Negative tactics frustrate England

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A difficulty in assessing the England performances in friendly matches at Wembley is that the opposition are not always inclined to commit themselves fully.

While it is the custom of English footballers to play flat out on these occasions there is frequently a sense of the visitors being influenced by their clubs, who are not best pleased when star players return injured.

Usually the object is to make life difficult for the hosts by getting numbers behind the ball and keeping them anxious with the threat of counter- attacks. Uruguay were good at it and, as befits a reputation for hardness, they were not about to be intimidated.

They are indeed an extraordinary football nation. Drawing on a population of about three million they have won the World Cup twice and consistently brought forward numbers of outstanding players. The present crop are no exception. Theirs is a different concept of the game, more technical and rhythmic.

So, not for the first time, England experienced a great deal of frustration.This was particularly evident in attack until they were persuaded to get the ball forward quicker.

The abandonment of England's match against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin last month may have saved Terry Venables some embarrassment. A goal down at the time, England were not playing well against Premiership- type opposition. Considering that the opposition last night was far more subtle, the reaction to England's performance does not have to be entirely negative. For example, the defence coped creditably whenever a crisis loomed, especially the centre-backs, Tony Adams and Gary Pallister.

Playing just one striker is currently popular and normally the role would have been filled by Alan Shearer. After months of more or less operating in tandem with Jrgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham did not fit easily into the job.

Getting midfield players quickly forward is central to Venables' system, but if passes into the penalty area are delayed then their collective presence begins to resemble a shunt on the motorway. Finding space in the Uruguay penalty area when it was populated by eight defenders and six attackers was a big problem.

England's most productive threats were launched by Darren Anderton. When Anderton first arrived at Tottenham he did not look strong enough for the Premiership. It is not that he has grown stronger but that he has grown in confidence. His performance last night further justified the faith Venables showed in him as a club manager.