After scraping through against Iran, we play Senegal with everything on the line. The group is tight, with us in the driving position on four points, France and Senegal trail with two points each and Iran are on one point. This sets up a situation where any team can go through and any team can go out, including us if we lose against Senegal.
Looking at the other groups, and there are some interesting placings. DR Congo tops their group with Germany second; Mexico topped their group with Spain second; Costa Rica, USA and Japan also topped their groups, so in some ways, a second-place finish wouldn’t be too bad.
That is all academic though until after we play Cameroon, so let’s see the team for today’s game!
We go with a similar shape and tactic to that which we used against Iran, hopefully, they perform much more convincingly. Clyne misses out today through suspension so Walker steps in, Sterling replaces Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alli comes in for Barkley. Keane and Stones are fatigued, but I have more faith in them than Smalling and Jones.
So let’s get into today’s game, I’m excited to see what we can do against Cameroon (who’s capital city is… Yaoundé… had to google that one…).
Cameroon seem to be making somewhat of a statement with their starting eleven – very attacking! Coupled with a combative midfield three we could have a hard day here. We will have to be careful not to get hit on the break with that front three also, as I suspect they will play direct and hit those front three quickly, and look to recover the ball in the middle. The obvious weakness is the full backs, who we can look to isolate and overload. The centrebacks are solid, and let’s hope Kane is on form to handle them.
Minute eight and we have our first highlight (and news from Iran-France, that Iran has taken the lead courtesy of a Pogba OG). Cameroon hits a long, direct ball from their centre back to Babacar, who knocks the ball to Gueye. The ball is kept well and a shooting opportunity opens up for Diame who fires over from distance.
We have struggled to keep the ball so far.
Senegal are getting a few long shots as Balde fires over – fifteen minutes in.
The twentieth minute, it is all Senegal. They have a headed chance, straight at Hart. 70% possession to Senegal… we need to change something. That change see’s us switching to a counter approach, and sticking Sterling to support, with us looking to play the ball out wide, as we are having no success through the middle. We have also switched to a 4-3-3.
Just before the changes have an effect, Balde works a good shooting opportunity, saved by Hart!
Another shot by Gueye is saved by Hart… I’m not liking this.
The stats after twenty-four minutes paint a very worrying picture…
The twenty-seventh minute comes and finally a chance for us! We maintain possession before Walker whips in a cross onto Rashford’s head – Off the bar! This chance went down as a clear-cut chance, very much against the run of play. Oh, and Dele Alli picks up an injury in the same move… He will have to come off, Lallana replaces him.
Ten uneventful minutes pass before Diouf spins in the box and cannons a shot off the bar. Too close.
Out of nothing Kane pounces on a mistake by Gueye and fires England into the lead. It was incredibly lucky, the game has all been Cameroon, now we must capitalise and take some initiative in this game.
Not sure what to make of that… 45 minutes of mostly terrible football, barely putting a passing move together, and getting battered… but we are one-nil up – football ey?
At half-time, I am going to withdraw Wilshere as he has struggled out there today and picked up a yellow in the process. Noble will be coming on, his leadership and work-rate could help us in possession battle.
A chance for Senegal as M’Baye crosses only for Diouf to head narrowly wide.
The fifty-third minute, and England win a free-kick, Rashford fires just over (in other news, goals for Fekir and Benzema mean that France now leads 2-1)
Nearly the seventieth minute and good work from Walker results in a cross towards Rashford, it is headed away only for Sterling to pounce and… Straight at the keeper.
A minute later and a corner whipped into the Cameroon box causes trouble, a scramble results in a chance for an unidentifiable England player, unfortunately, that chance is missed.
Time for a calm concentrate shout from the touchline.
The eightieth minute and Oxlade-Chamberlain is on for a tired Rashford. He and Sterling will swap sides.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first involvement sees him crafting open a chance for Lallana who powers a shot high but central, and fairly comfortable for the keeper.
And as time passes…
A good win, we slowly got more and more into the game after our goal and mostly limited Cameroon to long shots. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried for a large chunk of that game!
The change to a 4-3-3 allowed us to be slightly more robust in the middle and let us move the ball better, and whilst we didn’t win the battle for possession we created more clear chances.
Most importantly, we top our group, ahead of tournament favourites France, so I guess that makes us favourites – might as well give us the trophy now, save us some time.
As previously mentioned though, being top isn’t all ice cream and backrubs (what… that wasn’t what I… I’ll go with it), a lot of teams I’d rather avoid came second in their groups (i.e. Spain & France). Let’s see who we will be meeting next, and keep our fingers crossed that it is winnable…
And the lucky team to meet us in the next round is…
Not to be too cocky about this (and this could easily come back to bite me) but I’ll take it.
France managed to get Brazil in a repeat of the ’98 final, so between the two teams from group H, it turned out extremely valuable to get the top spot. Other interesting draws include DR Congo v Spain and Portugal v Uruguay.
Next time out we get our first taste of knock-out football against Albania. Where could this end? A disgraceful exit at the callous laced hands of Albania? Or World Cup glory? Well, next time will get us closer to finding out.