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2010 FIFA World Cup: Reflections on the England-Japan Friendly

Mike TowersCorrespondent IMay 31, 2010

GRAZ, AUSTRIA - MAY 30:  An England fan cheers during the International Friendly between Japan and England at UPC-Arena on May 30, 2010 in Graz, Austria.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

England's final World Cup friendly ended in a 2 - 1 victory. Here are my thoughts and the reaction of the UK press.

The first half in Austria was a severe disappointment to anyone hoping England's fringe players would seize their chance and offer the established squad members some real competition.

The only heartening aspect of the limp performances from Bent and Huddlestone was that neither offered any reason why Capello should include them in the final squad.

Japan's goal was a poor one to concede and should once again raise doubts about Glen Johnson's positional sense.

England's response varied from the lifeless to the incredulous, a spectrum best summed up by a lack of creativity and the sight of Rooney of all people making a right hash of what should have been an easy pass in the dying seconds of the half.

The second half saw some much needed substitutions and a switch to a more purposeful 4 - 2 - 3 - 1 formation which pushed Japan back.

Then Lampard missed another penalty and England were forced to rely on two fortuitous own goals, replacement keeper Joe Hart and the woodwork to emerge victorious.

Right, that's the negative stuff out of the way. Can we take any positives from this performance?

Not many - goodbye Bent and Huddlestone, welcome back Joe Cole; we could be seeing the death knell of the traditional 4 - 4 - 2, as this England team is better than that tired formula; once again this wasn't the first XI.

What did the UK press have to say following today's match?

Capello's side should go to South Africa free of complacency after this latest performance, said The Guardian .

Once again the manager "comes away with more questions than answers", according to The Telegraph. Here are the paper’s player ratings .

“From international exile to International Rescue”: Joe Cole’s club manager might not think the player has the ‘Brains’ but the Chelsea man’s “Thunderbirds are go”. The Mirror ’s Martin Lipton watches way too much children’s TV.

The proper analysis began this morning once the dust had settled.

Here’s Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph. “What a shower”, but at least the clouds lifted once Gerrard came on.

“With this sort of luck, England will win World Cup” says The Times .

Believing Gerrard and Lampard can form a central midfield partnership is still an “old and damaging delusion,” says Richard Williams in The Guardian.

And there was I thinking this lot would cheer me up. Will I never learn?

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