Euro 2012 Qualifying: Why England Failed To Beat Montenegro at Wembley

Yoosof Farah@@YoosofFarahSenior Writer IIIOctober 13, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12:  Wayne Rooney of England is shown the yellow card by Referee Manuel Grafe during the UEFA EURO 2012 Group G Qualifying match between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on October 12, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

It wasn't exactly a good night in the Wembley area of London on Tuesday, as Group G favourites England unspectacularly slumped to a lifeless 0-0 draw with Montenegro, the group's current leaders.

A result which left Fabio Capello and the entire nation of 51 million more than disappointed, the Three Lions' failure to win also means they trail their top opponents in the group by three points.

However, it could've been a different story had German referee Manuel Grafe awarded England a penalty in the second half, after the deliberate handball by Milan Jovanovic.

Vice captain Steven Gerrard believes his side should've been awarded a spot-kick, telling reporters: "I saw the handball incident very clearly and the referee was really close.

"I was very surprised that he never saw it but even more surprised that the linesman hasn't seen it because it's on his side and, at this level, you need that little bit of luck, especially when things are difficult and you're finding it hard to break the opposition down."

It was that bit of luck England and Capello were looking for, which never arrived due to multiple reasons.

Only glimpses of goal

As the boring 0-0 scoreline suggests, England offered merely a few glimpses of goalscoring chances; two of which were squandered by an unimpressive Peter Crouch.

The Tottenham Hotspur striker failed to use the most of physique, and was wandering out of position frequently.

Instead of targeting the weaker of the two centre-backs by backing into him, holding the ball up and/or making several attempts to run in behind the defence, Crouchy was often found floating in between the defensive and midfield lines looking for the ball.

This meant there was nobody further upfield to trouble the centre-backs, and allowed the full backs to come in and join the central defence to nullify England's attacking threat.

But in all fairness to the lanky Tottenham man, his situation wasn't helped in the slightest by Wayne Rooney, whose impatience and constant desire for the ball meant he had a shockingly poor game.

The Manchester United frontman was consistently looking for space to receive the ball, dropping in front of the Montenegro midfield to receive possession and start an attack.

Which was totally the wrong thing to do because it meant Crouch had to drop deeper to provide an option for Rooney, there was less personnel in the final third and by the time Wayne did play it out wide and start an attack, Montenegro had already got nine or 10 men behind the ball, making them virtually impossible to break down.

As for the wingers, off the ball they were poor, and gave England little option by sticking out wide and being marked instead of cutting inside at speed and dragging the opposition full backs in to create good attacking space for the incoming Ashley Cole or Glen Johnson.

At international level it doesn't matter how technically or physically gifted a player is; if they don't get their tactics right, they'll never win.

Mixed attacking signals

Perhaps an element the technical staff need to review the most, the England players on that Wembley pitch on Tuesday looked as if they didn't have a clue how to break down their opponents.

Ashley Young and Adam Johnson found limited success in beating their full-backs and putting deliveries into the penalty area, only to find nobody able to get on the end of them.

Steven Gerrard managed to craft a few defence-splitting passes, only to find none of them providing the key to unlock the goal of Mladen Bozovic.

Why? Because the England team mix'n'matched throughout the entire game, sometimes trying through their luck through the middle, and other times playing the ball out wide.

In theory it works a treat against tight defences, giving the team's attack a very idiosyncratic, unpredictable feel about it meaning defenders can't anticipate the next move and where the players are going to make their forward runs, thus meaning the team's players are a step ahead of their opponents and on their way to goal.

But the trouble is, especially at international level, if these players haven't used this focus tactic much before at their club teams, then perfecting the art in a matter of days is nearly impossible. 

And that's the way it turned out on Tuesday, as the front two weren't sure whether the midfield would play it out wide or in the middle to their feet, and vice versa for the wingers.

Hence why Rooney and Crouch came deep looking for answers, and why Johnson and Young were stuck out wide marked by their full backs for a lot of the game, thus culminating a tight opposition defence and no way through.

Zlatko Kranjcar

The father of Tottenham and Croatia star Niko Kranjcar got his tactics absolutely spot on against England.

Zlatko Kranjcar took his Montenegro stars to Wembley with the sucker-punch intention of mercilessly picking apart the English on the counter-attack.

He instructed his charges to sit-back and only press the opposition when in their own half, and occasionally only even in the final third.

Not only did this allow Montenegro to compete with England in terms of fitness levels, it also meant they could maintain their well-drilled, well-organised defence, with opponents marked and no options available for the opposition.

And it also meant England would have a progressively higher defensive line which would become increasingly more vulnerable to the counter-attack. It almost worked in the 84th minute when Jovanovic's shot came crashing back off the crossbar, after beating a hapless Joe Hart in the England goal.

Out of all his tactics, this one proved to be the most profitable for Kranjcar, meaning his Montenegro men came so close to securing the best result in their short history.


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