Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ing-er, are we really sure about this-and

Watching Michael Owen crumble out of the world cup last night was a terrible moment. Topping the group was a better one. It's very sad for Sir Michael and indeed it's not good news for England, but all the speculation that it might lead to Sven playing 4-5-1 is promising.

We were slightly better last night than we had been against T&T and we were slightly better against T&T than we were against Paraguay, so there is still some hope - the winning of the group was absolutely vital - Ecuador are obviously no mugs, but it's an infinitely favourable tie to playing Germany and gives us another game to find our groove before we face the really big sides. And the groove is there to be found. Joe Cole is playing out of his skin - much will be written about the incredible goal he scored last night (individual goal of the tournament so far, surely) but my favourite Joe Cole moment last night was the little flick up of his head that enabled him to see that Gerrard had peeled away at the far end of the box before he crossed the ball which Gerrard powered home. It's the kind of awareness of the game around him that has improved so much - he wasn't looking to dribble the ball unecessarily, he was looking for others, to devestating effect. Gerrard was magnificent in his Rooney replacing role - Roy of the Rovers stuff, clearing the ball from the goal line and scoring the crucial goal. Our defense looked inexplicably shaky on crosses, but I don't mind that too much, given that it hasn't stopped us winning the group, because I think they'll get it together. Rooney was magnificent in the first half, and there's plenty more to come from him.

We are miles behind the top teams, but there's a lot of room for optimism in amongst the doom and gloom. And we won the group. Which is good.