England thrash Slovenia
That was more like it.
Slow build up, a tad nervous in the opening exchanges, but once we got going we had the right measure of tempo and conviction to get the job done. Rooney is still struggling to rediscover his game-face, but otherwise we defended well, moved through the middle with intent and our play in and around the box should have resulted in more than just that wonderfully taken Defoe goal, and winner. Wonderful movement in the box, perfect cross by Milner. The latter was decent, player instructions on key, allowing for a far more structured understanding between himself and Glen Johnson down the right.
Gerrard, purposeful and involved. Defoe, patient and sharp with the ball at his feet and unlucky not to have snatched a second. There was one or two mis-placed passes, but compared to the previous two group games, England have managed to claim some much need redemption. Terry and Upson (masterful tackle at the death) at times defending like warriors. Handanovic in-between the sticks for them, worthy of a mention too.
Lampard improved but nowhere near his Chelsea form. Milner, peach of a cross. Did he lack direction at times? Lose the ball too easily? One or two people perhaps being a tad too harsh there. Did think Barry lacked something. Was left disappointed with his overall impact. Much like Lampard, I guess their work on the field is undervalued when compared to the likes of Gerrard. Or perhaps they are just plain ordinary at the moment.
As mentioned, defence worked hard - Johnson a little dodgy at the start. Ashley Cole, top drawer. There were heart-in-mouth moments, but we survived.
Nice to see Joe Cole chucked on. Probably needs more time than a late cameo to be truly instrumental, but his substitution aided us in retaining possession towards the end with his corner flag antics. Looked a little rusty with his passing. Can't see Capello changing the midfield too much in the next game.
One questionable area is up front. And Wayne Rooney's disappointing form. Taken off, injured, but once more off-key. Regardless of his lack of spark, still wouldn't want him to be unavailable for the next match. You hope, he'll awaken soon. Had he not scuffed his shot, it might have happened today. To be fair, he wasn't awful but he was far from great. And compared to his Utd form, nowhere near the player we need for the crusade.
So, a win, confidence, belief. Mood of a nation shifts into the sunshine leaving the dark cloud behind. Was only Slovenia, right? But at least we beat them and our demons. Even Capello was excited (appy) at the final whistle, congratulating the players, all smiles. Team unity on public display for all to see. Well done. Still have to improve.
Also nice to hear actual singing over the textbook vuvuzelas. And thank you to the BBC for showing an England game that ends with an England win. ITV = cursed.
Do we need to improve further? Yes. Stick more chances away for starters. Knock-out football appears to have kick-started our World Cup. Late goal by the USA in their game against Algeria means we now play the winners of Group D. Germany.
And if we win, possibly the Argies. Happy days.
As for Sunday, we do not need any Carlsberg team talks or front page tabloids citing Churchill to inspire.
It's Germany. Just avoid the penalties.