Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Day 15
England vs. Belgium
Well that was boring. It turned out to be just a budget Premier League game with both teams trying to lose.
What did we learn? I think it’s clear that England have a system of play that has continuity and the players buy into the formation. I don’t always agree with the personnel choices, but I like that they have a game plan. Not every team or every coach at this World Cup tournament have such a clear identity as England; all the tinkering with France and Argentina doesn’t suggest such continuity, those are two high profile examples of teams missing their own identity. So, from a coaching perspective, England do have that tactical stability and a formation that is serving them adequately.
But when the budget team selection gets named, how well did England play? It’s the third game in and there is still no reason to get excited about any England performance. Perhaps the biggest issue is that England haven’t played anyone of relevance yet. And playing Belgium in a group topping decider would suggest at a relevant opponent, but the reality was vastly different. This was anti football and yet again we learn nothing new about England.
I liked the potential pace and direct nature of the Rashford and Vardy pairing up top, but the pragmatic and super safe midfield behind offered little in support. The intensity was dramatically missing. And that missing intensity I feel was a little unfair on Rashford and Vardy. The game time for those two replacements was counterfeit, it was fake. There was no opportunity for success or opportunity to shine, they were set up to fail. Play Rashford in a game that has genuine meaning and let’s have the conversation based on genuine merit, not this charity game.
The decision to move Rashford to right wing back with 10 minutes remaining is simply baffling. Welbeck shouldn’t be on the plane let alone the on the field, and to bump Rashford down into the utility role is upsetting.
I’ve never seen the center circle so much in a game, midfield attrition at its uninspiring best.
This whole England strategy makes no sense. Surely the idea was to win the game and carry momentum into the next phase, maybe pick up a few Harry Kane goals along the way and cement a few more player partnerships ahead of the round of 16. None of those objectives occurred. It was a strategic fail for England.
England might have won out the perceived ‘less-complicated’ route through the next rounds, other than you have to play a group winner which would suggest that a group winner is a tougher opponent than a group runner-up. But England lost so much in return. There was no England momentum gained. There was no advancement of Kane up the goal scoring charts. There was no confidence boost for Sterling. There was no further cementing of player partnerships across the field. England lost the game and won little in exchange. England just rolled out a second XI, played boring football, learned nothing, wasted valuable field time for those that truly need it and ended up on the wrong side of a defeat. Whoever planned this out hasn’t really got a clue what’s going on, oh of course, Gareth Southgate planned it out. The veritable mastermind of coaching.
I’m sure England will celebrate the perceived easier half of the draw, but from a football integrity aspect England lost out massively today. Play Columbia and good luck to you. Integrity would suggest that you advance in a tournament on merit not by plotting the course of least resistance.
By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire