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Football - Job Done

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

By Kevan James.

There is a school of thought that demands England win every game and do so with panache and style, sweeping away all opposition imperiously. Reality is of course, somewhat different, as no matter how good England's players may be, no matter how well-trained they may be, how well-organised, there are eleven players on the opposing side who want to stop them. Adherents to that school have their thoughts rooted in the fact that the game began here in England and thus we are entitled to win everything, every time.

Above - Jack Grealish impressed for England

Neil Hall / Pool / AFP

The world however takes a different view and decades ago developed the game and how players are raised and coached. England however, remain stuck in an era of imagined glory and has managed to hand playing the game to the rest of the world. Football today in this country is owned, managed and coached by foreigners, and played by a disproportionately huge number of foreigners - stifling the development of young players born and brought up in England.

Yet remarkably, England can call upon a number of rather good young players currently, players who are every bit as good as others from around the world - many of whom ply their trade every week here in the Premier League. Yet again however, as this game proved, England can also be slow and unimaginative and the Czech Republic may well be wondering how they managed to lose this game. The answer to that is in their own limits since, despite being equals in the first half and dominating the second, England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had only one real shot to save. It looked a great stop but was also one that any decent custodian should make.

Bukayo Sako was at times, electric along the right flank for England

PA Images

England's defending has been decent in these three group games, no goals conceded is testimony to that but against the best that the rest can come up with, the habit of letting the opposition have the ball in their half and around the middle of the pitch is going to be exposed. As will be the inclination to play short passes to a player standing still with two or three opponents close by, rather than off-the-ball movement and passes into space. England are also too happy to go sideways and backwards too often, which is another way of allowing the other team to dominate the pitch and thus where the game is played.

That said, when England got it right going forward, they looked very dangerous. Bukayo Sako and Jack Grealish justified their selections in place of Phil Foden and Mason Mount with Kalvin Phillips playing a slightly deeper-lying role than he did in the earlier two games, particularly after Declan Rice was substituted. Phillips is one of those players who seems to gave come from nowhere to cement a place in the national side.

England were still better in this game than they were against Croatia, light years better than they were against Scotland, so one must hope that improvement continues with the prospect of a game to come against one of Europe's big hitters.

Sterling celebrates his goal

Insider Voice

The biggest concern over this England side remains scoring goals. Nobody wins anything unless they do and Harry Kane continues to look short of fitness. He was however better in this game than the previous two and could have scored but for a good save by the Czech 'keeper. England are too reliant upon him though and Raheem Sterling remains England's only goal scorer in this tournament with just two - both match-winners. Two goals from him in three games is okay but when one considers other teams are putting in three or four a game and from a number of players, it isn't going to win this trophy.

On the plus side England have at least done the minimum required here and won the group and the country does have some good players right now but they still look restricted by something. These are players that need the freedom to go out and play with the panache and style so fondly dreamed of.

© Kevan James 2021


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