Archive for June 5th, 2012

International Football: Engerland 1 – 0 Belgium

Petulant, Vindictive, Ugly – Football The Belgian Way

Dirty Plotte Dries Mertens gives Gary Cahill the "hurry up", breaking his jaw in the process

Oooof! (as opposed to ‘hoof!’) take that you slow moving defensive laggard, with your sneaky ball protecting, keeper covering pig-english ways. And take that supposedly world class keeper with you when you finally go to ground. That I imagine is the thought process that was going through spikey Belgian twat Dries Merten’s mind as he propelled Gary Cahill into an onrushing Joe Hart and spectacularly managed to break Cahill’s jaw. Nicely done fella and have a very generous yellow card for your trouble.

I was looking forward to seeing Hodgson’s Hoofers up against one of the most lauded teams in Europe. Yet the team that contains Kompany (who was injured), Vermaelen, Vertongen, Fellaini, Dembele and Euro wonderkid Edin Hazard was epitomised by Mertens’ behaviour. For a team supposed to be all about great football, they don’t half play dirty.

Aside from Mertens, Dembele seemed to think that having your hands nipple-gripping your opponent from behind was a legitimate tackling maneuver, and the ref seemed to believe that, given this was a ‘friendly’, he should let all sorts of dubious fouling go. Besides their propensity to foul first, the Belgians really didn’t offer much, having few genuinely dangerous moments, one long speculative effort from Vertongen aside. And I suppose that was as much a testament to Roy’s team management and shape as it was to the Belgians’ realisation that buggery bollocks they weren’t going to the Euros and this was their last game before holiday time. Still I was really disappointed at their spiteful behaviour.

The Happy Hoofers haven’t really progressed much in the week or so they’ve been together since the Norway match. Gerrard and Parker in midfield still look unable to string even a pass together, while Ashley Young remains fundamentally lightweight, receiving the ball all too rarely and not making great use of it when he does. And overall there seems to be no clear concept of how to use the ball in those rare instances when they actually have possession.

Still today it was all about the defenders and they took a right pummelling, Cahill becoming merely the latest Engerland defender to go from first choice to stretcher case in less than 45 minutes, but Terry, Lescott and Jagielka were all in the wars. And while you have to admire the way the entire team restricted Belgium to fewer chances than the Norwegians managed last week, their forward moving efforts were utterly uninspiring.

Engerland’s goal, when it came, was as surprising as it was clinical. Welbeck, who had a fine game, dispossessed Dembele in the middle of the field and exchanged passes with Young, before running in on goal and delightfully chipping the onrushing Mignolet. It was so unexpected and so far above the standard of play generally that the crowd took a couple of seconds to actually realise what was going on.

The second half was tedium incarnate. A deluge of substitutions revealed only two things. First, Edin Hazard is going to have to play a hell of a lot better than he did if he’s going to justify the £32 million he’s just cost Chelsea. He was utterly anonymous, playing mainly sideways, with little indication of the skills that have made him the French player of the year for the last two years. Second, Jordan Henderson must be the luckiest man in football. Utterly anonymous for Liverpool for the entire season, fundamentally anonymous for Sunderland previously, he’s now received a full Engerland call up and looks likely to be a major player in the midfield. He came on and, true to form, was largely anonymous, having as close to zero touches as it’s possible to have and made absolutely no impact on the game. Still, looking at Hazard one can only assume that Henderson’s value has been enhanced significantly as a result.