England were beaten by Holland today, as a late Arjen Robben goal gave the Dutch the 3-2 victory at Wembley. It was a tough loss to swallow, but ultimately, the hosts were outplayed, and the score line showed it.
Robben’s darting run through the midfield exposed the England defense. After a nice cut to the outside, he finished with a low, hard shot from just outside of the box to give the Dutch the 1-0 lead in the 57th minute.
It took no more than another minute for Holland to score their second. A lovely cross by Dirk Kuyt found Klass-Jan Huntelaar in the middle. Huntelaar sacrificed himself for the goal, as his head collided with Chris Smalling’s to leave both of them dazed.
Gary Cahill gave England some life in the 85th minute. Doing his best impression of teammate David Luiz, Cahill found himself controversially just onsides and was able to put the ball away to make it 2-1.
The comeback seemed complete when Ashley Young was able to chip it over the Dutch keeper in the 90th minute to tie the score at two all.
However, Robben put away his second right off the restart. A cross into the box found the Bayern star, who was lucky to find it deflect off Cahill to give the Dutch the lead again, and the win.
Here are five things we learned about England in the loss.
The England attack was static and lame before Sturridge came on. His introduction in the 33rd minute for Steven Gerrard immediately sparked the team to life and gave them some sense that they could scrap out a goal in the dull affair.
Sturridge does not exactly posses the kind of technical ability or instincts you would want out of your winger, but he does have a knack for simply creating out of nothing. His speed and desire to find the goal at least keeps the back line honest.
If England want any hope of producing something positive in Poland/Ukraine, they need to have the youngster in the plans one way or another.
It was only announced hours before the match that Scott Parker would indeed fill in as captain for the match, as John Terry was shamefully stripped of his duties, and Wayne Rooney was absent due to injury.
I personally thought the decision by Stuart Pearce to give the armband to the veteran was an acceptable one, but it soon seemed to be too much pressure on the midfielder.
Parker is enjoying an excellent season with Tottenham. He is the leader and controller of a midfield that has been one of the best and most consistent all season. However, without the versatility of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, he was too slow with the ball and caught flat-footed far too often.
As a captain, your responsibilities are not limited to what the rule book says you can do in terms of speaking to the ref. You must set the example for your team and be the one that wills your side to victory.
Parker was not that player.
For much of the match, England was content to play the ball simply and methodically around the back half of the midfield and the defensive line.
I am not sure if this was the game plan or all they could muster against a clearly superior Dutch side, but what I do know is that it did not work.
England is not Spain, Argentina, Brazil or even Germany. They are a team that does not have the kind of players with the technical skill and personalities that allow them to kick around the ball and lull the other team to sleep with finesse and style.
Contrary to the current trend, this does not mean they don’t have the talent to win, but they must play their way.
Get the ball up fast and move as a unit on the counter. Once they began to put their heads down and run, they found their direction and started to score.
The defense cannot be solely blamed for tonight’s result, but they surely are not off the hook.
Centerbacks Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill were a unique pairing for Pearce to start. It soon became evident that it was not going to work.
The two did their best, but were not up to the level necessary in the international game. Cahill was made a fool of as Robben out-dribbled him on his first goal, and Smalling was out jumped by Huntelaar on his.
Granted, this was a makeshift back four, as Cahill and Smalling will probably feature little, if at all, at Euros. But it has to make England fans nervous that there is really no reliable backup should one of the starters go down.
Let’s face it, Holland won because of Arjen Robben. He was the “X-factor," “game-changer” or whatever other cliché sports term you want to use to describe someone who has the ability to single-handedly win a game.
Once he came alive, it seemed quite evident that England had no shot at winning the match. But not because Robben is some kind of demigod, but more because England has no player like that of their own to counter him.
Look up and down the England roster. What name on there has the ability to do what Robben did, putting the game on his back and making it his own?
Wayne Rooney, perhaps, represents the best chance at doing this, but he is often stranded up top and can become mitigated very easily.
England’s struggles over the past decade or so are a result of this absence. They need to find a player that can be as dynamic and impactful as Robben—their own superstar that can be counted on to save the other 10 players on the field if they are having a bad game.
Until they have this player, there is little hope for them at Euros this summer.
This was by no means a drastic or catastrophic loss, but it was one nonetheless. The best thing they can do is learn from their mistakes and fix them next time around.
So, what did you learn about the team today? Did I cover it all, or did I miss something?
Please make your comments known below!
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