Image from Guardian.co.uk

Yes England did beat Spain, but let’s not get carried away

Image from Guardian.co.uk

 

It wasn’t a dream England fans!  Fabio Capello’s team really did beat the current European and World champions at Wembley on Saturday evening.

It was a result that few would have predicted beforehand due to Spain’s recent dominance of world football, but England have been rightly praised for a dogged defensive display which was enough to secure a 1-0 win thanks to Frank Lampard’s 49th minute goal.

While it definitely wasn’t a vintage England performance, there certainly were positives to take from the game.  Joleon Lescott and Scott Parker were superb in the heart of defence and midfield respectively, with the latter rightly receiving a standing ovation after being substituted late on.  There were also promising cameos from Jack Rodwell and Danny Welbeck, which may suggest there is hope for the future of the national team yet.

While there were positives to take out of the game, it’s important that as a nation we keep our expectations grounded.  The game highlighted that England on their day can be extremely tough to beat, if they show the passion and commitment that many of the players did.  However it’s abundantly clear that they are still a long way from possessing the technical ability to match the very best.

Too often did England surrender the ball by pumping it long to the largely isolated Darren Bent, whereas Spain would always look for another pass even if it means not immediately progressing forward.

It’s a simple tactic based on simple truth – if you keep possession of the ball then the other team can’t score.  Unfortunately it was clear on Saturday that the England players as a whole do not have the ability to play the one touch, short passing game that we have become so accustomed to seeing when watching Barcelona or the Spanish national side.

Yes England won the game, but lets be honest they were lucky to do so.  They had to play to their defensive strengths, as Capello knew that taking on Spain at their own game would be suicide.  While this may not be the style of football that England fans crave, if this is the way they need to play to get positive results then they should embrace it.  As mentioned previously, England are simply not good enough to replicate the Spanish style.

That doesn’t mean that this England team can’t be successful at the European Championships in 2012.  But for them to have a chance, the English nation need to be realistic about the team and accept them for what they are.  Why in the run up to major tournaments in the past do the media, the players, the fans put the huge burden of expectation on themselves?

The harsh reality is that England are a slightly above average team, so why does the English nation deem anything less than winning the tournament as a monumental failure?  The truth is we have no right to.  But if as a nation we can truly get behind the team by accepting their limitations, then who knows what they might be able to achieve?

Let England as a nation learn humility, and go into a tournament with our expectations rightly lowered.  We’ve all seen what occurs when the opposite happens, and who wants to sit through another summer of that?  I know I don’t.