Are we Scotland in

England 1 - 0 Spain - friendly, Wembley, November 12th, 2011


England scrape a lucky, very lucky, win over the current World Cup holders, Spain, in a friendly, where the opposition never got anywhere close to top gear while still teaching their hosts a footballing lesson.

And all of a sudden we’re world beaters.

It’s pretty much like the Jocks back in 1967 when they beat the then World Cup holding England team – 2-3 at Wembley, you’ll have probably seen the video, they play it all the time in Jockland, Jim Baxter playing keepy-up, they play it in super slow motion as it drags out the moment because Jim only keeps it up about three times, christ even I could do that, with my left.

The main differences being they were the first side to beat England after the ’66 triumph, unlike this where England have followed Argentina, Portugal, Germany and France – some of them very comfortably – and back then England v. Scotland was far from being just a friendly.

So this dismal performance is a great result, shows we can compete with the best.

Apparently it shows that in tournament situation England can adapt. So now England can play like Switzerland in the last World Cup. They did a smash and grab job to beat Spain 1-0 in their opening group game, followed it up by a loss to Chile and a draw with Honduras to finish third in the group and go home after the first round. Add in the fact Spain tried in that World Cup game, where in this meaningless fixture before they jet out to Central America, well.

Is that England’s level now? Parking the bus? Flat back nine? Pretty much Greece circa Euro 2004. Anyone want that? Win at all costs, forget playing football. If so, might as well just install Sam Allardyce as the next manager and have be done with it.

Everything bad about England in this game can be summed up by the unanimous choice as man-of-the-match, the player who epitomised the back to the wall spirit shown. Scott Parker.

It can be summed up with the very first piece of action Parker was involved in. Ashley Cole has the ball on the left, David Silva closes in on the leftback, he passes inside to Parker who as he so often does passes it straight back from whence it came, even though Silva was right on top of Cole now. Cole then just meekly gave the ball away. So much of England’s troubles can be blamed on England’s new hero.

Every forward pass just gave away possession, a killer against a side like Spain, and then there was Parker’s own interpretation of tiki-taka, where he just passes straight back, or his little dinks back to the centreback pairing which invites a pressing side like Spain to push their opponents deeper and deeper. They know England backs are uncomfortable in possession so a bit of pressing and they just cough it up in some manner.

Oh wow he actually blocked a few balls and skipped about a bit.

Putting yourself about. The English footballing disease. And while we celebrate such lack of skill as this with such gusto we’ll always be second best to a team that can keep the ball, can pass to players wearing the same colour shirt and don’t just cough up he ball with ease. And for all that praise he made a whole four tackles. Yes four, all that possession they had and he tackled them less than five times.

So we’ll keep on seeing aimless hoofs up the park, from defenders, ‘keepers, midfielders.

Aimless hoofs met by the aimless head of Darren Bent in this case. While Fabio decided to try out new faces he chose to stick with this old one, even though he’s played the last number of games. We all know what Bent can and cannot do. Why did he start this game? He was completely isolated and wasn’t given much service but even then it doesn’t excuse his ineptness. One aimless hoof found him all on his lonesome about half way into the Spanish half. All he had to do was bring the ball down, keep it and use it, there was no pressure. But no. He chose instead to run under the incoming ball and headed it on to no one, as he was the furthest forward in white. Gormless.

Then when an England player actually managed to beat someone and keep the ball there was a crossing opportunity. It was eventually butchered as the crosser had no one to find. Bent was the only one in the box, it needed a run to the near post, a player with his pace should be doing this more often but no we find him in his usual spot. At the back post, behind the far defender, so two defenders and the ‘keeper in front of him. Hiding.

While Spain lacked some cutting edge, they had a number of chances, woodwork hit, shots just wide and a couple of times where erroneous offsides given by an inept official stopped them having one, or indeed two on ones with Joe Hart in England’s goal. They were by a wide mark the best team on the park, while England struggled to be the second best.

The substitutions affected Spain worse than England – no matter who you bring on if you take of Xavi you’ve weakened the side – Welbeck again showed more in a few minutes than Bent did in his hour. Rodwell gave more to the midfield than Jones but then that’s because the latter isn’t a midfielder but a cenreback. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually see him there. What a wild idea. Adam Johnson outdid both Walcott and Walcott’s replacement Downing as well as Milner, though that could be because Milner was more leftback than winger as Cole was permanently tight inside.

Walcott says that this shows England can compete with the world’s best teams.

No it doesn’t it shows England can get lucky but then they’ve shown that before under the previous manager when they also showed that once the luck runs out you aren’t competing with the best at tournaments you’re sat at home watching those that actually did qualify.

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