And we’re back, in Russia, in the year 2018 with our World Cup opener again the favourites for the tournament, France. Our preparations have been good, the boys are confident, so let’s get into this as soon as we can before the team realises we are vastly outmatched by France and their confidence gets shattered.
The best thing about being last means we can sit and watch the rest of the games, I love an international tournament, so many games on TV that you don’t usually get in the season save for the odd FA cup weekend (thanks, Sky/BT), it is summer (maybe not for Qatar 2020…) so the games have a different ambiance in the build up. Also, the whole country is rooting for the same team, and hoping that maybe this is the tournament… maybe this is the tournament…
Before this starts sounding like a Snickers advert, a few things. For the World Cup, I will be mixing up my normal formula, instead, bring a live play-by-play commentary of what is happening coupled with images. For this reason, I will be going game by game for the time being. Hopefully, you enjoy this new format, if not let me know and I will switch! Also, LET’S GO WIN THE BLOODY WORLD CUP! IT’S IN THE BAG!
Oh wait, the other thing was results elsewhere… I got carried away. Nothing too interesting happened, no real upsets, Japan beating the Ivory Coast 4-1 jumps out, but apart from that, pretty standard. In our group Iran and Senegal drew 1-1 which may or may not be a good result for us… I’m going to go for yes.
Going with the 4-3-3 for this which earned us a draw in our friendly against France. I’m putting a lot of hope into Rashford and Oxlade-Chamberlain to cause problems on the break with their direct running against Tolisso and Digne in the French full-back zones, these appear to me as weak areas in an otherwise supremely impressive French team. France is the favourite for the game at 6-4, we are 13-8 so the bookies think we have hope.
COME ON ENGLAND!
Off we go…
So… the first attack of the game Coman latches onto a through ball by Benzema, Coman crosses and…
Few eventless minute pass before Pogba sets for a french free kick on the edge of the box, shooting straight at Hart. We need more.
This is quickly followed by a free header from Varane at a corner. Luckily for us, this is well over.
Time for an in-game team talk – encourage.
It seems to have had little effect and quickly we reach to 40th minute with just one shot on target – one shot at all! France has had seven shots with two on target. Kante picks up the ball on the edge and shoots harmlessly wide. If we can make it to half time at 1-0, sweeping changes may well be needed.
Just after, 41st minute, Coman latches onto another Benzema pass before beating Hart… luckily for us, it hits the post and Hart collects.
Promising signs in the 44th minute as we patiently work the ball down the right, an interchange between Clyne and Chamberlain produces an opportunity for Clyne, which he fires straight at Lloris winning us a corner.
Nothing comes of the corner and now it’s half time. Time to shout a little at the team, and look at the tactics.
I have decided to remain on the counter, but re-shape the 4-3-3 into this:
Hopefully pushing Lallana and Dier slightly on will encourage greater pressure on the ball and allow more support of Kane. Chamberlain has also been put on an attack duty, hopefully, to get at his full back. If further change is needed I may look towards Callum Wilson, he is a different type of forward than Kane, maybe even complimentary… 4-4-2 maybe…
Let’s get on with the second half.
50th minute comes quickly, but as it does excellent passing football down the right allows Chamberlain to cross, but slightly too far, Rashford recycles, passing to Shaw, who goes infield to Lallana, he picks out a nice little through ball to Harry Kane who is now one on one… MISSED! Kane’s Tottenham team-mate Lloris denies him with a low save to his left. Opportunity squandered.
From the corner, France counter, leading to Martial firing just wide from distance.
Great play in the centre frees up Shaw down the left who is fed by Rashford, he crosses to Kane who escapes his marker, who then fires wide. England looking the more likely at the minute.
Before we know it, the 70th minute rolls around. Time for changes, we will be making two like for like changes, Barkley for Lallana and Walcott for Chamberlain. We are doing okay, if nothing changes in the next ten, we will be going more attacking and throw the kitchen sink at them.
Barkley, fresh on the pitch, feeds Kane who’s run drags the defence out of position, Rashford takes advantage running into space, Kane feeds him and Rashford does not mess about, smashing home. 1-1.
Straight from kick off England attack again. Walcott carries forward, drops the ball back to Barkley who passes into Kane, before letting Rashford free, as he begins to shoot Tolisso gets a foot in. Corner.
Nothing comes from the corner. Apart from England brilliantly pressuring Martial into a turnover as he attempts to break.
Last 10 minutes and I am reluctant to make changes, we are on top of this, I, for now, will keep faith in the eleven out there.
This faith almost instantly pays off as Walcott picks up on the right edge of the box, squaring up his man before playing the ball to Rashford, he plays it to Barkley who’s shot is deflected onto the post.
France carves out a shooting chance for Pogba on the edge of the box – straight at Hart.
And that is that, 1-1.
I’ll take it. A 1-1 draw against the tournament favourite. The second half, in particular, was particularly encouraging, we created a lot more than France, but we were, unfortunately, let down by our first half display. I was maybe a little too hesitant to make changes before the half and this may have cost us attacking opportunities.
The scoreline is a repeat of England v France in Euro 2012, but we played much better than Roy Hodgson’s side. It is also a draw against France for the second time and given their squad I will take this as encouragement that we are doing the right thing.
Next up we have Iran and then Senegal, games we should win. This could easily turn into a goal-scoring shoot out between us and France if we both perform to our standards.
Anyway, that is all for today, I have tried a new presentational style (especial for the World Cup) let me know if you would like me to continue it. The idea is to give you a bit more of the action, bring you the goals (made GIFs for the first time… I need to improve on those) and a little more tension. If you preferred the old style let me know, as that enables me to bring more games at a time, but less of the action, and is what I will be doing after the World Cup to help us get through them quicker.
Till next time.