Monday, 29 June 2009

Old enemy awaits as England prepare for final

For many Premier League footballers today marks the start of pre-season, the painful few weeks where the brief excesses of their holidays come back to haunt them as running, drills and fitness tests await. However, for the England Under-21 side last season has yet to finish, the latest sign of the all year-round nature of the modern football calendar. I doubt you will hear many dissenting voices among Stuart Pearce’s young charges though as their final game of the 2008/09 season is the European Under-21 Championship final against, who else, but Germany.

It is perhaps fitting that after finally banishing one big tournament hoodoo – the semi-final penalty shoot-out – another arch nemesis lies in wait in the final. They have already met in the Championships of course, when a much changed England side earned a 1-1 draw thanks to Jack Rodwell’s header. Expect a different team to take to the field in the final, though England will be hurt by the suspensions of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fraizer Campbell and Joe Hart.

The opposition has certainly added more spark to the occasion and to kick off the mind games ahead of kick-off Germany have chosen to wear their red away strip despite being designated as the home team – we all know what happened the last time England wore red against Germany in a major final.

Boss Pearce has remained focused throughout, refusing to get carried away with England’s progression, something we are all guilty of when watching England compete in major tournaments. He barely celebrated when victory was sealed against Sweden; instead he switched his attentions immediately to Monday’s clash with the old enemy. Perhaps spurred on by his previous encounters – and eventual defeats – against Germany, Pearce’s level of focus should ensure his young charges do not get carried away with themselves. Maybe the shock of conceding a 3-0 lead in the semi-final gave them a stern reminder not to take anything for granted.

England have blown hot and cold in this tournament, ranging from the superb to the sloppy. They know what they will get against Germany: organisation, aggression and no little skill, but if England perform like we know they can there is no reason why they cannot go on and claim the trophy for the third time in their history, bringing their long 2008/09 campaign to a successful conclusion.

Play roulette and video poker machine games at gambling casinos like to buy tickets to the best games. Let internet casino gambling help you see your team at Titan Casino !

Monday, 15 June 2009

England under-21s ready for challenge

While their senior colleagues jet off on their holidays after a job well done last week England’s youngsters are in Sweden preparing for the Under-21 European Championship.
There seems to be more interest in the competition this year, I think partly down to the brave effort of the side in the last European Championships two years ago.

Then, after an gruelling match with hosts and eventual winners Holland, Stuart Pearce’s side took part in one of the most epic penalty shootouts I have ever seen. The sight of an injured Steven Taylor limping up to the spot and burying his penalty I brought back visions of Stuart Pearce against Spain in Euro 96. But sadly for me and England Anton Ferdinand’s miss brought back memories of Chris Waddle in 1990 and the side crashed out agonisingly 13-12 on penalties.

The side may have changed since then but it is still packed full of talent determined to erase the memories of that night. Micah Richards, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Theo Walcott have all had senior caps while James Milner is the most experienced England Under-21 players of all time with 42 caps. Kieran Gibbs came on leaps and bounds to wards the end of the season, finishing he year as first choice left back for Arsenal while Jack Rodwell at Everton has been labelled the next Rio Ferdinand.

They have a tough group with Finland, Germany and Spain all waiting, but I see no reason why they can’t progress in the tournament. Experiences of big matches is vital to these players development – manager Stuart Pearce has already suggested that if the team is to win it they will have to win on penalties somewhere down the line. How we could do with a penalty shoot-out win given our past experiences!

Many of the players will also have their eye on a place in the squad for next years World Cup. This is their chance to show they can perform at the highest level and deserve a place on the plane to South Africa next year whatever their age. If the player can use that motivation and perform as we all know they can, I think they can go all the way.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

England 6 Andorra 0

On a night where travel to and from Wembley was difficult due to the Tube strike, England virtually guaranteed qualification for the World Cup Finals in South Africa in 2010. England are 10 points clear in the table with the nearest teams Croatia and Ukraine only having 4 games remaining and 12 points to play for. In terms of qualification games Croatia (home) and Ukraine (away) are the next fixtures.

Goals came from Rooney 4min, Lampard 29min, Rooney 39min, Defoe 73 and 76min and Crouch 81min. Can anyone remember the England Goalkeeper? ........ Robert Green.


Saturday, 6 June 2009

Kazakhstan 0-4 England

The "tiredness" did not show! With Andorra next this must be qualification in the bag.


Monday, 1 June 2009

England look to end the season in style

The league and cups may have been decided and we may be into June, but the football season isn’t quite over yet.

Two crucial World Cup qualifiers lie ahead for England – a trip to Kazakhstan on Saturday and the home game with Andorra four days later.

With Fabio Capello’s men five points clear at the top at the halfway stage of qualifying, six points from these fixtures would almost certainly guarantee a place at the 2010 World Cup – especially as two of the final three fixtures are at home.

On paper two wins should not be a problem, these are the two weakest sides in the group. But the Kazakhstan fixture in particular has ‘banana skin’ written all over it.

It’s a long trip for starters, longer than any of the other destinations. The facilities will not be what our pampered Premier League stars are used to and, after a long hard season, fatigue may be a factor.

That long season has already led to a number players pulling out due to injury. The Three Lions are without Michael Carrick, David James, Ben Foster, Phil Jagielka and Stewart Downing. Injuries, of course, offer opportunities for others and the likes of James Milner, Paul Robinson and, most surprisingly, veteran Gary Neville have all earned recalls.

Because of the timing of the fixture and the number of injuries, I don’t expect it to be a classic – England need to just do enough to get the points and get out. It’s very much like a FA Cup tie away at a lower league club, England need to do just enough to avoid a giant-killing.

The home game with Andorra should be a formality, though in the reverse fixture England toiled 45 minutes before finally breaking their stubborn resistance. If England can get an early goal it should open things up for them.

Any slip ups will pile the pressure on their remaining fixtures, against the strongest sides in the group, Belarus, Ukraine and Croatia. I think Capello will be aware of this and will not allow his side to take the game lightly, undoing all their hard work in the first half of the campaign.

I predict that England will not upset the football odds and will record two wins, with plenty of goals against the Andorrans, meaning we can all go on our summer holidays satisfied at a season's work well done.