20 June, 2006

Bogeymen:
Sweden 2 England 2
Paraguay 2 Trinidad & Tobago 0

With qualification assured Sven Goran Eriksson elects to rest a couple of players due to them holding yellow cards, but puts out close to a full strength team, including a start for Wayne Rooney. England want to win this game, and perhaps more importantly they need to put in a decent performance.

Clive Tyldesley starts early with his Partridge-isms, discussing England's poor record against Sweden in relation to Abba, Ikea and Bjorn Borg (he obviously can't work out a way to fit in Volvos). The game kicks off and within seconds Michael Owen lives up to expectations by injuring himself. Peter Crouch replaces him.

Sweden have the early pressure, pinning England in their own half, but they don’t make enough of free kicks and corners. Crouch has the first decent chance for England but fails to control his header. A minute later Rooney has his first attempt, but is tackled well in the box. A David Beckham free kick curls towards goal but is saved by Andreas Isaksson. England are starting to see more of the ball.

They are also playing much better than they did in the first two games, and take a deserved lead in the 34th minute when Joe Cole sees an opportunity to shoot from distance and strikes it well into the top corner.

For the rest of the first half England have good possession and try a couple of speculative long shots. In Kaiserslautern Paraguay are one up against Trinidad & Tobago, taking pressure off Sweden.

England are strongest again at the beginning of the second half, but Sweden sneak one back 5 minutes in, Marcus Allback scoring the 2000th goal in World Cup history. They sustain the pressure and minutes later Henrik Larsson and Olef Mellberg both hit the bar on separate occasions.

Sweden are definitely in the ascendant and England don't seem to know how to respond. Rio Ferdinand limps off the field to be replaced by Sol Campbell. "That can only be an injury" suggests Gareth Southgate in the commentary box, displaying the sort of acumen that has just landed him his first managerial job.

The match quietens down and for a few minutes nothing much happens. Rooney is taken off to be replaced by Steven Gerrard for the last 20 minutes, and the game immediately swings back in Sweden's favour. A Kim Kallstrom shot is cleared off the line.

The spell doesn't last long, however, and there are an uneventful 10 minutes before Gerrard heads in a goal from a Joe Cole cross. Sweden swarm forward and pepper the England defence, and on 90 minutes Larsson gets the equaliser.

So England fail once again to beat Sweden. Nevertheless they have improved and somehow managed to win the group, avoiding Germany in the next round, which all has to be worth something.

1 comment:

Nik said...

It's a sad world where that was seen as England's best performance so far - 2nd half was still awful and having shown a knack for playing badly, not conceding and sneaking a win, we have now shown that we can't even do that any more.

England usually has a good defence, but the second Swedish goal was a shambles as was any attempt to defend a corner.

I wonder if we are paying the price of current injuries and the effects of players that didn't play much during the season due to injury - A Cole, Owen, Rooney, Campbell, Neville - still think that the main problem was not taking Defoe

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