England off to a shaky start (+ player ratings)


So, England got off to a nervy start in South Africa (surprise, surprise), with question marks lingering over Capello’s team selection and style of football. Most telling, however, was England’s lack of composure in possession. Something which all the big favourites have in their locker.

What irks most, though, is the English media’s constant over expectation, dreaming England can play like Spain, which no doubt has a negative impact on what is largely an over-hyped team. As a result, possession is wasted, big players go missing for large periods of the game, players spectacularly fluff their lines (Green & SWP), and a quality opposition are both underestimated and disrespected. After a dismal display from a heavily backed England team, I staunchly believe we were lucky to come away avoiding defeat.

Here’s how I rated England’s performance against the USA:

Robert Green

 England off to a shaky start (+ player ratings)

Robert Green cuts a sorrowful figure after howler.

Despite his obvious howler, Green did not look comfortable all evening. Neither the manager nor the England defence had complete confidence in Green, this was obvious, and at international level, this is imperative. As a result, the English defence looked shaky in possession, and anxiety emanated throughout the team.

He does deserve credit for coming out in the 2nd half, and not conceding again, but this was largely due to not being called into action. His save from Altidore’s scuffed near post shot was fortuitous at best, and the USA must be kicking themselves that they did not besiege Green’s goal with more long range efforts, as this was clearly a man well and truly on the ropes. It’s a cruel game, but Hart has to come in on Friday.

EFP Rating: 4/10

Glenn Johnson

One of the few positives from a disappointing night. With Dempsey drifting in field, Johnson had little defensive duties on that side, which allowed him to play to his strengths and get forward down the right at every opportunity. Outshone his more hyped counterpart, Cole, and on another night could’ve scored; after a decent dribble and shot just after the equalizer, and again later, firing narrowly wide. Johnson looked England’s most threatening player, was comfortable in possession, and one of the few that didn’t let the occasion get to him.

EFP Rating: 8/10

Ashley Cole

Was not England’s worst performer but by no means their best. Has the ability but another whose attitude and temperament is questionable; as he underestimated the Americans. Guilty of wasting possession and making little impact down the left.

EFP Rating: 6/10

Ledley King

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King could miss the rest of the tournament for England.

 Again, King had a reasonable game before going off at the break without being spectacular. He does the simple things well, but a bit more quality in possession is required at this level. Given his history, his injury means he’s a serious doubt for the rest of the tournament, and a risk if ever he plays. Who comes in for King is now a major decision for Capello.

EFP Rating: 6/10

John Terry

One of Terry’s worst games in an England shirt. Looked out of sorts for the most part; not only atrocious in possession, but he looked flat-footed, pedestrian, and was uncharacteritically second to everything. Terry needs to go back to basics, keep his head, and forget about attempting to set up attacks from the back.

EFP Rating: 5/10

James Milner

Yes Milner had a shocker, but you’d have to feel for him as he was dragged off after just half an hour. Perhaps it was the rash challenges, and the possibility of him losing the head completely and getting sent-off, but I suppose Capello had his reasons. Either way it raises huge question marks over the young man’s temperament, which hitherto had appeared his main asset. Whilst SWP did zilch to suggest he should be Milner’s replacement, I’d be dumbfounded if he starts against Algeria.

EFP Rating: 3/10

Steven Gerrard

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Gerrard gets England off to a dream start. It didn’t last.

 Started the game in typical fashion, and his goal was the perfect response to the captaincy. Nevertheless, after an impressive first half, and an assured goal, Gerrard was also culpable of going missing in the 2nd period.

It seemed as though he’d struck a deal with Lampard to go forward in the first period, whilst Lampard sat, which was reversed – to England’s detriment – in the 2nd. Surely at this level there has to be constant interchanging throughout the match? If both players don’t sort it out, and play closer together, one needs to be dropped or, at least, freed from their defensive responsibilities with the inclusion of Gareth Barry.


EFP Rating: 7/10

Frank Lampard

 Like most, was largely annonymous and possession was wasted when he did finally get on the ball, which I’ll repeat, was seldom. But for a long range effort in the second half, straight at Howard, we saw nothing of the Lampard that shined for Chelsea last season, as he was outwitted by the impressive Micheal Bradley of the USA. Massive improvement required.

EFP Rating: 5/10


Aaron Lennon

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Have England found a new headless chicken in Lennon?

Looked out of his depth, overawed; and, not for the first time, tiresomely predictable. He is very quick, and can beat his man, but Lennon does not seem to have the decisiveness and quality to deliver any end product at this level. After a woeful showing from SWP, Capello might have no choice but to stick with the little winger. Let’s hope his final ball improves, and fast, or England must resign themselves to the fact they’ve unearthed another Tony Daly.

EFP Rating: 5/10

Wayne Rooney

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Rooney needs to improve if England want to progress in this competition.

Frustrated and restricted to a few half chances. We know Rooney has the ability but he has to impose himself more on the game, especially when his teammates are not at the races. But for a decent long range shot and a nice lay-off to the toothless SWP, a disconcertingly quiet showing from supposedly one of the world’s best strikers.

EFP Rating: 6/10

Emile Heskey

In fairness to Heskey, he was far from England’s worst culprit on the night, despite a typical one-on-one miss; which, of course, he shot straight at the goalkeeper. He did set up Gerrard’s opener, however, which is apparently his role, and at least found an England shirt on more than a couple of occasions. His inclusion does instigate a brand of route-one-football though, an approach which is surely not going to win England a world cup. Has to be dropped IMO, and a fifth midfielder in Barry, brought in.

EFP Rating: 6/10


Jamie Carragher

Huffed and puffed after coming off the bench at half-time and never looked in control. Drastically exposed by Altidore’s pace for his chance, and was lucky it didn’t result in England going behind. A season past his prime and not England’s answer to deputize for the deputizing Ledley King.

EFP Rating: 5/10

Shaun Wright-Phillips (SWP)

 Oh dear, oh dear. Not sure if it was Capello’s biggest mistake putting SWP on the left wing, or bringing the one dimensional player in the first place? Constantly gave the ball away and was devoid of ideas when it mattered most. Also looked desperately lacking in confidence when put through on goal by Rooney, which resulted in a tame effort straight at Tim Howard. It’s clear SWP is not up to the standard required, and I am sorry but feel it’s categorically criminal for a professional footballer, in this day and age, on his wages, to be so blatantly one-footed. So, no surprise then, not the brightest idea to play this right footer on the left wing. Joe Cole has to play against Algeria.

EFP Rating: 3/10

Overall Performance: 5/10

Few positives in what was a sobering performance. Hopefully this will put England’s chances into perspective and put stops to over-hyped media and lofty expectations from fans.

Could prove to be a valuable lesson nonetheless: much improvement is needed, if England are even to progress from their group, and hopefully no opposition will be underestimated like the USA were on Saturday night. England desperately need to revert back to a 4-5-1 formation, with Gareth Barry and Joe Cole coming in for Heskey and Milner.