Sunday, September 09, 2007

Finally!

In a major turn-up for the books yesterday's England v Israel Euro2008 qualifier was actually a decent game - for the English team at least. It was always thought that the Israeli team would be very defensive in this game (even more so than in their home leg in Tel Aviv), and in that they didn't disappoint - they only mustered a couple of meaningful attacks in the whole game - but that meant that England would have to keep up tempo and take the game forward. That's not been England's forte recently and things could have carried on in the same vein, but fortunately the team decided to play. There were a couple of interesting decisions in the squad forced by various injuries, like having Emile Heskey (who's not played for England for three years) and Gareth Barry (who's not played for England in over four years) in it, but their inclusions seems to have been one of Steve McClaren's best decisions since becoming England manager. Heskey was very impressive, and strong, in holding up the ball and knocking it on, and there wasn't a sign of his old trick of falling over at the slightest touch - he did however have a chance on goal that he should have done better with. Also very impressive was little Shaun Wright-Phillips who scored the first goal and had so much pace and energy during the game (we really don't need Beckham back down the right, he's just not got the pace or ability to run at and frighten defenders), unfortunately we didn't get to see Ian Wright's reaction to the goal up in the BBC pundits box. Deserving a mention are the performances of Joe Cole, Micah Richards (who scored and is looking like he'll be a regular at right back and probably push Gary Neville out the squad) and Michael Owen who scored one of his best ever England goals. The game was good because we took it to the Israeli's and didn't just sit back. Even when we'd scored a couple of goals we saw the opportunity to score more and kept things going. We should in fact have had more goals as on several occasions some great build up play was let down by poor finishing. Hopefully this will set us up well for Wednesday's game against Russia, although they'll likely be tougher opponents than Israel and will attempt a more attacking game.

After the football I watched the England v USA rugby game (our first game in the Rugby World Cup). Despite England winning (which they were expected to do easily against a team like USA) we played really poorly. It was a really dull performance that didn't show any real passion to win. It's not the most promising of starts given the performances of teams like New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in their opening matches.