A lot was made in the build-up to England’s second World Cup qualifier with Ukraine this week about the national team’s lack of a main striker and, with Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll injured, forward responsibilities fell on Jermain Defoe’s narrow shoulders.
Although Defoe did a good job and scored a perfectly fine disallowed goal in the first half, he struggled to make himself known in the Ukraine defence and their back four were relatively solid for the majority of the game because of it.
England played a more patient, passing brand of football than previous games and it was nice to see our wing play used to proper effect. Steven Gerrard was given the usual distributer job in midfield and with full-backs, Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines, happy to come forward, England found themselves in very promising situations.
Yet, midway through the second half and a goal down, Roy Hodgson’s side should have equalised when a cross came over for Defoe. The striker rose to meet the ball but his 5 ft. 5 in. frame would not stretch far enough: a golden chance wasted.
It is a simple thing to say but, had a taller striker been there, England would have equalised a lot earlier than they did. The encounter was truly nail-biting for fans betting on football.
This is not to denigrate Defoe’s clear striking talents, but England do need a physical presence in the box. Three of their Euro 2012 goals came from headers and, with a player like Gerrard able to pick a man in the box, it seems foolish not to harness this advantage.
Hodgson may opt for a bigger front man in future qualifying games to provide this aerial presence. Rooney may be the obvious choice but with Carroll, Peter Crouch, and Darren Bent all more than capable of scoring with their head, there is plenty of choice for Roy to find his perfect front man.