How amusingly ironic that after all the build-up, all the hype about England having the best chance to win the World Cup since they actually won it forty years ago, we managed to lay on the most unconvincing and--frankly--boring game of the tournament so far in our pallid 1-0 win over Paraguay this afternoon. I was looking at the pictures in "Margrave of the Marshes" just before the end of the first half; and by the end of the second half I was nearly asleep. I hope I'm at work when the next game happens if it's anything like that one.
The interest factor wasn't helped by the manager's decision to take off Michael Owen, the second striker, after 55 minutes, and replace him with a midfielder. That left only dancing Peter Crouch up front, and his main function, though he is developing other skills, has always been to dominate the air in the opponent's goal area and head on to skilled ground dwellers like Owen. So who was he supposed to head the ball to without his partner on the field? Not that the ball came his way very often anyway, for some reason those more tactically-minded than I will be able to explain.
Sven, who will soon be leaving us, has always known the right players to call up, more or less, despite the debate over the Walcott selection--the squad that has evolved in his reign is the most exciting of any I've ever seen (though I faintly remember the last days of Moore and Charlton, who history tells us weren't bad)--but he has never known what to do with the players once he's selected them. I could make better substitutions to accommodate the evolving tactical realities of a game than he does, and I still don't know what "the holding role" is supposed to be. Let's hope we survive until the second stage of the tournament so Rooney can return, and the team will be sufficiently complete to save Sven the headache of picking it.