England 1-0 Slovenia, Australia 2-1 Serbia

Posted: June 24, 2010 in England, Pubs, World Cup
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Victory! At last. England managed to get through the group stages of the 2010 World Cup, having scored just their second goal but conceding only one along the way, and that an almighty clanger. And this win was achieved with a performance more in keeping with their overall ability – that is to say, not world-beating, but better-than-most. Oh England, all is forgiven. I don’t care that we will lose to Germany on Sunday, we’ve at least managed to put the messy self-destruction to one side for a few days.

Eyebrows were raised at the team news that was being rumoured from about 9am and then confirmed in the pub: Defoe and Milner were playing, and word was that they would be deployed as wide attacking players outside of Rooney ie out of position. Much head-scratching ensued. As it happened Capello just played them in the most obvious positions – Defoe up front, Milner right-wing, and it was from a Milner cross that Defoe won the game.

I’ve not exactly sung the praises of Milner on here, in fact my overall opinion of him is that he’s a bit average, a Gerrard-lite. But he was tremendous here, making Lennon, Walcott and SWP look like mugs by not being that fast but being able to stick in a fiendishly good cross and generally have control of the ball. Well played lad.

England looked so much better than previous performances, still room for improvement but overall there was passing, movement, and pressure which we have not had during the first two games. The ball was often retrieved soon after being lost, and Gerrard had another good game on the left, swinging crossfield balls to stretch the Slovenian defence and finding himself in attacking positions, one of which he should have scored from. Defoe’s shot from range was parried, Gerrard had the presence to head the ball to Rooney, who returned the favour, but his shot was half-scuffed and the keeper got down to it.

Plenty more chances were created, particularly in the second half as England pretty much dominated. Terry’s firm header was saved from a corner, and Defoe flicked wide from 10 yards when he really should have scored. He did have the ball in the net but the flag was already up against Rooney, before a terrific chipped through-ball from Lampard found Roon in space. His touch was good but the shot was mis-hit (again) and the keeper fingertipped it onto the post.

Slovenia rarely, if ever, threatened. But there was still the opportunity for John Terry to attempt to block a low shot with his head, which is either very dedicated or very stupid depending on your point-of-view, and Upson made a tremendous tackle when it looked as though a late equaliser might arise. The beer flowed during this enjoyable performance which is largely why this blog is being written now rather than last night when I got home.

I was back to the Famous Three Kings in West Ken for this, and it once again affirmed itself as an excellent footy pub, lacking only a beer garden given the hot hot heat outside. It was busy – probably busier than Friday night actually, which would suggest that most of London had skipped off the afternoon of work (half day for me) – but there are so many screens that it’s impossible not to watch the game. As one of us found out to his detriment; he wanted to look away for the last couple of minutes (I thought we were pretty comfortable myself) but there are screens on the beer pumps in F3K so the only way to avoid watching is to curl into a ball and cover your eyes.

Much jubilation at the full-time whistle, although slightly dampened by the news that USA had scored a (deserved) late winner over Algeria, which meant that England finished second and now probably will have to beat Germany, Argentina, Spain and Brazil to win the damn thing. Ie, there is no chance. If we do that it will be probably the most improbable thing to happen since that sperm whale was conjured into existence by the Infinite Improbability Drive in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

But never mind. I enjoyed that, and I’ll probably enjoy Sunday as a no-pressure, no-expectation game that I think we could possibly win but almost certainly won’t. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if it went to penalties and we won?

After a bit of food we retired to the much quieter White Horse in Parsons Green (I was aiming to get to the Octoberfest Pub on Fulham Road, to watch Germany, but all the tickets had gone), which I now learn is nicknamed “the Sloaney Pony” which tells you everything you need to know about my knowledge of London South Of The River (here be dragons etc). As a result I was a long, long way from home but at least England had won.

Anyway they were showing the stupid, stupid tennis match that was going on in there, between two superhuman monsters (59-59) but they flicked over to Australia v Serbia before kick-off. Probably would have preferred to watch Germany v Ghana but there were a few Aussies in. Australia were pretty good; scoring from a great header by Cahill and then a thunderous finish from the very-Australian-named Brett Holman, to my mind the first “proper” long-range goal of the tournament to date. It was never likely to be enough, with Germany only winning 1-0 against Ghana, and so it proved.

Overall, a strong sense of relief that we got through. It really would have been an utter disaster to have flopped out, and from a personal point of view I really want us to have the chance to lose to a really good team, rather than draw with three average ones. Hopefully that really good team will come in the quarter-final.

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