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Mighty Whites

I refuse to gloat though, as I'm sure losing (5-1) to England (at home) was put into perspective when Heir Völler learned of his fathers heart attack that he suffered during the game. Let's hope all is well.

Where to start when it comes to the game though? I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I don't think it's really sunk in yet, and neither will it for some time I'd imagine. That'll teach them for ruining Wembley's final game.

Oliver Kahn't

I'd love to have a word with Sepp Meier today about who's the 'best keeper in the world' - it certainly isn't his prodigy Oliver Kahn (or as Sport First have printed it multiple times today - Oliver Khan). I'm not saying David Seaman is mind, but he had a blinder on Saturday, at least two world class saves, he also came out of his goal brilliantly to nick the ball out of player's feet on more than one occasion. The less said about the dodgy attempted cross-catch the better though, we'll forgive him.

Kahn was poor though, he didn't look confident, gave away a stupid and potentially disastrous free kick in the area, made some suicidal lunges for the ball leaving his goal wide open and made a hash of just about everything that came his way. He just failed to control his box.

In Defence of...

Quite rightly the performance of England's two centre halves in the first half has been much derided. In particular Rio Ferdinand was too easily beaten in the air and Sol Campbell was caught, unforgivably, ball-watching for Germany's opener. The whole of the first half was littered with slow reactions, incompatible decision making and weakness against the talentless giant Carsten Janker.

The second half performance was much more encouraging however. Campbell looked assured and well timed whilst Rio looked lively, willing and able. Watching the second half again (as I am now) I've counted at least 5 superb challenges from Campbell, Ferdinand usher two players from the penalty spot to the corner flag and countless commanding aerial sorties from both. If they can put the mistakes behind them, which I suspect were mainly down to nerves and lack of understanding, the two will make a formidable partnership.

Wide Load

Credit is due to Gary Neville who produced an uncharacteristically assured, solid and creative display. While Ashley Cole terrorised the Germans down the left, forcing the very player who was brought on to trouble Cole (Asamoah) to drop to right back.

The only thing lacking was Cole's final ball which really should have been better on more than one occasion. He's been crossing well for Arsenal and his through balls are getting more and more crisp and accurate so it can only be assumed that the youngster had an off day in that department. His running was superb though as was Neville's who overlapped with Beckham superbly causing the Germans double edged havoc down the flank.

The real problem on the left was the lack of a truly wide midfielder - Nick Barmby's running was too predictable, his passing wasn't wasteful and he made few glaring errors but there was definitely something missing in his performance. I can't remember the last time he turned out for Liverpool though so lack of match practice is an acceptable excuse.

Just Like Watching...

Eriksson's tactic of bringing the (supposedly) wide players inside and pushing forward marauding full backs is uncannily reminiscent of many recent successful international teams, most notably France and Brazil's preferred method of attack. With everyone resuming shape without the ball it is a flexible and devastatingly effective shape requiring a disciplined midfield, strong centre halves and superb full-backs.

The latter point, as well as being arguably the most important feature of this ideal, is surely what has stopped English sides exploiting this tactic in recent years. The emergence of the attacking talent in Ashley Cole and the apparent international re-birth of Gary Neville has given Sven Goran Eriksson a chance to apply the theory, ask Bohme, Worns and Asamoah if it worked or not.

That's not to say that the midfield is not a vital part of the strategy, the beauty is it's flexibility - for it to work you need two midfielders (at least) playing well. The majestic David Beckham's faultless and tireless performance along with Steven Gerrard bossing and breaking with equal efficiency provided England with an envious platform to break from. The two out of form players (if you can say that about two players providing assists), Scholes and Barmby, held back and worked hard to keep possession, creating a platform for Becks and Gerrard to run the game.

Kop Dollar

The final cogs in the wheel, all the way from Anfield - containing undoubtedly the most explosive and impressively well oiled piece of machinery in the England factory - worked a treat. Michael Owen was astounding. There's not a lot more to say really. Phenomenal. Finishing, pace, awareness, intelligence and the bare faced cheek of playing the ball over the 'keeper who stopped the identical shot a week earlier.

The other cog, a slightly more cumbersome and crotchety device, was less impressive. You can't accuse Emile Heskey of not trying and he did finish superbly as well as winning the ball well to supply Owen for his 2nd goal. There's just something about him missing in games when backs are up against the wall - he only started playing yesterday when we were a goal up and it's no coincidence his goal came when a trio of Kahn-beaters separated us and them. Maybe he'll prove me wrong and score us the vital goal away to Greece when we're pinned back with ten minutes to go, but I doubt it.

The Road Is Long

And there are a couple of winding turns left. Albania will be no pushover, we did well to get three points off them last time, and Greece will probably be the easiest place to slip up (it's all the grease from the kebab shops). There's certainly no cause for World Cup Qualifying celebration on a grand scale just yet. If we manage to get three points from Albania it will make the job easier but there'll still be an edgy couple of hours in October.

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