France 1-1 England

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.


Richard Allen founded CCN in 2006. He lives in South London and had sort of given up on England until Roy got the gig.

9 thoughts on “France 1-1 England

  1. “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.”

    This seems like an overly pessimistic view to me. Those guys are all awfully talented (though if I’m not mistaken, this puts Milner back in a role that he hasn’t played much of the past couple of seasons) and to me it seems like part of the reason that they don’t work as a unit is because they really haven’t spent much time as one, and it takes time for attacking chemistry to take hold. Contrast that with France, where Benzema and Malouda and Ribery and Nasri have been part of the same group for a while. (Not during the 2010 World Cup, for what little that’s worth, but all four played major roles in France’s qualifiers for the Euro and played together in France’s tuneup friendlies.)

    It surprised me, though, that Roy didn’t go with Carroll, who was in great form toward the end of the season, and who can do a lot of the same holdup stuff that Zamora did before he got hurt that prompted Roy to stick with him when the crowd at the Cottage got frustrated by his lack of goals.

    And then, of course, there’s Rooney once he’s available. Plus Gerrard should (theoretically) be part of the attacking flow, no?

    1. I think we were sitting too deep to make use of Carroll, who should see action against Sweden. We were so deep that he needed the burners up top, and it could have worked.

  2. We’ll need to beat Ukraine or Sweden and will probably approach those games in a more positive fashion.

    This was a mustn’t lose game and Hodgson excels at those. He’ll have been delighted with the result.

  3. I agree with above Josh in that you are being a bit harsh on our forwards. They were very limited, but perhaps not quite as incoherant as you suggest. It was their first competitive game together and building up attacking understanding takes time. I thought Welbeck was excellent considering the very little support he got, putting on a performance that made me see more than a glimmer of Zamora.

    As has been said, England are very solid defensively. They also seem to play as a team for the first time in a while. Where they fall down, for me, is the lack of a midfielder who can pull the strings. Gerrard is not a central midfielder. His passing is almost as bad as his first touch. Parker is good at putting the defensive shift in and has surprisingly good touch and awareness but he needs someone to pass to to really pull the strings. This is where injury or a refusal to play bites – Carrick, Cleverly and Wilshere all could have made the difference here.

    England wont win the tournament, but if they continue to defend well and become a bit better in attack (Wayne Rooney will surely help here) then they will be a monumental pain in the but to whoever knocks them out.

    1. Wellbeck was good, but as Zonal Marking has pointed out, Diarra snuffed out young so that the latter only touched the ball 12 times all game!

      Agree, Carrick’s composure and reading of the game might have been useful but it still feels too disjointed. If Roy gets the ‘moments’ going his way, the odd set piece here, the odd moment of genius there (where?) then we could surprise people, but otherwise I agree with what you say about being hard to knock out. We just need to get to the knockouts, at which point I doubt anyone would be overly delighted to play us.

  4. For myself the Europeans and World Cup are the time I return to being an Italian fan (my country of origin) and its interesting the parallels between the low key approach of both countries. Italy (once again up to our necks in a scandal and also depleted by injuries or betting bans) over achieved expectations by attacking a slightly bewildered Spain side and could easily have won the game. I think this could be the year of the country that never expected it (bit like Greece when they won it), could be with the pressure being off the players enjoy and express themselves better. Incidentally how much would I love to see Pirlo in the Fulham midfield, I know…

  5. Loved seeing the banks of four again. Got frustrated when they gave the ball straight back to the opposition but felt safe because the banks of four were still in place. Got worried when we tried to play our way out and lost the ball because the set-up going forward is (and should be) different from 4-4-2 and people are out of position and the opposition had space.
    Don’t know the answer though – just get Xavi & Iniesta to play for us?

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