Saturday, June 2, 2007

England-Brazil Recap, England-Estonia Preview (Edition 2)

The international friendly played at the new Wembley in London ended 1-1, with Brazilian substitute Diego snatching the draw for his side with a header in 2nd half injury time. Center back John Terry scored his third goal for England via a header from a well-placed David Beckham free kick in the 68th minute to give England the short-lived 1-0 lead. Seems a bit ironic that the embattled former England captain set up the current England captain for a goal, does it not?

In truth, Brazil certainly deserved the equalizer and probably should have won the game outright. England's performance was uninspired, to say the least, and with the critical Estonia match to be played in 4 days' time they did not bring much relief or hope for their supporters. One would've thought that England definitely would have brought their A-game to their first international game at the new Wembley, especially in an attempt to tune up for their important clash with Estonia next week. Steven Gerrard won the official Man of the Match honors though I personally believed David Beckham was the best player on the field before he was substituted in the 77th minute in favor of Tottenham's Jermaine Jenas. Gerrard and Beckham were easily England's two top players and Gerrard came up with a brilliant, potentially goal-saving tackle to deny Brazil but on the scoresheet he was blanked. Beckham had the go-ahead assist and played very well on the flank during the run of play. He came up painfully empty on a couple of other free kicks, either shooting and just missing or serving balls in that his teammates just couldn't get a body on. If you say that Beckham and Gerrard played a pretty even game, Beckham should've gotten Man of the Match honors because he factored in on the scoresheet.

Anything short of a victory in Estonia on June 6 will probably result in the firing of England coach Steve McLaren. The English fans are restless with consistent disappointing performances on the international level and quite justifiably so. England has some of the best players in the world and simply are being mismanaged. McLaren's squad selection leaves many questions and his positioning of players on the field also is often baffling. Some may even go so far as to think it's in England's best interest to not win against Estonia and cause a change in management. Steve McLaren isn't the man for the job and when the World Cup, which is still 3 years away, is your country's main goal, you want to have the right person in charge. Euro 2008 qualification wouldn't be impossible without a win but it would be considerably more difficult, especially with Russia's 4-0 victory over Andorra today.

England simply cannot afford to underestimate Estonia. Their performances lately have been nothing to draw much praise or approval from and Estonia is coming off a narrow 1-0 loss to Group E leader Croatia today, which can be looked at is a positive step forward for the Eastern European team. England themselves lost 2-0 to Croatia the first time around, and while I'm not saying that scores can be compared through some transitive property, I don't think England will have as easy of a time dispatching Estonia as they believe. As far as Steve McLaren's future goes however, this is a must win game.

Updated Group E Standings:
1. Croatia (16 points, +12 Goal Differential, 6 Games Played)
2. Russia (14 pts, +10 GD, 6 GP)
3. Israel (14 pts, +8 GD, 7 GP)
4. England (11 pts, +7 GD, 6 GP)
5. Macedonia (7 pts, -1 GD, 7 GP)
6. Estonia (0 pts, -11 GD, 6 GP)
7. Andorra (0 pts, -25 GD, 6 GP)

Note: Top 2 teams qualify for Euro 2008 (cohosted by Austria and Switzerland)

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