Guts return to Hodgson’s Three Lions, though room for improvement
England, in the end, made Switzerland look like a Rolex watch in a digital age. Granted, the Swiss weren’t at their most cutting edge, however, there are enough positives to take out of this 2-0 win for the Three Lions to take into the next game, being priced odds-on at 2/7 to win Group E.
The opening two minutes saw Fabian Delph, on his debut, win the ball at his combative best and initiate interplay with Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney in the left channel. An area, going forward, when familiarity forms that could become a combination for England that is successful.
Although Delph was caught in possession, after a hospital pass from Jack Wilshere, his chase back embodied the passion England have been missing in that position since fellow former Leeds United player David Batty. He didn’t reclaim the ball, instead bringing down his opponent and conceding a foul for his efforts, as well as a yellow card.
However, in just 15 short minutes, the robust Aston Villa midfielder demonstrated to Roy Hodgson that he can be the solidity of England’s diamond formation for years to come.
In life, things aren’t complicated, they’re just made complicated by life forms known as humans. In football, to play a diamond, it takes the knowledge to understand just what the characteristics of a diamond actually are, in its simplest form.
Without a doubt, it is the hardest known natural material on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness and, whether deliberate or otherwise, Delph embodies that characteristic. It is no coincidence that he has had the benefit of Roy Keane’s wisdom on the training ground at Villa this term.
Keane himself was like what carbon was to steel. Aided on the other side by Jordan Henderson, the Liverpool player embodied a diamond’s durability, Jack Wilshere added gloss to the performance, while Raheem Sterling sparkled at the tip.
There were, however, occasions in the first half, when England’s performance became sloppier, courtesy of poor decision making. Wilshere’s beautifully delivered ball from the edge of the area over the top for Wayne Rooney to run onto had the nation screaming ‘shoot’ first time, Marco van Basten style. Perhaps a lack of confidence swayed him, and his resulting attempt to control the ball failed.
Likewise, when Danny Welbeck won the ball in Switzerland’s own half, after relentless harrying, he was gifted a three-on-two situation as he closed in on the six yard box. With Sterling steaming through the centre, and Rooney peeling off to the far post, Welbeck’s indecision cost England. The opportunity to square early to the Liverpool man came and passed in the blink of an eye, his resultant ball finding traffic, as Sterling just got a toe to it.
Clearly Hodgson’s half time team talk had an effect. The Three Lions displayed a 20 minute spell that was cohesive, hard-working and full of endeavour. It was, in one word, gutsy. Attempts to string ambitious moves together were made and, although some didn’t come off, the team at least tried, and when they failed, efforts were made again.
Chasing back as a unit, attacking as a one, everything clicked. Although tiredness set in eventually, that particular spell brought a goal. A swift counter attack, this time Sterling bringing the ball forward, advanced into the penalty area, and with Rooney and Welbeck in support, he switched to the latter who was in a position to bundle in, albeit off his shin.
A collective desire to defend their lead, clearly evident, the players worked for each other. Wilshere made way for James Milner, who came on to provide much needed fresh legs, while Phil Jagielka replaced Phil Jones, who was struggling with a hamstring tweak.
With the Swiss pushing forward in the closing stages, the ball found final substitute Rickie Lambert, who set off on the counter, holding play up until Welbeck levelled his left shoulder. Laying off to him, the new Arsenal man did the rest. With only the goalkeeper to beat, he gave him the eyes and found the corner.
It wasn’t ‘goodnight Vienna’, but more like ‘bye bye Basel’, as England established a platform to build on, with an encouraging victory on the night.