Alan Pardew: Argentina's mark of intent shows the way for England

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Argentina made a statement of intent. England didn't. The first few days of the World Cup have been marked by one thing: there have been no shocks. You would have to go back many years for the last time that's happened in the opening weekend.

Maybe teams now have a measure of the minnows. If Italy and Spain, who are both notoriously susceptible to the odd banana skin, can negotiate their first games then it could be that we are seeing a trend develop.

But so far Argentina have made the biggest impression. They have shown that they definitely have a chance of winning the tournament. That blend of experience and talent will be hard to beat. And they still have Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi to come. It's hard not to compare their attacking choices to England's. And that's a worry.

Juan Roman Riquelme is world class. And what he did on Saturday night against a very tough Ivory Coast team, who I think can still do a lot of damage and will be an even harder prospect against the Netherlands, was to make that statement of intent.

That's a phrase I use a lot at West Ham. We always want to make a statement of intent. I made a point of it during our FA Cup run. And Riquelme did that for Argentina. Zinedine Zidane has done it for France and on Sunday there were flashes from Portugal's Luis Figo.

It could be a tournament where the big players do that. But England still need to do it. People talk about the Premier League being the best, the most exciting, full of wonderful players. It's the one that fans want to watch. But the same isn't said about the England team. I want that to change. I was five when we won the World Cup in 1966 and I don't think that since then there has been that excitement about England. We want the world to say that England are a great team. After the first game against Paraguay they can't say that. After the next two games hopefully they will - especially as we genuinely do have an excellent midfield.

It will only add to the pressure to play Wayne Rooney and there are already noises that he will feature against Trinidad & Tobago. In training I'm told he's running around like a rabbit but my gut feeling is that Sven Goran Eriksson won't put him in just yet. When he does, though, it will be a real fillip. The Rooney factor, coming off the bench, as I said last week, will be of major importance. The pressure on Sven to play him will only increase. He is our special player.

Although there was disappointment with England's performance, some of the criticism was too strong. We won the game and, in Rooney, we have our secret weapon still up our sleeve. A victory and a clean sheet always bodes well and the strength of this England team is its defensive record.

Paraguay created one chance when Ashley Cole was caught in possession and another through an individual piece of skill. As a manager I would be very happy if that was all we gave away. The two centre-halves were terrific and although Gary Neville got criticised he is an extremely good defender and part of a very experienced, very solid unit.

The nearest we've had to a shock was Trinidad & Tobago drawing with Sweden although, as the game unfolded, it became less of one. Shaka Hislop was brilliant in goal and that's great news for us at West Ham. I know he didn't expect to play and was genuinely excited at being picked. Sometimes when that happens it makes you all "goosey". You are never going to have any fear. At his age it was a wonderful thing to happen and he used all his experience.

But it split my household. My wife is Swedish so now part of her loves him - and the other part hates him! The result wasn't a shock but I guess you could say that West Ham have provided the biggest surprise so far.

Alan Pardew will be writing for The Independent throughout the World Cup. The fee for his column is being donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

Comments