England v Ghana – Instant Reactions

Posted: March 29, 2011 in Football
Tags: , ,


A few thoughts on England v Ghana tonight. Not in any order, just my scattered instant reactions to a pulsating match.

1.  So much for the press attacking Capello for ‘short-changing’ the fans by playing a few fringe players. This was far more entertaining than any England game I’ve seen (competitive or friendly) in about 6 years. At least.

2. Maybe it was Ghana that made it so. As opposed to simply sitting back and being happy to lose 1-0 like a number of Wembley friendly visitors, they attacked with a lot of skill and style. Continued development like that could see that African World Cup winner that Pele spoke about in the not too distant future.

3. It was also the lack of regulars that made it so interesting. These were all players with a point to prove and trying to force their way into the plans of the manager. Having a select group that are picked purely on name and reputation, regardless of form or ability to slot into a given formation is harmful to this. Selection must now revolve around form and picking the right players for the right position. Not just shoe-horning big names in to satisfy ‘the paying public’.

4. Wayne Rooney is the biggest problem. England played with a lot more freedom with his absence. He is in a slump that has lasted an entire year now and his appearance is detrimental to the team. England continually try to play through him, even despite his lack of anything resembling form, so his absence meant they explored other options. And looked far more dangerous as a result.

5. Having commended their desire to win, I will now contradict myself by criticising Ghana. This game was still meaningless at the end of the day, so their tackling was simply over-the-top and unnecessary. Commitment is one thing, but a number of their challenges were daft and dangerous and could easily have injured someone. The haranguing of the referee to have James Milner sent off was equally disappointing.

6. That said, Leighton Baines first-half ‘tackle’ was poor. As was Milner’s on Gyan late on. So don’t consider this one-sided or pro-England. In light of Jonny Evans sending off against Bolton, Baines would have walked in any other game than a friendly match, where referees really don’t want to use their cards. There would have been further sanctions for a number of players in tonight’s show.

7. Stewart Downing looked like an international player for the first time in his career. Seriously. Considering how well him and Ashley Young played tonight and the latter on Saturday too, question marks must be raised at how poorly Gerard Houllier is doing at Aston Villa. He clearly cannot get his players to perform at their top level and will do well to still hold his position come next August.

8. I didn’t really notice Jack Wilshere much. But have already seen him identified as a ‘star man’ on Twitter. People are really getting carried away with him and need to cut back on the adulation.

9. Likewise Andy Carroll. He’s being heralded as the second coming of Alan Shearer, but did little else aside from his goal. Mind you, it was a good strike. And he should be in the England squad as he is head and shoulders above most of his peers. Apart from peter Crouch. But only in the literal sense.

10. Leighton Baines must be Ashley Cole’s deputy for definite now. Another impressive performance in which he got forward to good effect. Looked a little shaky defensively at times, but there is nobody close to him in the left-back spot at the moment. Kieran Gibbs actually has to stay fit for more than two weeks at a time to mount a challenge to this.

11. As for the centre-back slot, there is one available alongside John Terry (unless Rio Ferdinand actually manages to get fit). Gary Cahill did his chances of claiming that no harm tonight, as he looked solid and assured. He timed his challenges well, was never caught out of position and was the one assured performer against a fast-flowing Ghana attack. That position is between him and Michael Dawson now.

12. On the other hand, Phil Jagielka looked shaky, even before his switch to right back. But not nearly as bad as Joleon Lescott, who was awful for the 45 minutes he played. He was constantly turned by Asamoah Gyan and Manchester City must be terrified about the prospect of the two lining up against each other this weekend. His continued involvement in the England set-up needs to come to an end swiftly. And will do so if Chris Smalling’s development continues.

13. If any transfers in the last 20 years appear in ITV’s Twenty Transfers That Shook The World, it loses any credibility. We are saturated in sports news in this era, and we are aware of most proposed transfers at least a week in advance. Given I noticed Fernando Torres in there, I will be ignoring it. That transfer had been talked about for about 18 months prior to its conclusion. And was met by an indifferent shrug by anyone not paid to sensationalise everything that happens in football.


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