3-2 to the Croatians, so failing to qualify for EURO 2008.

Slaven Bilic is almost Mourinho-esque in some of his news conference deliberations, but branding our boys as flawed and lacking Englishness, provides Fabio with all the material he needs for his pre-match talk!
So Forza England! Capello needs to gee the boys up with some early pressure and preferably a decent half-time lead to set us up for the big project: South Africa 2010. There can be no lagging at international level.
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