Watched England’s final warm-up game before the 2010 World Cup yesterday. They played Japan in Graz and without wishing to be disrespectful towards Japanese football, Capello’s team made enormously heavy weather of the game, winning 2-1 thanks to two own goals from Japanese defenders. England looked anything but major contenders for the World Cup, with this result following on from an equally unconvincing 3-1 win over Mexico at the Wembley Swamp last Monday.
Despite this, the stands in Graz were well-filled by the usual aggregation of shaven-headed literati who apparently have both the time and the money to follow Ing-er-land anywhere on the planet, even for allegedly meaningless friendlies like the Japan game. Do they really believe that England can win in South Africa after watching debacles like this? My own impression is that England have little or no chance – this lot look even less impressive than Eriksson’s crew before the last tournament in Germany. It seems to me that they were at their best whilst qualifying for this tournament and have, in effect, peaked a year too soon.
For many of the 30-man squad this was a final chance to make the cut, as 30 will be 23 by tomorrow. The media guys working on the match all got a chance to evaluate who was going to be left behind and ex-Chelsea midfielder and in-house ITV motormouth Andy Townsend lost no time in plugging the loathsome Joe Cole (currently of Chelsea, funnily enough), at every opportunity, managing to incorporate his name into Joe Cole sentences that otherwise actually weren’t Joe Cole about him at all.
Whilst the overpaid, over-rated and over-hyped senior internationals were struggling to justify their vast reputations in Graz, the England U-17’s were quietly going about their business in the European U17 Tournament, staged just down the road in Liechtenstein. They beat Spain by 2-1 in the Final of the Tournament to become the first English side to win an ‘age-defined’ trophy since the U18’s won in 1993, with a team featuring Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell, Gary Neville and Robbie Fowler. Star of the show appears to have been Ipswich’s Connor Wickham, who scored the winning goal and who has played fairly often for Ipswich’s first team in the season just ended. Wickham has been linked with moves to many Premiership sides – most recently Spurs, as I recall.
From a ‘local’ perspective, I was pleased to see that Will Keane has been a regular member of the team and other United youngsters like Tom Thorpe and Sam Johnstone have also been featured squad members. Well done to them and let’s hope they are able to enjoy their career before all the media hype takes over, as it has done for their senior colleagues. Congratulations to the team and to coach John Peacock.
England’s Under-17 Team celebrate their win over Spain in Vaduz.