Story by Seng Ton
Three Lions have Heart and Soul – Don’t sound too surprised.
We all talk about our lions having the roar, but how many also have the heart to back it up. The current England squad has some determined fighters in the ranks, headed by a certain Scott Parker. You’ve also got our defence who always work their socks off for the team, and on the right wing, we probably boast the most-hard working player on the planet in James Milner. But what separates Parker amongst the bravest lions in the England squad? His performances thus far in the Euro 2012 championships must be described as influential and carrying bucket loads of spirit in the process. Almost every-time when a shot or cross is attempted by the opposition, the first player on the scene is Parker, always looking to put his body and sometimes his head on the line, in order to block it. He definitely puts into practice the expression, “Use your head, son”. And as fans, we love to see that whether it is a football league match on the weekend for club or at a major international tournament for England.
We are lucky that, Roy Hodgson’s team is one of the best teams in Europe without the ball. And in turn it means the team is going to be hard to break down and score goals against. The emergence and maturity of Steven Gerrard as skipper has seen many benefits and has certainly been doing his part for the team’s cause. As a passionate fan, I love seeing players chasing down seemingly lost causes and absolutely hate it when players are not showing grit and heart to win the ball back. I realise that we can’t physically do this for 90 minutes and there are some balls which no human is going to reach, but determination and desire is always going to be admired by football fanatics. I can’t possibly speak for all fans but if you’re giving 100% and showing 100% determination and fight for the team and our nation’s proud fans, then you’ve got (in my opinion) the right motives to put on an England shirt.
Keep the ball for Roy’s sake!
Although the same sport; international and club football are two types of the same sport. Possession is kept exceptionally well at international level, and if your team loses it can be a long time until your team regains it again. Whereas, in club football the pace of the game is considered to be a little bit faster with the ball being given away inadvertently more commonly due to the faster pace. As players have less time on the ball to make a decision. From an English perspective we give the ball away too cheaply, which can lead to large amounts of pressure on our defence and holding midfield in games. Sometimes it is inevitable but at times it can also be avoided, as clearances should be aimed at our players that are ready to start a counterattack with, rather than just aimlessly hoofed away. And more often than not, it usually ends up at the feet of the opposition and they effectively get a free shot at goal.
So when our defenders get hold of the ball after a tackle, it should either be cleared appropriately (deep into the opponent’s half) or given to any of our attacking full backs or wingers so they can start the attack for England. Thus relieving the pressure off our defence and hopefully creating a chance to score. This is usually the way that most teams play against the superior European teams (Germany, Spain etc.). As your team isn’t likely to see much of the ball, this can sometimes be the only way to pose an attacking threat to your opponent. The teams mentioned above are probably two of the best teams in Europe at keeping the ball away from you. But as chance would have it, they are human at the end of the day and you will get some opportunities with the ball and have a go at their defence. So it’s important to take these and not waste them as they could be costly, and at this tournament, against some of the best teams in the world, you will be punished.
Sunday’s Italian Job.
We have an important job to do tonight against Italy. If we win, we get another encounter with German in the semi finals! (Oh, how we’ve missed them). So what do we have in store? It’s no secret that we’re over the moon about the opposition we’ve got, compared to who we could’ve got. In the past England have paid the price for not finishing top of the group and we’ve had to face some very tough teams along the way, which may have hindered our progress. Two years ago (World Cup 2010), we could’ve had Ghana in the second round but ended up facingGermany. Eight years ago (Euro 2004), we also finished second in our group and faced hosts and favourites,Portugal. And ten years ago (World Cup 2002), we again failed to win our group and were drawn against, Brazil. But this time we won the group and got a reward in avoiding the defending World and European Champions, Spain. And let’s face it, we were jumping for joy. We should however, not get too carried away as Italy did win the World Cup 2006 and always pose a great attacking threat. They also got out of a possibly the most dangerous group consisting of Spain,Croatia and Ireland. There are three main potential threats to be wary of tonight and they are Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Di Natale. Pirlo can control the midfield, so it will be interesting to see the tussle between him and Gerrard. Balotelli is always going to be a threat and we’ve seen what he can do in the Premier League when he’s on form. Di Natale is an experienced front man, who also knows how to poach a goal or two. Terry, Lescott and Parker will have to be on guard and watch these players constantly, they will need to rely on support from James Milner, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson when we haven’t got the ball. We’ll need another blinding performance from all the lads, and hope Rooney and/or Welbeck can find the back of the net pretty soon to calm the nerves. Now hopefully we will be saying this in a Michael Caine accent come Monday morning. “You’re only supposed to get enough goals to kill the b****y game off!”
Get behind the team, and don’t have a heart attack when we concede (which I do). As we seem to now have the character to fight back. And let’s pray we don’t need the extra time and penalties to settle it (the other quarter finals didn’t have any, let’s hope they all don’t!)