11 October 2006

England v Croatia 10.11.06

Rumor has it that England will actually use the 3-5-2 formation versus Croatia this afternoon. The English media has been promoting it for over a week now, since they spied McClaren using it in practice, but the reports today sound much more assured of its use.

According to the BBC, the formation will look like this:

Which is, for all intents and purposes, a 5-3-2. I know Ashley Cole especially likes to get forward from wingback, but there are going to be five defenders on the pitch, and England will be playing away from home. This lineup is going to end up a 5-3-2.

Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Playing Croatia in Croatia is probably England’s toughest game out of all the Euro qualifiers. If England had done the job over Macedonia, and they were sitting on 9 points instead of 7, this game would be a lot less important. When the fixture list was drawn up, I’m sure England would have been satisfied with a point here. A win would be a lot nicer now, given the dropped points on Saturday, but a defensive lineup, with the focus on retaining possession and keeping Croatia out, isn’t a bad idea, and should secure the needed draw.

I still don’t see where the goals are going to come from. From the looks of it, the Rooney/Crouch pairing is tenuous at its best. When Rooney’s off-form, it’s not a pairing that will score you buckets of goals or win you games. Lampard, again, is going to be a key man. It’ll be his job to get shots and be the main threat from midfield, especially with Gerrard ruled out of the game. If Crouch and Rooney aren’t going to threaten, with Gerrard, Lennon, and Joe Cole out, and Wright-Phillips, Downing, Defoe, and Bent on the bench, it’s going to fall to Fat Frank to score. Yikes.

I truly hope McClaren isn't experimenting for experment's sake, simply to prove he isn't Sven Goran Eriksson. This formation might be the strongest versus Croatia, the manager is in a better position than I to decide that, and I can see how he'd come to that conclusion. But it feels similar to other decisions McClaren has made, like dropping Beckham, in that he's doing it for the reaction he'll get from the press instead of doing what's best for the National team. We'll find out today whether McClaren's the master strategist he likes to believe.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict another 0-0 draw. Hopefully, as I expect it to happen, it won’t, as that’s usually how it goes down.

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