The brutal reality check came with a suitably stark analysis for Steve McClaren. Not content with exposing England to the pitfalls of Group E and halting the briefest of honeymoons for their manager in the process, Macedonia's forward Artim Sakiri claimed McClaren's men will not qualify for the 2008 European Championships unless their performances take on the resilient spirit of Andorra. Yes, really.
West Bromwich Albion's former employee, who infamously signalled the end of David Seaman's international career by scoring direct from a corner in a 2-2 draw at Southampton four years ago, insisted it was easier to take a point from England on Saturday than from the group's whipping boys, who have conceded 16 goals in three defeats.
Macedonia lost to Andorra in their qualifying group for the last World Cup and will seek to amend that embarrassment on Wednesday night. Sakiri, who now plays for the Danish club Aalborg, said: "I think it is easier to play against England than it is to play against Andorra. We both wanted to play football at Old Trafford, and when we play Andorra they just put 11 players 20 yards from their goal and kick the ball away. But because England let us play we grew in confidence. I also thought they would attack a lot more than they did.
"If they keep playing this way they will struggle to qualify. Their next game away in Croatia is going to be very tough and they are going to have to do something else. They will have to work hard on new tactics. We deserved this and we deserved something in the first game against England at home, when they got one chance and scored. We might have made them look ordinary but it was three points we really wanted, to be honest."
Frank Lampard disagreed with his manager's post-match assessment that a barren performance was a wake-up call to those who believed the failings of the World Cup had been erased. "I wouldn't talk about that as a reality check," he said. "We're quite realistic in the dressing-room and realise that as much as much as we want to win every game it doesn't always work that way." But the Chelsea midfielder admitted the result has increased the pressure on England to deliver in Zagreb on Wednesday.
Lampard, who is expected to win his 50th cap against a Croatian team managed by his former West Ham team-mate Slaven Bilic, said: "We wanted six points from these two games and by dropping two it has put more pressure on the second game. It was a difficult game against Macedonia but we have to look at the negatives and learn from them. Potentially Croatia away is our hardest fixture in the group, although Russia and Israel will also be difficult, and we will have to stand up to a good technical team and a hostile crowd. We have to show that we are a good team."
Gary Neville, who missed a glorious chance for his first England goal in the second half, said: "It almost felt like an open net. It did sit up a little bit but I should have done a lot better. I should have hit the target at least, or even squared to Wayne Rooney, although I didn't see him until after I shot. It was the big chance in the match. In games like that you might only get one chance and I should have taken it."Reuse content