Andy Cole: The action will warm up – but it's time to accept five inconvenient truths
Forward Thinking: The ball, altitude, they are all just excuses - the players need to get over it
Thursday 17 June 2010
1. The tournament only feels flat because we believed our hype
There's been a lot of talk about this tournament lacking the wow factor. We have to remember that it's still early days, but we should also know England were never true favourites. The notion England should have steamrollered the US was plain silly and it wouldn't have surprised me if the US had won. In fact, Robert Green's gaffe meant America didn't get the credit they deserved.
All too often balance goes out the window with England's first game. England need their best players to step it up, including Wayne Rooney, although I don't begrudge him a quiet game against the US. He can't be expected to win the trophy alone.
On that theme, I don't think he should play up front alone: I'd certainly stick with Heskey as his partner for now. The lone frontman role is a thankless shift even for Rooney. The key to goals is creating chances, and Heskey does that.
2. The lack of goals can't be blamed on the new ball
The unpredictable Jabulani. High altitude. They're all just excuses, and neither explains why there haven't been more goals. If a ball swerves, that should create as many goals as much as hinder strikers. For as long as I can remember, Adidas has produced a new football for each World Cup, and sure as clockwork, controversy has followed each one, before and during tournaments. The players need to get over it. So do we. The Jabulani is the same for everyone, Fifa is not suddenly going to drop it and use another one, and I'm still at a loss to be pointed to any single incident in this World Cup where a player has said, specifically, "the new ball did this at this time, and it's not normal". Certainly Green's mistake didn't appear to be ball-related.
3. Defensive play is the order of the day – so far, at least
Every team has now played at least one match at the World Cup, and only one nation has really impressed me: Germany. It's not just the goals they scored against Australia but the way they went about their business in an opening week dominated by negative play. Most of the big teams – the pre-tournament favourites including Brazil, Argentina and Italy –ave adopted a safety-first mentality. So have the smaller countries, of whom we expected a lot, like Portugal and Ivory Coast. Not losing the opening game was paramount, and much more important to most sides than actually winning.
Germany bucked that trend. We take it as a given that Germany will produce the goods at major tournaments and reach the latter stages. But what Joachim Löw's side did against Australia was showcase a youthful exuberance that stood out a mile.
Löw's squad is among the youngest at the tournament, with pace and crisp passing. I was impressed with Mesut Ozil especially, and the combinations with Bastian Schweinsteiger, and the finishing of Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Müller and Cacau. It was just like watching Brazil – literally in Cacau's case, since he was born there.
4. Robert Green has to go
I'm guessing that Green will pay for his terrible mistake on Saturday with his place in the England team for tomorrow's match against Algeria. And that is probably the way things should be. Fabio Capello cannot afford to be sentimental about it, and I don't envy him having to make the call, but Green made a howler and why would you keep a player who made a high-profile howler in an important game in your side?
I thought that Capello would go with David James from the start because James has the experience at this level, and experience counts for a lot at the World Cup. I'd probably expect Capello to drop Green and bring James in. Then again, Capello could go with any one of three and nobody knows which way he's leaning.
5. Capello is not flawless
England's players would thrive on stability, especially stability of selection. I should know – I used to be one. Consistency helps to underpin confidence and it allows you to relax in the knowledge of a familiar set-up.
Of course, circumstances dictate that there must be some changes from the England team that faced the Americans. I'd expect Jamie Carragher to come in for Ledley King, and I'd guess Gareth Barry will come in at the expense of James Milner. And that goalkeeper change is probably on the cards – whether it's James or Joe Hart who benefits. But if Capello makes any changes beyond those, he'd be showing uncertainty, and that would transmit to the players sooner rather than later.
Andy Cole works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar
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