England are grinding teams down and it’s good to see
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s quality football
Are England genuine Euro 2016 contenders? They’re growing into the tournament, they’re playing well as a team, and they have looked confident. In previous tournaments England have spent the group games haring around after the ball and chasing opponents – that hasn’t happened this time. Hopefully Roy Hodgson’s side are just coming to peak at the right time and have more in the tank to kick on from here.
Graeme Souness said that England’s attack appears to be weak in this tournament and they’re not carrying a threat – but England were impressive against Slovakia on Monday night and played really well. There was only one team that was ever going to win the match on Monday, and England pushed and probed to try and get the decisive goal. It wasn’t to be, but it isn’t the end of the world as some of the knee-jerk reaction would suggest.
England are playing with an understanding among them, and Monday’s game was their best overall performance so far, even though they didn’t get the goal. The greatest thing about the group stages is watching England passing and moving the ball. England worked Slovakia really well. When you see a few of their players going down with cramp towards the end of the game, yes that may partly be a time-wasting tactic, but it is genuine. Those guys know they have been in a game and they’re feeling the effects. That’s what you can do when you pass and you move, and you properly work the opposition over. It was great to see their players going down with cramp and not England. We’re grinding teams down and it’s good to see. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s quality football.
People shouldn’t be too concerned that England are dominating games without winning. That can happen in football. All three teams England have faced in Group B have come to defend and play for the draw. The table says the Three Lions only managed to break down one of them and get the victory, but they had enough chances on Monday to win the game without a doubt. Sometimes you’re just lacking a bit of fortune.
Roy Hodgson’s men are still in a strong position – they’ve qualified and played well. Whether it comes back to bite us in later rounds, we’re yet to see, but England shouldn’t fear any of the sides they’re set to meet in the Round of 16 (the runners up in Group F). Even Portugal don’t look particularly strong. There’s probably only three teams at this stage that you don’t want to face – Spain, Germany and France. You could possibly throw Italy into that pot as well. But if you want to win the competition you’re going to have to face these teams at some stage and none of them have blown us away so far.
Roy Hodgson made six changes on Monday but England still looked good. The changes where important to give the two full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose a rest mostly. They have worked tremendously hard in the opening two games and in the system they’re playing they’re expected to get forward and back tirelessly. They have worked their socks off against Russia and Wales and put in some brilliant performances, by the time England play on Monday the break will hold both Walker and Rose in good stead.
Against Slovakia Nathanial Clyne put on a fantastic attacking performance as a flying right-back, Daniel Sturridge had a good chance, Adam Lallana probably should have scored as well. England’s best chances always seemed to fall to the feet of Lallana and he’s hitting the ball straight down the keeper’s throat. That’s frustrating. He needs to be a little bit calmer and just pick a corner. The Liverpool man has had some golden chances early in games and that’s when you want to be scoring them, as it takes the pressure off later on.
The knock-out phase is ruthless. One little slip and you’re on the plane home. That’s the reality of it and that’ll be in all the players’ minds which will make these next set of games a little cagier. Sometimes the knock-out games can be extremely tight and players have to feel their way into the clash to find out how the opposition are setting up tactically. It takes just one moment of brilliance to knock you out now. For a striker that sets up an exciting prospect, because there’s a chance you might get a little more room. The opposition have to win the game as well, so there’ll be coming out and playing for a goal. England’s opponents going forward will be more adventurous than our previous three opponents and that could give Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy a little more space to operate in, and that’s what they’ll relish. By the quarter final stage at least there will be teams coming out to beat England – and that could open the game up perfectly for our attacking style.