16 June, 2006

Scottish Pride: England 2 Trinidad & Tobago 0

Having been heavily criticised for their performance in the first match, England have something to prove. They therefore come out and play exactly the same way and just as badly.

There is nothing whatsoever to recommend England’s first half performance, other than John Terry’s efforts to clear a goal-bound ball just short of the line near the break. The commentators credit Stern John with the shot, but in reality Rio Ferdinand would have had as much to do with a resultant goal.

The danger is averted, however, and England are lucky to be level at the halfway point. Owen and Crouch have performed dismally in front of goal and the team have lacked any creativity, with David Beckham notably uninspired.

The pattern continues in the second half. The crowd are numbed by the dismal action on the pitch, but wake up when Wayne Rooney is brought on, having apparently recovered from injury. Aaron Lennon takes to the field with him, and puts in a lively performance.

Rooney, however, is a disappointment. Shortly after his arrival he jumps over an incoming opponent in order to avoid the challenge, clearing not wanting to commit himself in fear of aggravating his injury. It is obvious that he is not ready for this.

The play does pick up a little, however, thanks to a more attack-minded 3-5-2 system, and Stewart Downing’s fresh legs add further impetus, but England remain distinctly average throughout. Trinidad & Tobago do not test them, and it looks as though the match will be goalless, a poor result for England.

Finally, on 83 minutes, the breakthrough comes. Like several of England’s attempts at goal, this one comes from the head of Peter Crouch, but while the others have merely bounced harmlessly off him, this one is powerfully dispatched into the net.

The England team are visibly relieved and their play for the last few minutes of the match improves as a result. Gerrard scores with a great long-range strike on 90 minutes and the win, and with it qualification, is sealed. Once again, however, England have been poor and are flattered by the score. The game against Sweden will hopefully provide an opportunity to improve.

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