Just as last Sunday's result against France didn't tell the whole story of that match, so last night's scoreline against Switzerland was misleading in its own way. I have no wish to be a killjoy but it was flattering to England.
That aside, there are lots of reasons for Sven Goran Eriksson to feel positive this morning. To use a hackneyed phrase, but one that's true in this case, England gave a thoroughly professional performance to win 3-0.
They had a number of factors against them going into the game. There was the disappointment of losing to France to overcome and the pressure of knowing they couldn't afford to lose. There was the fact that the stadium had a running track and I think they would have preferred a bit more of an intimate venue. There was also the heat to contend with, not to mention a Switzerland side who came out intending to make things difficult for England.
The Swiss achieved that in the early part of the game, pressing constantly in all areas of the pitch to consistently deny England the ball. All their players were involved, including Alex Frei and Hakan Yakin and Stéphane Chapuisat, who at 34 must have found it sapping. England had no time on the ball and until the Swiss ran out of steam, they seemed to have the upper hand.
They looked most dangerous at set pieces, which highlighted some areas of concern for England. I'm still not convinced about England's wall, which looked a bit ragged. And England did not defend well against the dipping, in-swinging ball. I also thought they looked a lit exposed on the left when Ashley Cole pushed forward. That was one area I feel might have been exploited if the opponents had been a bit more adept at getting into that space.
Ironically England's opening goal came from a Swiss free-kick because Hakan Yakin switched strategy from pumping in a dangerous delivery to playing a square ball instead. It was intercepted and then England's best move of the match unfolded with Steven Gerrard making a run and finding David Beckham. A good ball across to Michael Owen was well placed across goal for Wayne Rooney.
It was fluid move, showing the best of England and the best of Liverpool, and by that I mean the city, not just the club. Rooney, Owen and Gerrard all made positive contributions on the night. Rooney's temperament must still be a slight concern but then I also feel he is becoming more mature by the game.
Beckham certainly had a better game than against France and there really wasn't a weak player in the team. Everyone seemed up for it, assured, and there were no signs of a hangover from France. The commitment was exemplified for me in the build-up to Gerrard's goal when Gary Neville made a terrific run to pick up the ball from Beckham and pass. To make that kind of run so late in a match that was evidently draining was amazing. That tells you there isn't much psychologically wrong, and a clean sheet for England will be another plus, mentally.
I know that many people will look to Switzerland's red as a turning point. To deal with Bernt Haas's dismissal first, I think his first yellow was soft. But having been booked he was then a bit rash to go through on the second offending tackle. So technically he had to go.
But I don't subscribe to the view that England won that game because the Swiss went down to 10 men. They went down to 10 men against Croatia and Croatia didn't manage to beat them. Too often there's an assumption that a side will fold when someone's been sent off. But there is often a sense of persecution among the depleted team that makes them more determined to get something from the game. England played professionally to combat that and then increasingly dominate the match.
As against France, I thought Eriksson's tactics were excellent last night. His substitutes added something extra through Darius Vassell's pace and Kieron Dyer's willingness to get forward. Neither Switzerland nor England produced the kind of flair we've seen in places from Spain, Portugal or even the Czech Republic so far, but last night's job was done well and that's all Eriksson could ask.
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