England vs. France. A fans eye-view with Louis Cotgrove

29th November 2010

England vs France – Wednesday 17th November 2010 at Wembley Stadium.

Exclusively for URN, Louis Cotgrove reports on the England vs. France friendly international, which can only be described as a waste of 20 quid.

Passion, commitment, desire, enjoyment, entertainment. These five words can be applied to any England national team, except perhaps football. The players seemed to merely pay lip service to the honour of representing one’s country in a sporting medium. The defence was shoddy, the midfield lacklustre, the attack limited. When I told people, I was at the England game, the responses were all the same, “Commiserations”, “I turned it over halfway through”, “They are [awful], why [on earth] would you go to see them play?” I wish I could disagree…

The game started brightly as Gerrard thumped a free kick straight at Lloris within 30 seconds but after that it was all France. After a slick passing exchange from Malouda and Benzema, exposing an out of position Phil Jagielka, the Madrid player buried it at the near post. 1-0 to the French. If it was quiet before the goal, it was now as if the spirit of Highbury had engulfed the stadium. You can’t blame the fans though, they tried to get behind their team but by the half time and 100 short passes later from Barry to Ferdinand to Lescott and back to Barry, you have to understand the frustration. For the rest of the half, the game evened out slightly, by which I mean nothing really happened at both ends – both teams having shots at goal, but nothing like Argentina vs Brazil.

Capello tried to mix things up in the second half by bringing on Ashley Young for the slow, boring, stifled Barry, Adam Johnson for “one touch in the first half” Walcott, whilst Micah Richards replaced the injured yet eternally donkey-like Ferdinand. Again, we started brightly, creating a few chances but a whipped cross from Sagna found a lovely run from Valbuena, who placed it beyond a hapless Foster. 2-0 to France and still half an hour to play. By this time, the crowd was more concerned with getting a Mexican wave the full way around the stadium than with an England revival.

However, one player stood out amongst the men in white, one Mr A. Carroll of Gateshead. He constantly harried and fought for the ball, even tracking back. He showed technical skill, great strength and awareness but he was the only one bar a late showing from Peter Crouch. Definitely deserving of the Scott Parker Award for Making an Awful Team Look Better Than They Are.

A Gerrard header hit the top of the bar and then the scouser missed an open goal from 6 yards a few minutes later. Luckily, a hamstring injury spared his embarrassment and he was substituted for Crouch, who made an instant impact, linking up well with the new substitute Bothroyd and providing some nice passes before stretching out that long, lanky leg to put away an Ashley Young corner. 2-1 to France and could there be a last-gasp equaliser?

In short, no. There were a few chances in the dying moments of the game, but to equalise would have disguised how utterly abject a display of football England put on that evening. Questions will be hanging over the Cabbage Man’s head as he sits down in his luxury home, earning £6m a year, surrounded by his £17m modern art collection. He’ll argue he was missing some key players like Terry, Rooney, Lampard and Cashley and at least we know now that England are more than adept at unpressured short passing amongst the centre-backs and midfield, but against a France team that were even worse than us in South Africa, I thought we might have seen some more innovation from the manager. I seriously hope that when the National Football Centre at Burton gets finished (in 2012, when Fabio leaves), we see a marked improvement, especially by 2018 (fingers crossed). Final score Rosbifs 1-2 Cheese-eating surrender monkeys.