With violence off the pitch threatening to overshadow events on it, England began their Euro campaign against Russia on Saturday evening. Despite leading through an Eric Dier free-kick and looking comfortable throughout, England succumbed to a late equaliser.
After Wales started their campaign earlier in the day with a 2-1 victory against Slovakia, pressure was on England to get three points themselves. With ninety minutes on the clock it looked they they would be able to do exactly that. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Despite dropping points late on, it was largely an impressive performance from the England players. Here are some of the things we have learned off the back of it.
Full-Backs Really Are An Asset
After his man-of-the-match quality performance against Portugal, Kyle Walker secured his place in the England side to face Russia ahead of Nathaniel Clyne. Together with Danny Rose, England’s full-backs are already looking like an asset to the side. With the speed they possess, Rose and Walker have the potential to threaten defences with their overlapping runs.
While the quality of their final ball into the box was at times not up to standard, it is great to have the additional option out wide when attacking. If Wales line up in the same fashion against England on Thursday with a back three, the likes of Walker and Rose will have an important role to play.
Harry Kane Needs To Steer Clear Of Corners & Free Kicks
It is a decision that continues to baffle England fans up and down the country, especially if social media is anything to go by.
Despite being over 6ft in height, Harry Kane has somehow wormed his way to the top of the list for corner and free-kick duty.
On paper, Kane taking free-kicks from shooting distance somewhat makes sense. The player clearly has a powerful strike on him and has the potential to test goalkeepers. This being said, none of his efforts threatened the goal. With Eric Dier being allowed to take one, and subsequently converting, it is clear to me at least who should be on them from now on.
The more straightforward decision will be to take Kane off corners. With his height and being a striker, Kane should be in the centre converting the chances rather than trying to create them.
If we can all see it, why can’t Roy?
Wayne Rooney Accomplished In Midfield
Despite being England’s top goalscorer, Wayne Rooney featured in deep-lying role against Russia. It was a largely accomplished display from the captain who continued to demonstrate his technical ability and vision. Even though he was operating in the midfield, Rooney was also unlucky not to get a goal when Igor Akinfeev tipped his shot onto the crossbar.
There were times when Rooney arguably pushed forward too far but early signs are promising for the makeshift midfielder.
Roy’s Tactical Decisions Are At Times Questionable
When the England team was initially announced I was largely pleased. The only questionable decision was the use of Adam Lallana as a winger but he created a number of chances especially in the first half.
My concern was the timing of the substitutions in the second half and the players Hodgson chose to introduce. The first player substituted was Wayne Rooney because he was “tiring” on the 78 minute mark. This was followed by Raheem Sterling being replaced by James Milner on the 87 minute mark.
Russia scored after 92 minutes.
Firstly, taking off the Captain and one of the most influential players on the pitch was a mistake. As Hodgson said himself, quite a lot of players were tiring and there were certainly players who I would have taken off before Wayne. The manager believed that he was in a position to have “the luxury” of taking Rooney off without there being a consequence. While Rooney has learned how to play in a deeper position, there is no doubt that Wilshere still has an attacking mentality. If the aim was to hold onto the 1-0 win then it was the wrong move to make. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
One other questionable move, was to only make two substitutions. It is one of those things where had Russia not scored everyone would have been happy. No matter who you are, however, 1-0 is a dangerous scoreline. Lallana and Sterling in particular were tiring and Kane spent more time on the ball at the corner flag than in the box- in fact the striker did not touch the ball once in the box throughout the duration of the game.
Meanwhile, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford were all sitting on the bench. When playing against a centre-back pairing with a combined age of 69, introducing a striker with pace and trying to get a second would surely have been beneficial.
For future reference Roy, you brought five strikers with you. Use them while you still have the chance.