Did you enjoy that? Maybe not, but Roy Hodgson’s England are already playing like Roy Hodgson’s England ought to play, and that was a pretty decent result.
France might have had a lot of the ball but England had one of those familiar boxes of eight players blocking their way. Rarely did the French find space in critical areas, and it took a fabulous piece of deception from Samir Nasri to break through at all.
Do you remember Danny Murphy’s goal against Manchester United a few years ago? Murphy gave the goalkeeper the eyes, then planted the ball into the opposite corner once the keeper’s weight was moving the wrong way. Here:
Well it looked as if Nasri did exactly the same thing, shaping to go to the far corner so that Joe Hart was at least shifting that way, then whipping the ball near post. Everyone said that Hart should’ve done better but in a way he was a victim of his own sharp anticipation.
England didn’t really function as an attacking unit. Young, Wellbeck, Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t work as a unit at all, and the suspicion is that we’ll be reliant on set pieces for most of our threats. It’s a big ask, but aside from Glen Johnson, does any England player look in any way threatening? Perhaps Jermain Defoe can perform a Nevland like substitute role, but he needs service and space, and never looked like getting either while he was on.
Like Roy’s Fulham teams the defence looks fantastic, but there’s no real counter-attacking so sitting deep can feel a bit painful. It’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but equally, where might a goal come from? You can overthink these things: goals come in all kinds of strange ways, and I’m sure we have another couple in us. The good thing is that’s probably all we’ll need – the defence is that good.
One more thing:
The 5pm kickoff meant watching the game in a pub. I know that these days we’re all supposed to be fist clenching pub going football fans but mainly that means standing in a too crowded room with hundreds of people who never watch football but still have strong opinions on it. I have no beef with occasional sports fans – I’m the same with rugby – but seeing men in suits spitting “Go back to referee school you c*nt” (the wit!) in some curious showing of lord knows what is bewildering, as is listening to the various explanations of why Jordan Henderson and James Milner are sh1t (again: if you’ve actually watched any football you’ll remember Henderson’s extremely promising displays in a Sunderland shirt; similarly, Milner isn’t very exciting to watch but is clearly adept enough at doing a job for the team). So there’s all that. I am an old fuddy-duddy, I appreciate that, but the popularisation of football (he says as if its a bad thing, or indeed a new thing) means that watching games in a pub isn’t all that it used to be.