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All Things Footie | Thursday, October 14 | Jordan

England held

A blustery, cold and wet night in Baku saw England held to a 1-0 win against Azerbaijan. Sure, we can blame the weather for a dire showing, but a one goal return with three strikers on the pitch says something isn’t working properly. A well organised, fit Sunday-League team would have given the Azeris a game, I don’t mean to be disrespectuful, but on that showing they’re one of the worst International teams I’ve ever seen. They could barely pass it straight, I won’t mention the finishing (I was reminded of the old Fantasy Football sketch where Jason Lee had his own specially shaped goal) and yet England still nearly conceded on two occasions.

Only Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard emerged from the game with anything to shout about. Sure, Owen converted a great wind-assisted cross while entirely unmarked six yards from the centre of the goal with the keeper in no-man’s land, but if he’d have missed that chance then … well … yes. Rooney was poor, very wasteful, poor decision making, loose passing—he looked more like a 17 year old in a mans game yesterday than ever before. Perhaps he’s bringing some of the club-form inconsistency that many frustrated Everton fans will tell you about to the International stage. Has the novelty worn off now there’s more pressure on him? For England’s sake I hope not.

Jermaine Jenas was a surprise choice for inclusion in the starting eleven, and he didn’t do much to justify his place. He didn’t make any glaring errors, but he didn’t do anything to make him stand out either. I can only assume that Eriksson didn’t want to play the effervescent Shaun Wright-Phillips becasue it would unbalance his midfield three, but given that I’m surprised Owen Hargreaves didn’t get the nod ahead of Jenas. Butt was dull, Neville had one of ‘those’ games, and Robinson looked a bit nervy punching a few balls and misjudging crosses (though one has to put some of that down to the awful conditions). Jermaine Defoe looked like a bit of an Owen clone yesterday—while we all know he’s got a better touch than the Madrid man, I was surprised to see him taking an Owen-esque several touches before having the ball under control. Maybe it was nerves, maybe the weather, but he was the same against Wales.

Ashley Cole was again excellent—lively, dilligent, mature—and both Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand reinforced their claim as one of the best central defensive pairings in the World (though Campbell did make a hash of one challenge that against a better pub side would probably have led to a goal).

Having had a bit more time to think about it, I have much to say about Beckham’s stupidity (yes David, not cleverness, stupidity); mainly that he could easily have gotten himself booked without risking injury to himself or Thatcher. He’d just scored for God’s sake, he could just have removed his shirt. I bet he wouldn’t be admitting how clever he was if Thatcher had jumped and broken Beckham’s ankle in the challenge. Roy Keane was chastised and punished for deliberately fouling someone, and Beckham should be too. How likely is that? I’d sooner bet on Alan Green getting the Cameroon coaching job.

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