Romanian Rhapsody

Mixed emotions

First off the bat let me just remind y’all (for those who haven’t checked my background) that I am 100% Irish (well, with a small amount of Italian heritage but that’s kinda irrelevant). So this isn’t written from an English fans point of view. Like many Irish people, I had a considerable interest in the England game last night. Most Irish people, like the Scottish, will have gleamed much amusement and happiness from seeing the Auld Enemy taking down a peg in Toulouse. I had mixed emotions because I like and resepect most of the players but similarly, I love seeing the smile wiped off the face of Brian Moore and the rest of the nauseating British media.

Team England

Last night’s performance was poor to say the least and as I have pointed out before, the limitations of the 3-5-2 system became very apparent. The team lined out as follows:

Neville Adams Campbell
Anderton Le Saux
Ince Batty
Sheringham Shearer

When Paul Ince picked up an ankle injury early on, the much lauded David Beckham made an appearance in midfield and Michael Owen got his run out for the last 20 minutes in place of Teddy Sheringham. And how did the players rate?:

David Seaman
May be disappointed in hindsight that he didn’t took more control of his box in the incident that led to the Dan Petrescu winner. Apart from that he didn’t have a great deal to do. Despite Romania having 20 attempts on goal, very few troubled the Arsenal man. 6/10
Gary Neville
Replaced Gareth Southgate and acquitted himself well in the center of defence. Not convinced that he is an ideal central defender but a couple of marauding runs forward indicated to me that he would make a good wing back. 6.5
Tony Adams
I have a lot of time for Tony Adams despite the fact that he plays for that other mob across North London. A talented man who turned his life around after being in the alcoholic doldrums, he has become known as Mr Reliable. Sadly he does not appear to be playing particularly well in this tournament – he did not impress in the first game either. He was badly caught out for the first goal last night and often seemed at odds with himself and the defenders around him. 5
Sol Campbell
After his man of the match performance against Tunisia, the Solman had a lot more to worry about against Romania. His forward runs, something not seen very often at Tottenham, are a welcome addition to his game and it has not affected his defensive performances on last nights evidence. Received a bit of criticism for the first goal but it seemed that there was little he could do to prevent it. 7
Darren Anderton
Darren has had to put up with a lot of abuse from fans and the media who feel that he stole the boy wonders (Beckham) slot and has no right to be in the team. I thought he put in a sterling performance last night and one that Beckham is incapable of delivering in a wing-back role. He tracked back and tackled extremely well and while his attacking instincts have been curbed a little by the more defensive role, he was involved in some lovely forward moves and often got into the opponents box. Was unlucky with one effort from an impossible angle that travelled right across the goal line. 7
Graham Le Saux
Le Saux had an excellent first half when he gave Petrescu an absolute pasting but the Romanian of course had the last laugh. He should be disappointed with his part in both goals. Going forward though, he did very well. 6
Paul Ince
Ince only played for about 20 mins and even before he got injured he would have been disappointed with his performance. 5
David Batty
Played really well but is one of those players that the fans and media begrudge giving credit too. When Ince went off he relished taking on the role of the main holding player. His tackling, passing and reading of the game was first rate and defeat would have come much earlier if it wasn’t for his efforts. 7.5
Paul Scholes
After his excellent performance against Tunisia, one could have thought that Scholes would go on to be the star player in this World Cup. But Romania had him well policed. He constantly lost the ball and failed to link up with the players around him to any extent. 5
Teddy Sheringham
Probably played his worst game in an England shirt and is indicitve of how much he has declined since he moved to Manchester United. He left Tottenham to win something you know. Expect Teddy to be relegated to second choice partner for Alan Shearer. 5
Alan Shearer
Possibly the only current world class player in the England team but he was let down badly by a lack of service. Often had to go out to the right wing to try and make something happen for England but with only Sheringham and Scholes to aim at, he was unlikely to find a target too easily. The blame for the lack of service has to go to the wide players, Anderton and Le Saux, but in turn I would blame the system that limits their ability to get forward and deliver telling crosses from the by-line. 5.5
David Beckham
I have been puzzled by the furore over David Beckham for the past 2 years. There is no doubt that he is a player with ability and talent but it has been hyped up to such a degree that no one notices the lack of results he delivers. He has never scored for England and I would be very interested to hear how many assists he has. When the name of the game should be holding on to possession (as Romania did so well last night), Beckham tried to be too clever too often and hit 60 yard passes straight to the Romanian keeper or on to a Romanian defenders chest. It is proof to me that a lot of fans don’t understand the nature of the game. They get frustrated when Batty, Anderton or indeed John Barnes or Ray Wilkins in their day used to pass the ball sideways or backwards. The name of the game is possession as you can’t be beaten when you have the ball. Patience will eventually unlock doors as Romania proved successfully last night. I also don’t think he is much of a tackler which would explain Hoddle’s preference for Anderton at wing-back. 6.5
Michael Owen
He is a great player for the future. He came on, scored, should have had a second. I think he should have started from day one but Hoddle had other plans. He may well be the best player to ever come out of England. 6.5

The prospects

Colombia won’t be a walkover but England should get at least a draw. Well lets face it, if they don’t they have no right to be in the World Cup 2nd phase. The team should change and I think Hoddle will keep Beckham and Owen. I don’t think he will change his formation but in my recommended formation below, I think it is clear what I think of the wing-back system.

Neville Adams Campbell Le Saux
Anderton Beckham Batty McManaman
Owen Shearer

A flat back four will ease the confusion that is apparent on the pitch and it is of course the system that nearly all of these players are more familiar with. The back four should pick itself and in the likely absence of Ince, Beckham should get a chance to play in the Gascoigne role of playmaker. He can do it if he stops being so selfish with the ball. This is probably the reason he doesn’t have a huge number of assists from an attacking midfield position.

I am no fan of McManaman but I think he is probably the best choice at left midfield. The lack of left sided players means that there is severe limitations in selecting for that position. Anderton will relish the chance to play right midfield again (despite his insane insistance on wanting to play in the centre) and Michael Owen will shine for England if he is given the chance.


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