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England v Finland

That was a close one, and Possibly the turning point in Englands World Cup qualification campaign. A round of applause for all the lads, who worked hard and got the result they deserved. It wasn't all smiles though, the defence looked rather dodgy for the majority of the game and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the front two weren't at their sharpest. Although he stayed fit, that seemed to be all Steve Gerrard did and Paul Scholes was hardly a threat to the Fins. Here's my player by player review........

David Seaman

What can I say, Seamo had a marvellous game. There's not a 'keeper in the premiership who'd have caught that one shot from Jonaton Johannsen and his save at feet in the last few minutes (and a similar save early on in the game) particularly stood out. He looked sharp and reliable, he's also the only keeper in the premiership to have not dropped one catch all season. Old safe-hands is back, lets hope his fitness holds up for the rest of the qualification games (and for Arsenals Champions League campaign).

Chris Powell

Hmmm, not as impressive as his debut (vs Spain). Maybe that's because he was given a hard time by the Finnish wide men, rather than sat off by a Spanish side who were concentrating on the upcoming Catalan derby. I think Chris looked out of his depth, on the ball he didn't seem to know what to do and he rarely went forward and threatened the opposition as he did so well against Spain. Defensively though he looked fairly solid but kept getting himself into trouble with some poor distribution.

Rio Ferdinand

A fine performance from Rio, for once he looked like he could both defend well and look comfortable playing the ball out of defence. It's such a shame he spoiled it all by some slack marking on Aki Riihilahti for the Finnish goal. At international level there's no question, you have to stay tight to your man and get infront of him, Rio failed to do this. It's something he will learn though and I feel a lot more confident having him in the international set up after this fine performance.

Sol Campbell

I bit of an on/off performance from Sol I thought. At times he looked magnificent, hard, well timed tackling and striding out of defence confidently. Other times he looked like he didn't want to be involved and looked a bit uniterested with the whole thing. On the whole though I think he aquitted himself well and deserved his place in the side.

Gary Neville

Much as it pains me, I'm not a fan of G Neville in any way shape or form, I thought he had a great game. He came forward well, defended solidly and desereves credit for his work on the first goal, with his glorious little chip over the approaching defender and crossed ball causing chaos in the Finnish defence. If he can perform like that for the rest of his England career, our lack of good, young right full-backs may not be exposed for some time. Well done Gary, keep it up and show the same confidence in future.

Steve McManaman

It would be easy to say it was a surprise that Steve McMannaman had a good game. Or that he looked dangerous and polished running at defenders and moving around the box. But I guess thats what you'd expect from someone who holds down a place in the current European Champions Cup holders and La Liga leaders. Not even metioning the fact he scored a magnificent goal in the Champions League final last year and is a contender for best foreign player in La Liga. To put that accolade into context here are a few recent winners : Figo, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Mijatovic, Zamorano, Stoichkov, Laudrup.........

Paul Scholes

I was dissapointed with Scholes' performance. It's clear someone has been telling him to track back more and cover more of the pitch, but he spent far too much time recieving the ball 5 or 6 yards form the edge of Englands penalty box. Then he left a big gap in the centre which forced Gerrard to move forward, which nullified his defensive qualities when Finland counter-attcked. Maybe if Scholes had pushed forward more and allowed our defence to play the ball out from close to the half way line we could have avoided defending so deep and made Finland's front line run more.

Steve Gerrard

Another dissapointment for me. His distribution was awful for a player of his ability, Gerrard gave the ball away far too often and handed the advantage to Finland. He worked hard and tried his best but had a bad day at the office. He's missing the trip to Albania anyway so someone else (my guess is McCann or Carrick) will get a run out on Wednesday.

David Beckham

My man of the match, a wonderful performance from the skipper. What really surprised me was that he played like a captain for the first time, running all over the pitch, tracking back and working for the team. Lets hope he keeps on thundering shots in from the edge of the box and threatening the goal like he did at Anfield.

Michael Owen

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until I'm blue in the face, Michael Owen is the only truly international class striker England possess. He is a scorer of great goals and someone who, when he looks like he's having an off day (as I thought he was on Saturday) can turn the game and keep his head when it matters. Hard working, never say die attitude, epitomises what the English game should be about.

Andy Cole

Once again Andy Cole demonstrates his ineffectiveness in front of goal when you're only presented with a few chances. Truth be known the best of all the chances fell to Cole and he managed to make a hash of it. He had more chances to score than any other player yet he failed to trouble Niemi once. It is surely clear now that however effective Cole appears to be in the Premiership he is not clinical enough on the international stage. It's a tired point but Cole does get 10 chances a game for united, and every other game he scores. There's not that kind of room for error on the international stage.

The Substitutes

Heskey (71), Fowler (82) and Butt (90) didn't really have the opportunity to impress, Heskey held the ball up well and gave us the highlight of the game with his hideous dive on the edge of the box. I'm sure Hyypia will have something to say about that when they get back into training.

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