England has become the team that pines for success in football, yet just seems to fumble out of the rubble and misery as gluttons for punishment. Since their disastrous World Cup bid in Brazil, the team has no doubt felt rather sore about how they attacked the tournament; Roy Hodgson, the beaten, tousled boss to constantly bestow upon the public a tirade of bad news, has shown that he understands what the next step must be for his squad, in order to develop into rising champions. The events of the summer must hereby be wiped clean; The Three Lions must now regroup, recharge and roar in the faces of defeat.
Keys to the English Winning Streak
How to progress
I felt a little that Hodgson happily hurled Liverpool’s knights, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, up the field in an uninformed attempt to bag a few goals during their somewhat short duration in South America months ago. This slightly hasty decision left England gasping for air, as its disproportionate midfield-to-upfront ratio was poor, and neither line of men seemed to gel particularly easily. In the Costa Rica match, for instance, James Milner’s pace came and went, whilst Ross Barkley showed potential, and that was all. Despite obviously being a huge supporter of ex-Saint, Adam Lallana, his growth for Southampton had not perhaps reached international level quite yet; Jack Wilshere has often been haphazard and not one hundred per cent focused, whilst Frank Lampard has been getting on for quite some time. These niggles combined with a shaky defence really conveys how imbalanced Hodgson’s team was.
The patch-job English side presented to fans and World Cup-goers/viewers was very discouraging, but hope is certainly not lost. Hodgson’s belief in his boys is overwhelmingly enlightening and his plans to utilise youngsters will eventually pay off. With regards to Wayne Rooney’s captaincy debut (although it puzzles me, it somehow makes a fair semblance of sense, too) England should be able to look to an elder member and take on board useful tips from a different skipper, whilst Hodgson himself knows he has much to show the press if he wants to remain in his comfy ‘England head honcho’ chair. Nurturing younger players, including Luke Shaw, the man of much promise, should give England more of a bulky defence; whilst Sterling and Sturridge reconnecting at Liverpool should help to bring some solidarity to previously unknown pockets of players, especially upfront.
What can we deduce from their international action of late?
I would certainly say we can infer that Hodgson’s new tactics are paying off. Whether it’s a wealth of goals (though I’m not talking by Germany’s standards) or just better technique, any form of improvement presents itself as the baton to be run with until the next international fixture, and England seems now to be the team taking on board all sorts of criticism and seeking decent scores. The debris of shattered World Cup visions has certainly been shunted out of the way, and the path has seemed a lot clearer since.
England vs. Norway (1-0)
Weeks ago, England’s friendly against the Norwegians wasn’t exactly all rainbows and smiles, but one cannot possibly expect them to go from zero to hero in such speedy succession. Familiar ex-England player and chirpy BBC pundit admitted he had dozed off during the game, due to its usual dire structure (BBC Sport, The Sun, September 2014). Despite Shearer’s cheeky reluctance to stay awake, the new skipper neatly slotted in a penalty during the 68th minute. But penalties are a fickle thing; so many fiery comments often derive from the only goal being a penalty, because it’s not fully from a team’s own merit, and credibility was exactly what England needed to show. It was a win, but rather by the skin of their teeth, and probably more by a whole heap of luck than genuine footballing judgement. Brede Hangeland’s international retirement from the Norwegian side was not too dissimilar from Steven Gerrard’s, which meant that both teams were in a fairly even position, in that they had to seek guidance elsewhere. Despite being evenly pegged in some cases, England’s victory should be taken as something to build upon, rather than entirely shun.
England vs. Switzerland (2-0)
It’s controversial, but I’ll just quickly whisper that my GBP was on Switzerland (sssh). However, in came Danny Welbeck, and Hodgson’s side looked more impressive than they had in a remarkably long period. In Basel, the Euro 16 Qualifier could realistically have gone to the Swiss, who had played eagerly during the World Cup, and were a joy to watch (especially Xherdan Shaqiri). BBC Sport notes just how well (or not, in certain cases) England fared; Leighton Baines finally showed some growth and determination, whilst Gary Cahill came equipped with a better, more rigid form. Sterling and Fabian Delph were another two to morph into pristine shape during the game. Despite not being his best piece of play yet, Welbeck was a desirable fit for scoring on the night, and successfully flung in two goals, which gave England both the edge and accolade largely deserved.
Where to now?
I wouldn’t want to get ahead of myself, especially as I’m a mad sceptic when it comes to England, but their knack with the ball has been vastly different lately. Would it be too much to suggest that this form could continue, and better still, develop into some big international wins?
Next stop: a string of fortune*.
*Feel free to visualise a small red question mark next to this, because we all know it might be a tall order.
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