“We wanted six points, but we have taken over a mess and had to steady the ship”. Those were Interim England manager Gareth Southgate’s words in his post-match interview after the 0-0 draw away to Slovenia on Tuesday evening. He’s not wrong when he uses the word “mess” to describe the current state of affairs surrounding the National team. I can’t honestly remember the last time so many people cared so little about the National team than they do now after what’s happened in the last six months.
All things considered, last night’s result wasn’t actually that bad. Slovenia have some good players who play in the top leagues in Europe and in Jan Oblak, they have one of the finest goalkeepers around. If it wasn’t for Joe Hart making some top saves – the save from a Slovenia header via a corner kick being absolutely unbelievable – it could’ve been much worse.
Much was made of Rooney being dropped for this one, with Eric Dier replacing him alongside skipper Jordan Henderson. Both Dier and Henderson were poor, with Dier playing a perfect through ball straight to Slovenia’s center forward in the first half, which luckily was straight at Hart. Whilst Rooney’s passing range is decent, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference last night – the players seemed flat, out of ideas, unambitious – word it however you want, it was worryingly bad. Still, it leaves us in a good position in group F with 7 points from their first 3 games, seeing us top behind Lithuania. Regardless of who is in charge at the end of this qualifying stage, finishing top of a group which has Malta and Lithuania in it is a must, not a hope.
Overall, I just don’t think The FA want Southgate as their full time first team manager. If they did want him, he’d have got it when Roy was replaced in the summer. I believe that they have someone lined up already and I also think they’re going to go down the International route again – Roberto Mancini, Louis Van Gaal, someone like that. None of this will matter when we get knocked out on penalties to Ghana in the last 16 at the World Cup in 2 years, anyway. (joking – kind of).
Elsewhere in the qualifiers
It was business as usual for perennial European favourites and defending world champions Germany, who won both of their games comfortably and sit top of their qualification group without having conceded a goal yet.
France beat Holland away from home 1-0 in the stand out game of this international break, with Paul Pogba scoring the deciding goal.
Spain, who are always well backed, followed up their draw away in Italy with an impressive away win in Albania. They sit top of their group with 7 points from their first 3 games. Italy are second in that group.
European champions Portugal won 2 out of 2 this week, with comfortable wins over Andorra and the Faroe Islands – with Ronaldo scoring 5 of the goals in the 2 games.
Wales stumbled at home with a disappointing draw to Georgia, but still have a great chance of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup sitting 3rd in their group, behind Republic of Ireland and Serbia.
Just one final special mention must go to San Marino, who get battered every single time they play. They scored their first away goal for 14 years away to Norway! (Unfortunately they still lost 4-1, but that doesn’t matter. They scored!)
In South America, Brazil moved to the top of the qualifying table with a 2-0 away win in Venezuela, with new Man City signing Gabriel Jesus and Willian scoring the goals to keep up their good form. Argentina went 1-0 down at home to Paraguay and continue to struggle, currently sitting 5th in the table, just a point ahead of 6th place. The hosts, who are seriously under threat of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, were without talisman Lionel Messi, but still have more than enough firepower to win them games, with Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero all playing regularly. At least it’s not just England who are in a bit of turmoil currently!
Very excited for the Premier League to be coming back this weekend!