Sunday, 16 September 2007

3-5-2-Nil

Steve McClaren is already finding out that life as England manager is very difficult. After a disappointing with Macedonia last Saturday, he hoped that his changed of tactics and formation would bring about an immediate change of fortune when they faced Croatia in Zagreb.

But it just didn’t happen. Croatian coach Slaven Bilic knew what was coming, and adjusted his team accordingly. The result was a 2-0 home victory. But given the fact that Croatia have been undefeated at home since independence, is this result really a surprise?

McClaren had been toying with the idea of switching from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 for a few weeks now. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Rio Ferdinand’s late injury, he would have used this system last Saturday, but there were rumours that the players weren’t exactly happy with this formation, and it seems that the loss of
Steven Gerrard through suspension changed McClaren’s way of thinking.

And they showed just how unhappy they were with their performance. The first half saw a poor performance from the side, as many of the players looked like fish out of water. The centre backs looked uncomfortable as they were forced into full back positions, and Gary Neville, one of England’s greatest players of the past decade, looked uncomfortable in his new wing back role. But despite all this, at least England hadn’t conceded a goal by half time.

That all changed in the second half. Brazilian ex-patriot Eduardo’s header in the 61st minute saw Croatia take a well deserved lead, and it was a cruel twist of fate that saw Croatia double their lead. As Neville made a back pass to goalkeeper Paul Robinson, the bull struck a divot in the grass and bounced over the keeper’s foot. Robinson was powerless as he watched the ball roll into the back of the net.

While credit must go to Croatia for their performance, credit must also go to Steve McClaren. In post-match interviews he took the blame for his team’s performance, which is something his predecessor very rarely did. England looked poor in almost every department. It’s obvious that, despite having world-class players, England just don’t have a world-class team.

With this being England’s last competitive match until the trip to Israel in a few months time, McClaren will have quite a few months to come up with winning formula. Let’s hope he makes a good go of it in the friendly against Holland.