Saturday, March 26, 2011

England Comfortably Defeat Wales 2-0

Bent celebrates after scoring the second goal for England

As this international break drags on, the enigma that is England defeated Wales 2-0 at the Millenium Stadium. While the English media fretted regarding Fabio Capello's captaincy decisions, none of that ultimately mattered as England played as a collective.

After all of the criticism aimed at Fabio Capello, the Italian coach who had been depicted as a rigid and unwavering man, England played in a very fluid 4-3-3. A midfield trio of Lampard, Wilshere, and the hardworking Scott Parker supported the front three of Rooney, Bent, and Young. Just five minutes in, Ashley Young is brought down in the box earning a penalty which Frank Lampard tucked away. Looking at the build-up to the penalty, it was John Terry who started it all with a winding run before playing Young through into the Wales penalty area.

England didn't sit back on their lead, instead they pressed in a frenzy leaving the Welsh players no time on the ball. It was a great display which culminated with a second goal in the 15th minute, when a well worked attack finished with Ashley Young squaring the ball for Bent to tap-in. The two goals eased any possible nerves which might've creeped their way into the English, and England went on to dominate the rest of the first half. The front three were dynamic and providing movement, the midfield was well balanced with Parker sweeping up any rare mistakes by Wilshere and Lampard, and the defence was strong and fluid with Johnson and Cole providing width with their runs up the line.

Scott Parker was energetic and hardworking
It really was a fantastic display from this England team which flourished thanks to the fairly disorganized Welsh side. While the new captain Aaron Ramsey tried to be inventive, all he could manage were a few stray and misplaced passes. Craig Bellamy wasn't very noticeable either, providing few bursts of danger for the English defence. It was a half to forget for Wales, and one to build on for England.

The second half saw a more lively Welsh team, beginning to edge out of their half of the field as England didn't seem as determined as they had in the first 45 minutes. Little by little Wales began to string passes together, and began creating a few good chances. Bellamy and Ramsey began to click, freeing up the rest of their teammates to be a bit more incisive in their forward pushing.

Yet England were still able to put Wales in some bad situations. Jack Wilshere played Darren Bent through the middle of the poorly shaped Welsh defence, but the Aston Villa forward was unable to score. In the 64th minute Wales decided to substitute King and Morison, replacing the pair with Vaughan and Evans. Capello responded about five minutes later replacing Wayne Rooney with James Milner. Before being substituted Rooney had earned himself a yellow after a couple of reckless challenges and therefore won't be playing in England's next Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland.

Arsenal teammates Wilshere and Ramsey
Wales continued to grow in confidence during the second half, occasionally forcing England to defend against repeated corners. But England wasn't too fazed, and the defence did its job without too many difficulties. The clock continued ticking, and Capello made his last two substitutions replacing Wilshere with Downing and Parker with Jagielka. The final whistle sounded as Wales were beginning to give Joe Hart some work to do.

It was a fairly comfortable 2-0 win for England, which helps them rise up to the top of Group G. Both England and Montenegro have 10 points, yet the three lions have a five goal lead in goal difference which gives them first place for now. Wales on the other hand still haven't collected any points in the group, and qualification to the European Championships held in Poland and Ukraine seems near impossible.

What are your thoughts on England's win? Was it the poor display from Wales in the first half which allowed England to win so easily? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Spain and Italy Closer to Euro 2012 Qualification

Thiago Motta and Cassano celebrating Italy's goal

As this international friendly week has rolled around, I'm doing my best to follow nations as they struggle to qualify for the European Chuampionships of 2012. But struggle isnt really the proper term for some nations, as Italy and Spain, are one step closer to the Euruopean tournament. Here is a quick look at their most recent result, and how the teams are looking as the still very distant European Championships approach.

Slovenia - Italy

Italy defeated Slovenia 1-0 in a fairly entertaining match. While Italy were creative and dangerous in the first half, they weren't able to find the back of Slovenia's net, which was well defended by Udinese keeper Handanovic. Cassano and Pazzini were doing their best to be a dangerous pair, while the midfield needed a bit of time to properly get into the match. Aquilani and Montolivo were especially ineffective in the first minutes, slowly becoming more confident as the minutes passed by. Chances were created and wasted, and while Slovenia were dangerous at times it was Italy which was coming closest to scoring.

The blonde samurai, Balzaretti
While the creative and attacking forces in the Italian midfield were meant to be Montolivo, Aquilani, and Mauri, it was the more defensive midfielder Thiago Motta who provided the necessary goal. A quick couple of passes the "blonde samurai" Balzaretti (Palermo's very attacking left-back) was finished with a low diagonal shot which left Handanovic flat-footed. After the 73rd minute goal, Italy held on to the lead, only slightly faltering on the Slovenian counter-attacks which ultimately didn't produce an equalizer.

With this win Italy have a very solid six point lead over Slovenia and Serbia in Group C, and qualification for the Azzurri is looking a lot simpler than it had when it began. Cesare Prandelli's rebuilding of the national team has been well orchestrated, breeding through the newer generation of players who were left out in the cold by Marcello Lippi. Now let's wait and see how Italy approaches the rest of their matches, and if they can manage to hold onto their first place and qualify for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Spain - Czech Republic

Unlike Italy, Spain had the comfort of playing in their own country against a well-organized Czech Republic. Yet things took a strange turn for the world champions when Plasil fired a wonderfully precise strike onto the post and in. And as the tiki taka tried to break down the Czech defenses, it was 1-0 for the Czech Republic at halftime.
David Villa scored twice in the 2-1 comeback

In the second half you could say that things got a little bit nervy for Spain. The tiki taka wasn't ticking, and as the clock ticked away, the home crowd got a bit restless. Long range attempts were the main option for Spain, as cutting through the thickly placed banks of defenders was provimg to be difficult. That is until David Villa decided to produce a moment of magic, a low shot across Cech in the 69th minute. Three minutes later, Spain were awarded a penalty when Iniesta was sliced from behind in the Czech box. David Villa placed it well, with plenty of power which carried the ball through Cech's outstretched fingers and into the net for the winner.

With all of Spain breathing a sigh of relief after the 2-1 win, David Villa has become the country's outright leading scorer in international competitions with 46 goals. Yet it wasn't easy sailing for the Spaniards, this match showing that they won't waltz to a second consecutive European Championships in 2012.

What are your thoughts on these two victories? What about the matches being played tomorrow? Share thoughts, predictions and more below in the comments!


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