World Cup 2018 Day 20 - Why Englands Possession Isn't a Threat

Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Day 20

Colombia v’s England

All things were equal coming into this match up. Colombia were without the services of James Rodríguez, that omission was certainly a problem for Colombia. But equally England were robbed of the serves of Fabian Delph, so the balance worked itself out equally, right?

The England possession was good. This was a total reformation to how most England international games go…for 20minutes. It kind of showcased against a veritable opponent in Colombia, that English players can have possession of the ball…for 20minutes. It doesn’t always need to be direct play…for 20minutes. The possession game was effective…for 20minutes.

But before you get too excited, the England possession was often happily granted by Colombia…for 20minutes. If you are permitted to pass the ball around the back three a few times, 70yards from the opposition goal, then most teams can look good. So, there is a little bit of uncertainty about whether England are a decent football team or just content to play low risk football when the opposition clearly allows them to do so.

For my liking, far too many times the England forwards came towards the ball to receive that monotonous possession. Certainly, in the opening exchanges, maybe for a full 20minutes, Kane and Sterling offered the England central defenders a short ball into feet without any variation. I have mentioned it before, and I continued to see it again with England’s opening play, the three ‘ball-playing’ central defenders are just not willing to carry the ball forward and engage the opposition midfielders higher up the field. Mitigation might be that the England game plan was to run through 20minutes problem-free and then try to be a little more expansive.

The early work rate of the attacking midfield line was excellent. I’ve have been critical of Lingard and Dele many times, they have failed to impress; but in this game they definitely demonstrated an understanding of international tournament football and doing your job for the team…for 20minutes. Neither were particularly creative in the attacking phases, though Lingard and Tripper showed some genuine understanding of each other’s game occasionally providing width or occasionally providing support inside the play. But defensively I gained a new respect for those two players and a new respect for the England team as a whole. On the transition when losing the ball, they were still a little slow to counter-press and hunt the ball, but their capacity to reorganize behind the ball and get in shape was very good. Maybe a better attacking entity than Colombia might cause more problems, but in terms of England players understanding their role and fulfilling their responsibility, full marks for their organization.

But after 20minutes it changed. It seemed like England ran out of faith that they are a genuine football team and stopped playing. The lack of confidence from one team followed by the reinvention of the other team’s strategy witnessed a massive shift in the game.

Colombia had seen out their 20minute period of safety and then started to play. From that point through to halftime the ball domination was Colombia’s, England fell off the game dramatically.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half were a stalemate. This game was no longer a game of strategy, this was a war of reaction. Tempers were raised aggressively, the referee was uncapable of controlling the game efficiently; his weak officiating compounding the lack of football to watch. But the foul on Kane to award a PK was 100% correct. 100%. The Colombian defending of the set piece corner kick was baffling, just compete for the ball, don’t just foul Kane and hope to get away with it. The outcome of the PK known well ahead of time. Kane has demonstrated outstanding penalty kick competence throughout this tournament, he’s had a few chances to practice, but this was clinical.

The emotion of Colombia defeated themselves throughout the second half. England didn’t deserve much out of the game through their second half performance, but it’s not their fault that Colombia were making rash decisions. Neither team were in the ascendency, but Colombia imploded, England just took the gifts on offer.

79minutes. Dier came on to secure things up. I was surprised that a forward like Sterling didn’t come off, maybe the decision was injury influenced. But if you choose to substitute a player to secure a game, then the primary objective must be to secure the game. Objective failed.

With Sterling and Dele off the field in exchange for defensive fortitude, the extra time 30minutes looked a little under-powered for England. A little underprepared. However, the pace of Vardy with the potential to stretch the Colombia defensive group could have offered what England couldn’t offer for the duration of this tournament, the option in-behind.

Two balanced teams got through the 30minute boredom of extra time and the penalty kicks ensued.

The penalty kick resolution was predictable some time before the end. The result of England’s penalty kicks often questioned.

England won out with deserved merit. The best team won. The best team didn’t win in the best way, but the best team won.

By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire

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