Saturday, 16 June 2012

England show drive and character to overturn the Swedes

I suppose we shouldn't grumble at winning 3-2, but I hope lessons arising from this lacklustre game aren't lost in the afterglow of victory. We can't win Euro 2012 playing like that.

When the press reported England's desire to attack and skipper Steven Gerrard declared the Swedes weren't as good as France, I sensed danger.

And so it came to pass. The gameplan was ripped up soon after the restart as Sweden equalised a first half header by Andy Carroll.

England didn't seem to budget for Sweden's do-or-die approach: if they didn't get anything from the game, they'd be going home.

I've said it many times. The Premier League wastes so much of the valuable resource of older players in its relentless hunt for youth. This time it was to be costly for England as ex-Villa ace Olof Mellberg terrorised our defence with a hand, head and boot in both Swedish strikes.

To fall behind with half an hour left was clumsy. Luckily, we have experience even in our young players. Walcott came off the bench, scored one and set up the other for Welbeck to turn the game around. The Arsenal player exorcised bad England memories of the past with his display.

All three England goals were superb: Carroll was selected precisely for his physical presence: we needed someone upfront as big as the Swedes were! A real battering ram and he enjoyed himself in the role.

Walcott looked surprised that his long range shot looped in: it even wrong footed their keeper, Isaksson.

And Welbeck cleverly used his body to shield the ball from the close attentions of the defender, audaciously backheeling the winner.

Another goal and we'd have topped the group and England tried to get it. That perhaps was gung-ho as we surrendered possession all too often when we should have defended our slender hold on a shapeless game.

So England need a point against Ukraine to reach the quarter finals. I don't want to sound dowdy but we must remember our drills and maintain more discipline. Any team we face in Europe could bury us in a heartbeat. So let's use Ukraine to develop our flow and secure a result on firmer ground.

Wayne Rooney's back too. Come on England!