Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Italian Job

So today we (aka the England football team) had our first outing under the new management of Italian coach Fabio Capello. We won 2-1. It was just a friendly against Switzerland, but it was always going to be a bit more interesting than a regular friendly because of the interest in what the new manager would do. He set out with a 4-5-1 formation with Rooney as the lone striker to start with, and called up the not-so-regulars Jenas and Bentley to start in the midfield. The first half started off at a rather dull and slow pace. There were lots of sloppy passes and neither team showed much in the way of crisp, decisive forward play. Things were fairly even and stable, but boring as fuck - things looked not much better than in the prime of the McClaren era. Why England don't play internationals at the pace of the Premiership I just don't know, but when we did decide to up the tempo in the last 10 minutes of the first half things improved drastically. We got balls into feet, got people in space and enabled the ball to be played into people in their natural attacking positions, which was how we got the first goal - a neat bit of passing into Joe Cole, who was then able to take on a defender one-on-one and slot the ball into Jenas in front of then net. Things didn't keep at such a pace for the second half, but we did show far more flare and cut out a lot of the sloppiness that had dominated the first half. Gerrard, who so often has lacked when it came to England games, did really well taking up a centre-left role and pushing forward. When the England substitutes were made things didn't fall apart, and with Crouch coming on the were some more attacking options. Overall Bentley, Cole and Rooney were most impressive (Rooney's work rate and occasional touch were as good as ever.) I've been rather positive here, but during the match I was still disappointed with the first half attitude. The goal we conceded was fairly undefendable i.e. the Swiss striker hit the ball really early and the defender (Ferdinand) and keeper had no real chance of getting to the ball, so wasn't too disappointing. But I think that the team can show a bit more cohesion and will do from playing together more under their new regime. It's been a reasonable start for the new manager, but I don't want to count my chickens just yet as things could easily have been different if we'd conceded a goal before scoring our first and our head had gone down.

Despite the brief flush of football success the less said about our second half performance in the weekend's rugby the better!