Glenn Moore: Only winners in pointless games like these are the suits at Uefa
When park players are allowed to mix with elite footballers, people get hurt
Michael Platini used to care about footballers. It was at his prompting Fifa outlawed the tackle from behind. Now he thinks only about how he can marshal the votes needed to retain the Uefa presidency and launch a coup at Fifa. Thus the continued indulgence of statelets like San Marino who, in the bizarre democratic oligarchy of football politics, have the same voting power of England or Germany.
San Marino is smaller than the Isle of Sheppey in size and population. Sheppey United play in the Kent League which is the level San Marino should be at. Instead they are sharing the stage with Wayne Rooney et al. There must have been a few in the crowd thinking, 'I wonder if I have a Sammarinese relative. I quite fancy playing international football.'
But when park players are allowed to mix it with elite footballers, people can get hurt. It is why insurance companies take a dim view of civilians joining in professional team training sessions. Last night Theo Walcott, pole-axed by Aldo Simoncini's reckless challenge, was sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. His season has been stop-start due to his contract stalemate at Arsenal. This was a chance for a fulfilling night's action.
In his absence Aaron Lennon, making his first start since that grim night against Algeria in Cape Town, began well, making the second goal, but thereafter failed to seize the opportunity the evening presented.
Not that he was alone was this was a tough gig to get motivated for when you are used to playing in the Champions League. The FA tweeted that Michael Carrick was starting his first competitive game since 2009. This was competitive in name only.
No easy matches in international football? It looked that way at various points earlier in the evening with Sweden trailing in the Faroe Islands, Italy being held in Armenia and Czech Republic drawing 1-1 at home to Malta. In the event Sweden, Italy and the Czechs all won, albeit uncomfortably, but this was different. San Marino are the minnows' minnow, but when the height of a team's ambition is to keep the score down, and they are well-drilled, patience can be required to break them down.
So it was last night. It was inevitable that England would win, even if they had to wait until San Marino became mentally and physically exhausted. In the event they exploited their opponents' naivety to break the deadlock just as the crowd were getting nervous. Welbeck's neat finish two minutes after Rooney's penalty ensured there would be cataclysmic upset, after that it was a case of racking up the goals and avoiding further injury.
The problem with these matches is that the lack of competitive edge makes it difficult for footballers who are used to playing at the highest level to maintain their focus, sloppiness creeps in. .
England could have been sharper tactically too. This was an ideal opportunity for Carrick to play in central defence, spreading the play from there. Players such as Lennon should have been more prepared to run at opponents, to commit them, to test their ability to time a tackle. Throughout players seemed happier to lay the ball off sideways, or behind. Too few players were prepared to run beyond Welbeck into dangerous areas. But then, with a difficult match in Poland coming up on Tuesday the inclination of some to play within themselves was inevitable.
On the credit side Wayne Rooney, captain for the night, reined in any frustration he may have been feeling at the goalless first half-hour and close Sammarinese attentions to stay calm. He looked happier in an England shirt than for a while, and fitter. It helped that, unlike Andorra a few years ago, the opposition did not seek to bridge the chasm in class with rough stuff.
As so often with England Manchester United players made a significant contribution with Welbeck underlining his ability to score unexpected goals as well as the striker's bread-and-butter ones and Tom Cleverley making some telling interventions.
There was also much to applaud in the astonishing turnout which showed there is a deep well of enthusiasm for the national team even if many of the corporates understandably lingered over the half-time chardonnay.
What did Roy Hodgson learn? That this England team remain very much a work in progress. They are organised, they keep their shape, but they lack the flair, adventure and incisiveness that marks out the very best teams.
It was hard, however, for the England manager to take anything from a game against such abysmal opposition. This match bore no relation to the ones England will have to win to achieve something on the international stage. The World Cup may have been expanded to accommodate too many teams but even the weakest possess some ambition.
Of more long-term relevance last night was England under-21s 1-0 win over Serbia in the first-leg of their European Championship qualifying play-off at Carrow Road. Tournament experience is vital for developing international players and Hodgson will follow events in Tuesday afternoon's second leg in Krusevac with as much interest as his own commitments that night with the seniors will allow. Certainly, this morning he can expected to turn to the DVD of that match before watching this one again.
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