So the friendly that is not really a friendly has ended and it is the home team who are taking away the bragging rights from the first Scotland-England in 14 years. The final score was 3-2 with goals from Walcott, Welbeck and Lambert for England and goals from Morrison and Miller for Scotland.
As far as the game went I think that 3-2 was a fair reflection on how the game played out. If I was to break it into sectors, I would say that Scotland controlled the first 25 minutes, England had the better of the next 20 minutes taking us up to half time. The second half was much more level and both sides played well for the first 25 minutes, and England absolutely battered Scotland in the last 20 minutes. In all honestly Scotland were the better team and deserved to be leading before Lambert scored, but after Lambert scored Scotland seemed to lose all their rhythm and by the end of the game England were deserved winners.
I’ll break it down into analysis from a Scottish stand point and then an English stand point, before rapping it up overall.
To be honest if you had offered Scotland that they would take the lead twice in the match, I am sure they would have taken it and hoped they won. They did take the lead twice but still managed to lose 3-2, but in doing so showed a lot of promise for the future.
What is interesting for Scotland is that since Strachan has become the manager there has been a clear and obvious change in mentality and in playing style. No longer are Scotland booting the ball from back to front and hoping for the best, instead Scotland are playing a nice passing game and at many times (especially in the first half) totally out passed England.
When you look at the goals Scotland conceded, it really is very disappointing. The first goal was scored when Hanley was off the pitch receiving treatment for a cut, and the area of the pitch he occupied was cleverly exploited by Walcott’s pace and Cleverley’s excellent pass. The second goal was just a bit of a mess; I wouldn’t describe Welbeck as a prolific headerer but somehow he managed to pull off of both Hanley and Martin (both of whom are taller) to fire a header into the bottom corner which McGregor probably should have saved. The third goal was in many ways similar to the second; Lambert’s movement to get off of Brown is very good, but you have to wonder why both Martin and Hanley crash the front post and why neither of them was marking Lambert who is surely a bigger threat to score than a centre back. The three goals weren’t scored against Scotland with 11 men in open play, which is in many ways a very nice accomplishment. However Strachan will be disappointed that Scotland lost two goals to set pieces, an area before the game I am sure Strachan believed to be a strength, instead of a weakness.
As far as the players go:
McGregor was solid but poor on the second goal.
Hutton seemed to have a good game and made a number of last ditch tackles and blocks, bur was non effectual going forward.
Whittaker is a player I couldn’t believe got called up never mind started and played the whole game. Was poor for the 1st goal and added little going forward.
Hanley was poor for the 2nd goal but in open play had an excellent game with many blocks and last ditch tackles. Was missed for the 1st goal as England exploited his gap.
Martin was poor on the last 2 goals, but played very well in open play with lots of blocks and tackles.
Snodgrass showed signs of life at times but disappeared at many times as well.
Morrison was excellent in the middle and did very well for the first goal.
Brown had a very quiet game and for me was at fault for the 1st goal because he didn’t help Whittaker track Walcott’s run and left a massive gap in defence. He also allowed Lambert to get away from him on the 3rd goal. Not a great night for one of Scotland’s more experienced players.
Forrest had little to no impact and sadly only about twice went on a mazy run and both times ended in fouls.
Maloney also had very little impact on the game, although showed touches of nice passes.
Miller played well (for Kenny Miller that is) and scored a very good 2nd goal (even if it did seem to be handled).
All the subs did pretty much nothing and had very little effect on the game whatsoever, which is disappointing when Scotland needed a jolt when they went 3-2 down and none of these guys could step it up.
When you look at the individual performances it is interesting to note that although England didn’t play well, Scotland also didn’t play well. Scotland played better (for Scotland) than England (for England) did, and that is noteworthy because both sides were in a similar position in terms of fitness.
First and foremost England wanted to win; anything but a win would have been an embarrassment. Luckily for England they accomplished their win, regardless of how unconvincing it was. There are a lot of question marks over the performance that England put in against Scotland and it puts further doubts over where the squad is going.
As far as the players go:
Well what can I say about Joe Hart? Absolute stinker? Terrible? One of the worst attempts at a save I have ever seen from a professional footballer? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Hart had nothing to do and still managed to basically throw the ball into his net once and pick it out the back of the net again later (his positioning wasn’t great for the goal either). Surely there has to be questions and competition for the England number 1, because Hart recently just hasn’t been doing it.
Walker had a poor game and never really got forward like you would expect and managed to get skinned a number of times. Should have been sent off for a second bookable offence on an off the ball tackle on Snodgrass (who knows how the game would’ve went then, 2-2 at the time).
Baines was poor in the first 60 minutes but came to life and took the game by the scruff of the neck to finish the game, becoming very deadly down the left. Assist on the 3rd goal.
Cahill and Jagielka were bossed around by Kenny Miller which is a mean feat indeed, very embarrassing. Cahill didn’t look great for the 2nd goal. Surely major questions over the centre of England’s defence.
Cleverley showed some great passing ability and is probably the future at centre midfield for England along with Wilshere. Set up the 1st goal but wasted two very good opportunities to score himself.
Wilshere was an odd one, he is so over-rated that unless he plays amazing you think he played poorly; and he did play poorly because his passing wasn’t crisp and he clearly isn’t fit (getting hooked at half time). You wonder if Wilshere will ever overcome these injury problems or ever truly realise his potential, it seems so long ago that he broke through into the England squad yet has only achieved 8 caps.
Gerrard has lost a step, and you could really tell in this game. His time as being the engine room of the English midfield is over, his role should be given over to a younger player who can actually do the work for 90 minutes. One thing that Gerrard has not lost is his passing ability and his assist for the 2nd goal was a classic precision ball from Gerrard.
Walcott did what Walcott does, he ran into open space and caused problems. His run for the ball was very nice and perfectly timed; he did well on the finish. He was giving Whittaker problems all night (which isn’t very hard); however Walcott has a tendency to bounce in and out of matches and this match was no different.
Rooney looked like a man that hadn’t played for several months, and that is exactly what he is. At no point did Rooney look threatening to the Scottish backline (by far the weakest part of the Scotland team), in fact England looked much better when Rooney went off and Lambert came on. He looked unfit and a bit overweight and didn’t really deserve his starting role up front, but it does tell you a lot about England’s limited options.
Welbeck was the man of the match; the boy just didn’t stop running and unlike Rooney was a threat to the Scotland back line all night. The biggest complaint about Welbeck is he doesn’t score enough, however his scoring record for England is very good and he added to his tally with the 2nd goal.
The English subs fared a lot better than the Scottish subs, with good performances from Zaha and Jones. However a special mention goes out to Rickie Lambert who I didn’t think would make it onto the pitch never mind score. He scored with almost his first touch and should have scored two more before the game was over. His performance shows what picking form over a name (Lambert over Rooney) can do to the team, because there is no doubt (maybe it is coincidental) that when Lambert came on it changed the game, and in 23 minutes Lambert did so much more than Rooney did in 67 minutes.
I enjoyed the match, I thought for a friendly it was a very intense and exciting game and was actually very enjoyable. Naturally I am not happy about the result (I am Scottish) but I thought Scotland (although not at their best) put in a very respectable performance. I felt that both teams had almost their full team’s outs (with Scotland missing bigger players than England) and it made for a very good competition.
On the counter to Scotland I thought that England were very poor; I know the season hasn’t started yet but the players looked very unsharp. England should qualify for Brazil, but by no means is it a guarantee. With one game away from home against Ukraine (which will be tough) and three home games (against Moldova, Poland and Montenegro) it isn’t an easy stretch. It is made even worse when you consider Ukraine have to play San Marino twice and then England and Poland at home. Montenegro also has a home game against Moldova and away games against England and Poland. It is by no means a guarantee that England will go through and will need to both get a result in Ukraine, as well as to win all three home games otherwise they won’t be making the trip to Brazil. I imagine that the most likely route will be through the play-offs, with Ukraine winning the group.
In comparison Scotland should be looking at concentrating on Euro 2016 and getting the ranking up. Old players like Kenny Miller should stop being called up and younger players (the future) such as Johnny Russell, Gary Mackay-Steven and James Forrest should be getting more chances to shine. By no means do Scotland have easy competitive games left in their group but after a win away to Croatia (4th best team in the world……really?) and a good performance against England anything is possible under Strachan.
Personally I loved the comeback of the England-Scotland rivalry, and would love to see a match played every two years (alternating between Scotland and England, similar to Ryder Cup) when there are no major competitions on (odd years). Surely it won’t be another 14 years before football’s oldest rivalry is renewed, or I certainly hope it won’t be.
So what did you guys think of the match? Did you enjoy the renewal of the rivalry? What did you think of the performance of England and what their chances are for qualifying to Brazil? What did you think of the rejuvenated Scotland team under Gordon Strachan? All comments are welcome and I’d love to hear from both sides. Thanks.