Poland vs. England: 6 Things We Learned from World Cup Qualifier

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Poland vs. England: 6 Things We Learned from World Cup Qualifier
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Warsaw Stadium

So at last the roof was closed and Roy Hodgson learned some more about his new England charges, but the players showed they hadn't learned enough from the Boss.

They say that great teams grind out results when they are not playing well. So now we know that England aren't that great.

England's FIFA ranking continues to astound some people. A month ago they were third in the world. This month they are fifth; Brazil are 14th and Poland 54th.

Tonight, England made Poland look much better than they were, especially since they were lacking their best player and captain, Blaszczykowski. They also fielded a defender with 45 minutes previous international experience and a goalkeeper who can't even get a start for his club side.

And yet, apart from Rooney's "shouldered" header, England looked unlikely to break Poland down. The longer the game went on, the more encouraged—and the more likely to win—the home side became.

How could this happen? Roy Hodgson is no mug as an international coach. Despite Fabio Capello's greater experience and Latin background, the England manager has done more to get his Anglo-Saxons playing technical football than his predecessor.

This was particularly evident in the match against San Marino last Friday. The trouble was that when England needed an old-fashioned approach with wingers and a big striker (step forward Andy Carroll), they tried to pass the ball through a brick wall.

That performance against arguably the worst team in the world was one of England's worst. OK they won 5-0 but Germany would have run up a cricket score against 11 men playing without any ambition. 

It was best summed up by the sight of Kyle Walker, the exciting young Tottenham right back. He must have overlapped his winger about 50 times and received the ball. Against a part-time left back, instead of "skinning him" and putting in a cross from the bye-line, 48 times he simply passed the ball back.

And this sums up England at their worst. Collectively they often don't have the vision, ambition and skill to break down ordinary teams who have a determination to hold out.

So it was against Poland. For Roy Hodgson it must have felt like deja vu. All that he inherited was on display, despite one of the strongest sides he could field and the obvious deficiencies of the home side. They forgot his instructions to hold onto the ball and technical skill went out of the window.

So some of what we learned, we already knew. It's just that we continue to delude ourselves that one day...some day...England can win a major tournament. 

The truth is that even if some of these things were resolved, that isn't going to happen any time soon, or even in my lifetime.

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