England were able to hold France to a draw with some resolute defending and determination in the first game. However from attacking view point, French enjoyed large spells of possession in the England half. Blanc’s men were restricted to long range efforts as Benzema unleashed most of them at Joe Hart’s goal, who was under constant pressure.
Although manager Roy Hodgson praised his side for their dogged effort, still it seems he has less focus on the offensive section of the team. Against the likes of Belgium, Norway and France, the English side looked to be more organized defensively and posed little threat to opponent’s defense. They play in a system where only four players effectively get forward to attack without much support from the all important center midfield.
Steven Gerrard provided a sublime ball for England’s opener against France but the captain, under Roy’s system is not allowed the freedom that he gets at club level. Adding to that the Liverpool star played most part of the first game as a defensive midfielder alongside another one in Scott Parker. This nullifies the creative aspect of Gerrard’s game that his nation badly needs up front from open plays.
Besides Lescott’s goal, England only created one clear cut opportunity versus France when Young supplied a perfect ball for Milner who squandered the chance. Else, Young found it difficult to escape Diarra, Milner worked hard and so did Chamberlain but were little effective. Welbeck led the line as lone striker but never influenced the game as his side was way too busy defending than to support him.
Fabio Capello is no longer there but England have restricted their firepower and deployed all resources in defense like Italians. They face Sweden tonight, knowing that a win is vital if they are to top the group and perhaps avoid Spain in Quarters. Hodgson may opt for Carroll in place of Welbeck, Walcott in place of Chamberlain or any other change but without much support from center midfield and wingbacks, England will rarely put passes together to have possession in the attacking third and will not create many chances. That in turn means not scoring enough goals.
Hodgson has already claimed that England will play in a defensive manner and focus on counter attacks vs Sweden:
“We have to try to make certain when we do get these good counter-attacking opportunities that we maximise them and take advantage to the full”
The last time England scored more than a single goal in a major championship match was way back in 2006 World Cup against none other than tonight’s opponent Sweden. For that to be repeated or surpassed, England will have to change gears.