Top 10 conclusions: England 1-0 Belgium
1. Grabbing slender victories, chucking men behind the ball, effective on the counter-attack. It’s official. England are the new Chelsea… and the new George Graham-era Arsenal… and the new Greece Euro 2004 squad.
2. The same old flaws that we witnessed in South Africa remain present. Most notable, was the tendency to treat the ball like a live grenade and have a formation less flexible than a concrete slinky. We’re coming to the sad conclusion that we don’t have the players to remedy that anytime soon, irrespective of who the manager is.
3. Two games, two wins. That is England’s best statistic from the last week and not one to shrug off. It should provide the players with a belief that Hodgson is assembling a team that will be tough to beat, allbeit easy to doominate.
4. Danny Welbeck’s goal was a huge positive. The Three Lions managed just one shot on target and it was dispatched with skill, cheek and delightful delicacy by the Manchester United forward. He looks sharp and full of beans. Wellbeck’s strike was like a hefty squirt of Febreeze in an otherwise stale environment.
5. Eden Hazard didn’t set the world alight yesterday, looking a bit flaky in front of goal and getting bossed by the physicality of the England defence. That said, he did produce six goal-scoring chances for his team, twice as many as any England player achieved, so don’t dust off your Ligue 1 insults just yet.
6. For most of the second half Gary Neville was screaming instructions from the England technical area. If you had just returned home from a month’s travels in a far flung state and clocked that, you may well have received the fright of your life.
7. A heavily moustached David Beckham was at the game yesterday to pick up something shiny for winning over 100 caps. Rose tinted glasses firmly on – we couldn’t help but think that had he come back to the Premier League last season, it would be he, not Henderson, patching up England’s depleted midfield.
8. As expected Belgium looked rather good, at times exuding the swagger of a team that know they have some quality individuals. It’s a bit of a mystery how they failed to qualify with a squad that features Vincent Kompany, Tomas Vermaelen and Eden Hazard. Sooner or later it would be nice to see them come good on their perennial tag – ‘team to watch for the future.’
9. Belgium’s physio was sporting some rather laid back attire yesterday. Whilst most physio’s go for the professional look – full tracksuit, studded boots, medical gloves – this chap went for the Jeremy Clarkson style, jeans, shirt and shoes. Maybe it was mufti day on the Belgium bench.
10. Every player likes to adorn his walls with some great photographs of their career. A goal celebration, a trophy lift and a bulldozing header are the orthodox pictures to have. Luckily for Joleon Lescott yesterday, he secured the crème d e la creme shot – a blood splattered white England shirt, with accompanying Terry Butcher head bandage. It has to be top of any footballer’s bucket list.