Southgate’s England put in another dullard performance against a team who had nothing to offer, as they beat Ukraine just 2-0, when it could have been so much more entertaining.
A lot of able bodied men, watched 16 of their able bodied countrymen muster not a single shot on target in over 90 minutes of football, but did see England pass the ball backwards.
There was one moment when England got it, well almost, right. They looked forward, they passed forward, they played the right ball. For most of the match Chilwell, at left back, was left standing facing back to his own goal, he was standing still facing his goal most of the time he received the ball. It was a recipe for the ball to go backwards and kill any chance of forward progress.
Then early in the first half he got the perfect ball, one in front of him, one he could run onto, he then carried on forward, instead of that stopping thing, put in a decent cross with his second touch that was just out of reach but it was the right thing to do.
It opened up Ukraine, it created a good chance, and it was never seen again.
Southgate’s England, I’ve seen seen a team that rushes forward then passes back so often. There’s a competition amongst my fellow viewers to guess how many touches it takes England to get the ball back to the goalkeeper from a Walker throw in. It can be a couple, it can be quite a few but it always ends up at Pickford’s feet. Well, it generally has a good start, as Walker’s foul throws – his right hand is always behind the ball – are more often than not hurled backwards to begin with.
Southgate’s personnel didn’t work again, though it was a major surprise that even with unavailable players he started Maddison. But of course he played the Leicester number 10 out of position. It’s something Southgate does with those players he’s talked into playing but he doesn’t actually want. It ended up with a crowded middle, of Maddison, Bellingham – who followed up his second half disappearing act against Italy, wit a first half disappearing act here, one nutmeg in the second half of course say the media oozing – Henderson, Saka cutting in and with Kane dropping in there as well.
While as show previously, width would have opened them up.
The opener came despite the usual routine of having plenty of space to run into but stopping and facing up to the defender, who you could easily beat with pace. Saka, doing a Sterling – why? Why do they feel the need to beat a player face to face? – he eventually got the cross in and there was Kane at the back post to knock in yet another.
A couple of minutes later and Saka scored a goal you see week in week out, the pundits went wild. Good goal. But not as great as that.
From then England just basically fannyied about, doing very little, I mean Maguire had the most attempts in the second half. Southgate doing his mogadon half-time routine again. This was a team there for the taking. Just needed go forward and intent, a real statement could be made. But that’s not dull Gareth’s MO.
And it brought a response at the final whistle… “why would anyone pay to watch that dull rubbish?”