07 October 2006

England 0-0 Macedonia

Now this is more like it. I was getting worried there, what with three wins out of three for Steve McClaren. This is the England I know; the England that underperforms, is inconsistent, fails to impose its will on the game, does little creative, and ends up with a draw. Both teams had chances to score, but 0-0 is far from a surprising or undeserved result. This is a tough Macedonian side, but they are still a team England should be beating at home, end of.

I’d like to lay blame at the feet of Michael Carrick, and by extension McClaren for selecting him over Parker, but it was more than that. But Carrick was taken completely out of the game, and certainly didn’t help matters. Macedonia covered him closely, and his strength, his vision and distribution, was taken away. England didn’t have someone like Hargreaves or Parker to sit deep in the midfield and protect the defense, and Carrick cannot fill that role, so Lampard was taken out of the game as well. He continually dropped back to fetch the ball and help out, and didn’t get into Macedonia’s penalty box nearly enough to be a threat.

You can go down the list and tick off the rest of the boxes. Rooney continues to disappoint. Crouch’s luck in front of goal ran out. Gerrard was substandard, and picked up a yellow card that rules him out of the Croatia game as well. Downing isn’t of international quality yet. Macedonia shut up shop, and once again, England failed to be clever enough to unlock a team that will sit 9 or 10 men behind the ball. Wright-Phillips was an improvement when he came on, and the team clearly misses Aaron Lennon, but more inspiration is essential, whether it’s Wright-Phillips, Lennon or Joe Cole when they’re healthy, Gerrard in the center, whomever. Both Theo Walcott and Wayne Routledge showed more willingness to be inventive and run at defenders in the Under-21 game than anyone did for the senior side today.

Of course it is not the end of the world, and Israel’s draw with Russia still leaves England on top of the group on goal difference, but it is disappointing and worrying nonetheless. Macedonia should have been there for the taking and later on, when England has to play more fancied teams like Israel and Croatia, I hope they don’t rue the dropped points.

Meanwhile, Scotland gets a landmark 1-0 result over the French. That’s right. England drew against the 51st ranked team in the world, at home, while Scotland beat World Cup runners-up France. Enjoy your weekend, England fans.

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