England qualify in messy Montenegro performance

Rooney sees red in Montenegro.

You’ve got to hand it to England. They’ve qualified for Euro 2012 and yet left us feeling like there’s little to celebrate after they made a hash of seeing out what should have been a comfortable victory in Montenegro.

I was on the verge of tweeting, for the first time under his regime, how Capello had got the formation and personnel right for the occasion. Finally he’d designed a system that was built around Rooney in a position from which he is most effective, with youth and pace on the flanks and an excellent finisher in Darren Bent up front. And then we conceded on the stroke of half time and looked so frail in the second half it was untrue.

As for Rooney, I’m not sure there’s much to discuss. It was a red card. He should miss all three group games at Euro 2012 for his indiscipline if there’s any consistency in asserting punishment. We were 2-1 up – why the hell would you want to kick- ah, forget it. I won’t waste my time trying to second guess what Wayne Rooney thinks.

But for the first 44 minutes it was a stroll in the park. England were almost sleepwalking their way to Ukraine and Poland against – let’s be honest – limited opposition. So much for the hostile reception and difficult playing conditions. England knocked it around and looked so comfortable it was untrue. All this against the supposedly second best team in the group that came into the match still with a chance of qualifying for Euro 2012 automatically at England’s expense.

Montenegro aren’t that good. They’ve certainly surprised most by claiming the play-off spot. With a population of just 600,000 they must be one of the smallest nations to reach this stage of qualifications. However, looking to the future I doubt this is a level they will sustain and I imagine in four years’ time they’ll be at the level of Iceland or Estonia.

In the second half England looked frightened – whether that was of the opposition, or the reception they might get if they failed to qualify from the favourable position they forged for themselves in the first half, it was difficult to tell. If Spain or the Netherlands or Germany had the indiscipline to concede just before half time in a game they were bossing against a small country, I wonder what they would have done in the second half?

There are inherent problems within the international set-up. Players appear to play with an element of trepidation – not just under Capello, but previous coaches too. I’m not really sure when this manifested itself. I think back to Euro ’96 and how the country got right behind the England team, and then I think to how things are today… Where did it go wrong? Fans have fallen out with the England players – possibly because we’re force-fed their slimy lifestyles in those foul red tops and celebrity magazines. We probably know them too well. And knowing so much gives us plenty of ammunition to dislike them.

Congratualtions to England for qualifying for Euro 2012 but it was hardly the blaze of glory we had hoped or expected it to be. We may have topped the qualification group but the performances along the way continued to throw up more questions about Capello, his formations, choice of personnel and the way the players seem to underperform for the Three Lions when compared to their performances for their domestic clubs.

And poor old @sniperinthemist, who put ten pounds Sterling on England winning in Montenegro. He’ll be more disappointed than most after that last-minute equaliser.


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