Wednesday 4th May, 2008

 

England’s victory

a great lesson

 
 
 
 
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It was certainly a commemorative moment which celebrated the hundredth anniversary of Football in the twin Island State. The response by the people of this country was evidence that, despite our existing problems, we are still lovers and absolute patriots of the land of our birth.

As I sat and listened to both national Anthems play, it dawned on me that many moons ago, the English anthem meant the world to me and when it was closely followed by our present anthem, it certainly sent the mind roaming through the years when the transition from colonialism to the lessons of independence have often kept us in touch with our past.

The game itself was certainly viewed by many of our people as another chance to prove to the World that our superb effort in Germany was just step one on to the progress ladder of our performances on the football field.

No doubt, England had two reasons to be adamant of victory, the first being their eleventh place rating on the FIFA list and secondly, coach Fabio Capello’s extreme desire to demonstrate to the English fans that his job is about winning and taking England a step further to world Cup 2010 everytime his team takes the field.

Those who felt that the absence of some well known names like Terry, Lampard, Cole and Cole was an insult to our public. I humbly disagree, and you would too, if you have been following the English Premier league and recognizing the new surge of young players coming into the most recognized teams in the league, it was obvious that England was not prepared to put their reputation on the line especially when playing away from home.

But it was not only about England ! Actually, it was more about the Trinidad and Tobago team. The first few moments in the game reminded me about the 1989 World cup match against the USA at the same venue, where the true potential of our team may have been stifled by the fact that it was more than a Football match, but about a huge Super Power Country up against a minnow which has always had to be so dependent on the many facets of life that they controlled, even from a distance away.

I literally placed myself into their shoes and wondered what was running through their minds when the Great Soccer names and faces which adorned our television screens day in day out were now just metres away over the centre line and just waiting to enthrust their skills and movie star personalities on a humble bunch of greenhorns. No one could understand that experience in quite the same way of those who were actually faced with it.

However, that is not an excuse which will hold for too long, especially if the simple mistakes which showed up far too frequently in their game, continues into the future where three matches are carded for the next three weeks.

Now, to those who went to see just a football match in isolation, will have seen some basic errors in the early stages of the game, catapult the promised rhythm and chemistry which Coach Maturana and his staff had been trying to put into their game over the past few months.

In just fourteen minutes, the scenario turned from being a contest of quality to a walk in the park for England.

Was it the nerves of young Cupid and Hislop which was driven to error by a well defined left sided attack initiated by Wayne Bridge, Stuart Downing, and Gareth Barry and brought two goals before the team could settle down. Unfortunately, the deficit may have invited uncertainty in the minds of others, who from time to time, also went down the way of simple unforced errors and gave England the benefit of possession more often than they deserved.

Statistically, it is true to state that England enjoyed approximnately fifty eight percent of the possession, hence the reason for their ability to avoid being scored upon.

In the first half alone, England enjoyed seven Beckham crosses from the right and five from the left by Downing.

It would almost appear that the players either did not understand the instructions given them, or there was not an organized format to reduce Beckham to playing from centrefield instead of on the flank. I expect that Fabio Capello would be rightly criticized for the simple misses by Ashton and Defoe although they scored three goals.

For the Soca Warriors, the picture is not as dismal as some may wish to comment. For instance, if we compare our attacking play of Nurenburg in 2006 as against Sunday, there was definite improvement in this regard. It’s a pity that the key figure Kenwyn Jones was injured early. His presence was proving to be annoying to Ferdinand and had he more time to aggravate the English defender, who knows what the situation may have provided.

Yet still Darryl Roberts had his right footed shot well saved by David James, and moments later, Ferdinand had to courageously throw himself to stop what appeared to be a massive day for Darryl Roberts, who was about to put the finishing touches to an attack.

Five other shots were attempted, only two of which David James had to save and the others were well over the woodwork.

Maybe the most essential lesson of the evening was the vulnerability of our defence line. Here is a case where the stability of defensive work has to be the key factor in our qualification process. While we cannot challenge the individual competence of Lawrence, Hislop, Farrier and even Cupid, they certainly were well short of the cohesiveness of which good defenses are madef. Cupid was most guilty as he ball watched excessively and made too many mistakes. He quickly lost his confidence and maybe the most appropriate decision after fifteen minutes would have been to save the youngster from himself and allow him the opportunity to learn from the more advanced Johnson and Bridge from the bench.

I have seen this lad before and he has the talent and the understanding of the game. Who knows to what extent did the occasion have on his mental focus.

The second most serious challenge came from Midfield where Skipper Whitley and the teenaged Hyland seemed lost in their positional responsibilities and allow Gerard and Barry the freedom for which they are unaccustomed. I have the feeling that the roles of these two players must be more specific and regimented in order to reducing lanes for the opponents and disallow any sort of freedom for opponents running freely towards defenders, especially as they are asked to play square in order to reduce the options of effective through passes.

It is true to say that the forwards were trying to create some level of potency when the attacking moves were made. Stern John had reverted to his suttle diagonal runs across defenders while Roberts showed that moving into deep field tended to draw his opponents into week defending positions. Carlos Edwards and Keon Daniel could have used the inside midfielders more effectively in order to receive the reverse pass freely behind the back of the defense. Dribbling a wing defender to reach the byeline is easily achieved when the defender offers the options. Neither Bridge or Johnson allowed that luxury.

Conclusively, The better team won and they provided some live lessons for this young team. It may also have drawn to the attention of the Coaching staff that the level of aggression and mental toughness in defense is probably the first lesson to be corrected. Good defense play is the recipe for gaining points in International Football. If you doubt me, ask italy, the country of Cappello’s birth. This week is crucial for the team in Training. The attitudes must change into a more positive mode and the intensity of their effort must turn mediocrity into a higher state of potency. Thank you England for a fine celebration to our 100th Anniversary. When we qualify for South Africa, we shall send you the forst thank you card.

 

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