Anorak News | Rearguard Inaction

Rearguard Inaction

by | 13th, June 2003

‘SVEN Goran Eriksson has an impressive record as manager of England in competitive fixtures, having lost just one match out of 18 – and that to the world champions.


By rights, he should be lauded by the football establishment, by the media and by the fans.

But anyone who saw the first half of England’s Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovakia on Wednesday will find it hard to express unreserved admiration for the Swede.

It is hard to recall a worst performance over 45 minutes than the shambolic effort that was England’s first half – and there have been a few dire games to choose from.

The absence of three-quarters of the first-choice defence is only a partial excuse.

The problem was not so much lack of ability (although, if Danny Mills is the second best right back in England, we really are in trouble).

The problem was that no-one – in defence, midfield or attack – seemed to have a clue what they were supposed to be doing. And the person at fault for that must be Eriksson.

The Swede cannot complain that he had not had enough time with the players – he has had two friendly matches and a training camp to get it right.

So, either he is not getting his message across to the players or they are not listening.

On the second-half performance, Slovakia are a very average side. It shows just how awful England’s first-half was that they made them look quite good.

To Eriksson’s credit, he realised that the famed diamond formation wasn’t working early on and made the change before half-time.

By that stage, Danny Mills had shown conclusively that he is not an international standard full-back – not even for the Faroe Islands.

In the second half, England were a lot better and thoroughly deserved their victory at the end.

Michael Owen’s first goal might have been the result of a soft penalty, but Slovakia should not complain about that.

England definitely had the worst of the decisions, with Gareth Southgate almost being mugged in the area only a couple of minutes later and then Frank Lampard having a goal disallowed by one of the most perverse offside decisions I’ve ever witnessed.

But they shouldn’t have needed rescuing – by Owen, the referee or whoever.

In this qualifying group, England have now been behind in three of the five games they have played – in both games against Slovakia and twice in the game against Macedonia.

They cannot expect to keep coming back, especially against better teams.

It is now a matter of some urgency that Eriksson sorts out the mess that is the England defence and allows the rest of the team to play a bit of football.

Posted: 13th, June 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink