Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Quarter Finals England v Sweden
Sweden vs. England
I’ve been very critical of England during every game this tournament, I don’t think they are very impressive, and yet I always pick them as my choice to advance. Good things are happening for England that far outweigh their ability as a football team.
I was a little bit surprised that England made no changes for this game. After the duration and attrition of the Colombia match, both physically and mentally, I assumed that some changes to the starting XI would be demonstrated. It’s not as if all England players were excellent in that game, far from, so the decision to play what Southgate must regard as his ‘best’ team was a little surprising. Sterling, Deli and Lingard are obvious targets, but that’s because they haven’t demonstrated enough evidence to suggest that they are good enough to carry this team further. Especially as there are more dynamic players sitting on the bench. Rashford, Vardy, Loftus-Cheek.
And with that same team selection came the same England performance, certainly through the first half, not very impressive. The same problems are alarmingly evident with seemingly no resolution. The central defenders, of which England have many, seem unwilling or unconfident to carry the ball into the midfield. So many times the ball was played sideways with little intention to play forward. The Sweden organization just sliding across happy to concede possession in zero dangerous areas of the field. How many times did Henderson drop in close to the ball and collect a short pass into feet only to monotonously recycle it back through another central defender. Receive the ball higher, face forward, play forwad, break some lines or at least try to do so. Safe and boring.
The option of England running in behind is nonexistent. It’s a feature of England’s play that has been missing all tournament, everything is coming towards the ball and into feet, nothing running in behind. You would assume that the speed of Sterling and his Manchester City game plan of penetrating runs without the ball would be a heavy go to for England, quite the opposite. That feature seems to have been eliminated from the England play.
Another tactical anomaly was the England usage of set piece corner kicks. England have been excellent from the corner kick, Harry Maguire has been exemplary in the air, I don’t think he’s lost a header all tournament. But this concept seemed to slip by England. Nobody tried to drive to the end line, nobody engaged opposition defenders forcing a rash clearance, nothing was done to win a corner kick for most of the game. This seemed like such an obvious tactical staple for England that got totally missed. Play to your strengths. Especially as you aren’t winning any beauty contests for your style of play, at least try and go win the game playing to your advantage. Nope. Not until 30minutes of wasted time did this click with England. And when it did click, look what happened. Totally predictable yet not predicted by those in charge of England.
I was not impressed by England. Even in victory. They beat a team that I thought they would beat, ‘somewhat comfortably’, and that’s how it played out. Belgium advance to the semi-final by beating Brazil, England advance to a semi final by beating Sweden. Its not England’s fault that they have a crappy opponent every game, they are perfectly entitled to ride the wave good fortune, England have not cheated their way through, but equally they have not earned their advancement.
I predict that somehow England will play in a 2018 World Cup final. England are not one of the two best teams in world football.
By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire