Saturday, 4 June 2011

Disappointed Again

It seems to be the same old story. An England team oozing with talent, passion and potential falling at yet another hurdle on the road to qualification for Euro 2012. Capello had limited options up front but that's not where the biggest problems were today for England, because it was in fact the whole team that looked laboured, tired and as many will say; already on the beach.

At Wembley you want England to come out the blocks and hit the ground running, but today they began with too many sideways passes and too many tired legs, meaning Switzerland started to get more comfortable. However, things were still very end to end with both teams having chances in the early stages of the match; giving it more a cup-game-feeling rather than a qualifier.

Contrary to what we would have expected prior to the game, the young Switzerland team were the ones who scored first in the encounter. Tranquillo Barnetta saw his looping free-kick go past the whole of the England defence, and with Rio Ferdinand not able to get his head to the ball to clear it, Joe Hart could do nothing but dive to his left in vain as he saw the ball go past him and into the back of the net, to give the much more organised Swiss the lead at Wembley.

England were looking for a response but it wasn't them who got the next goal. Just three minutes after the first goal Switzerland won another set piece and after some downright stupid 'defending' from James Milner, Barnetta was able to slot his free kick through the wall and past an extremely shocked Joe Hart to get his and his teams second goal of the game.

Shell-shocked, England went in search of a goal and this time were fruitful. Defender Johan Djourou brought down Arsenal team mate Jack Whilshere in the penalty area after a promising run from the young England midfielder, and England were subsequently rewarded a penalty. Ever the professional, Frank Lampard hit a hard and low shot which went just under the arm of goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, who had dived the right way, and into the net to lift some pressure off the England team and relieve the fans somewhat just before half time.

The tempo was upped as the second half got under way and there was a penalty claim after a run from Theo Walcott was brought down by another Djourou challenge but nothing was given.

The introduction of Ashley Young at half time by Capello proved to be inspired, as a lovely move resulted in a goal for the winger and an equaliser for England. Milner cleverly clipped the ball into the penalty area which was chested down neatly by Leighton Baines for a well-taken goal by Young, once more raising the heads of Spurs, Liverpool et al.

As the fans breathed a huge sigh of relief, the players of England grew in confidence. Passing was now more neat - like that of their opposition's in the first half - and England began to press with a much sharper and persistent attitude. But still, Switzerland stood firm in their organised formation and England found them hard to break down. Milner began to cover more ground and did some nice interchanges with first Glen Johnson and then Leighton Baines; however neither provided any clear cut chances for his side.

One of the best opportunities of the game came a little later on, when Young ran at the Swiss defence and produced a powerful shot. Benaglio saved, and the ball fell to Darren Bent. With the keeper struggling to get back onto his feet, Bent found himself with a chance which even Cameron Jerome could not miss, but to sum up England's day he fired it over the goal and into the stands.

With time running out, Milner found himself with a good chance to get the ball into the box after pressuring Djourou and subsequently getting the ball off him. The Manchester City man passed the ball to the incoming Young who, under pressure, could only muster a shot which sailed high and wide.

Only minutes to go and Switzerland began to press for a winner, first getting corner and then receiving a free-kick thanks to Rio Ferdinand for bringing down Admir Mehmedi right by the by-line. Fortunately for England, neither came to any avail and the home side were free to breathe again.

The pendulum swung again and late substitute Stewart Downing had the chance to win the game for England in the last seconds of the match. The Swiss struggled to clear a last-minute Leighton Baines corner, and Downing found the ball at his feet which he fired into the side netting to end a somewhat disappointing match in the late afternoon London sunshine.

Putting things into context of the match, England did well to come from two goals behind, but many of us will be questioning as to why we were two goals down in the first place. Yet, putting things into a much bigger context: today was a game we should have won. The performance was not good enough from a side that we know can produce better, and by the end of the day England may find themselves second in Group G if Montengro win their game later on tonight. Not too worrying if it happens, but England must up their game for the next qualifier and fortunately, none of the team will 'be on holiday' by the time that comes around.

Full Time: England 2-2 Switzerland

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