England win warm-up match 3-0
Monday 07 June 2010
England limped to an unconvincing and, at times, pretty awful victory in their practice match against local South African league side Platinum Stars.
Fabio Capello claimed the second half against Japan on his side's last outing nine days ago represented a major step forward. This was an even bigger stride backwards.
Jermain Defoe gave England an interval lead before Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney extended it after the break.
But Capello can only hope the standard of opposition - limited, yet hugely spirited - failed to bring the best out of his team because if that is not the case, England's stay in South Africa is destined to be a brief one.
Having previously declared his intended starting line-up for Saturday's Group C opener against the United States would all get 45 minutes, the guessing game began as to whether - with the notable exception of Wayne Rooney - Capello had begun with it here.
It would indicate a willingness to hand Joe Hart the first international start of his career in the biggest game of his life, although the young keeper has apparently been impressing in training, and also that Ledley King was set to partner John Terry.
Yet if that was the case, few did themselves any favours against a side that finished last term in the bottom half of the table and were plucked off their holidays for this specially arranged game.
Hart forgot himself at one point and reacted badly when he was admonished by his manager for the time he took over a clearance.
If that had been the sum total of England's problems, it would not have been too bad.
But Ashley Cole was given a torrid time by Joseph Molongoane, Glen Johnson was panicked into giving away a clumsy penalty, Jermain Defoe headed a long list of aimless passes and Peter Crouch headed a decent chance woefully wide.
As skipper Steven Gerrard was paired in central midfield with Frank Lampard, there was a disappointing lack of impetus and Shaun Wright-Phillips failed to make any impression after an impressive second-minute contribution.
The one player who did look lively was Joe Cole, who remained on the field for the second half, giving him ample opportunity to claim the left-sided berth for the weekend.
It had all started so well for England too as Wright-Phillips zipped a pass through the Platinum Stars defence that allowed Gerrard to provide Defoe with a tap-in.
What followed was atrocious and if Bradley Grobler had not wasted the opportunity of a lifetime by driving his penalty high over the bar, the hosts would have gone in level.
Capello was not amused and made his feelings plain on a number of occasions, although he took exception to being repeatedly ordered to remain in his seat by the fourth official.
At one point it appeared the Italian was about to engage in a stand-up row with the woman before a pink-shirted administrator had a quiet word advising her such stringent application of the laws was not necessary.
The introduction of Rooney - and nine others - did not exactly change the course of the game. But it did allow England to gain a measure of control, which the Manchester United man emphasised by setting up Cole just after the hour.
Unfortunately he also got himself booked and generally put himself about in a more robust fashion than Capello probably wanted before he tapped home late on.
Michael Carrick and Matthew Upson appeared to have most to gain if Capello wants to play Gerrard in a more advanced role against the States or is not certain about King's ability to get through an entire tournament as a first-choice centre-half.
But after this, there are quite a few things for Capello to mull over before he sends his troops into battle for real.
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