England were untested in their opening Euro 2012 qualifying match last night at Wembley stadium against Bulgaria. Jermain Defoe opened the scoring in the 3rd minute of the game, and England would not add to their lead until the hour when Defoe finished off a counter-attacking move.
Substitute Adam Johnson added to the score late on, before Jermain Defoe became the 57th player to score a hat trick for England with 5 minutes remaining. The scoreline was impressive, but Bulgaria failed to test England. To sum it up, Joe Hart’s biggest test came from his own defender, Glen Johnson who nearly put the ball into his own net. Phil Jagielka remains the only player to have scored past Joe Hart in 5 international appearances, and even then that was controversial.
Building for the European Championships in two years time, without the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, Fabio Capello had an opportunity to play some fresh talent. Joe Hart, Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka, Theo Walcott and James Milner all started.
Michael Dawson was stretchered off early in the second half with what appeared to be a serious leg injury. Despite Bulgaria not having much potency in attack, Dawson still managed to look a liability at the back. With a lack of pace and a poor start to the season with Spurs, Dawson would be far short of pulling on an England shirt in an ideal world. His replacement in the second half, Gary Cahill had no problem fitting in, and even threw his body in the way of a goal-bound effort from Stiliyan Petrov.
Phil Jagielka was the better of England’s defenders last night, but right now he’s not ready to take on the top players in the international game. Solid in the air, he relied on a few last-ditch challenges to get the team out of trouble.
Theo Walcott had made a great start to the season with Arsenal and deserved his place in the starting eleven against Bulgaria. Apart from being able to whiz by defenders, Walcott continued to show nothing in an England shirt as he failed to setup opportunities for team mates or himself, despite having the ball in good positions in the final third. His replacement for the final quarter of an hour, Adam Johnson managed to get himself on the scoresheet as he looked like a bigger threat in the penalty area than Walcott.
James Milner was positioned in the left wing, where perhaps he is unable to maximise his potential at international level. He had another solid, hard-working game for England against Bulgaria as he proved he was fit to wear the shirt on Friday. A tougher test on Tuesday night, but Milner is bidding to become one of England’s key players in 2012.
Ashley Young came on for the final 3 minutes after Jermain Defoe picked up a knock in scoring his third. There was not enough time to make a judgement on Young, who was unable to even get a touch of the ball.
Switzerland away on Tuesday is potentially the toughest game in the group for England. Montenegro and Wales away should not be underestimated, although England are capable of running away with the group. It’s hard to predict which nations are even going to break England down and score past them in this group, which is ultimately going to be a lack of match practice for when England race the real test in Poland and Ukraine in two years. As ever with England, you expect a comfortable qualifying campaign to end with disaster when it comes to the main stage. For now though, we might-as-well enjoy it whilst we’re on top and knowing we’re not in as bad a situation as France, who went down 1-0 at home to Belarus yesterday.