Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

World Cup diary: Italy were poor but England were worse

Another fairly unpleasant evening spent watching England playing football. Ah well.

It used to be that England were renowned for two things: we could score from set pieces, and we knew how to defend set pieces. In fact we rarely scored from open play – but give us a corner, or a free kick, and suddenly we became dangerous. Similarly, we rarely conceded from set pieces. This was a consequence of the English game, I suppose.

Against Italy we conceded from a set piece in fairly lamentable fashion. Worse, though, was the endless parade of wasted corners and free kicks. I don’t know how many corners we had in the second half – maybe eight? Only one found the head of an England player. The free kicks were worse: someone needs to take the likeable Steven Gerard aside and tell him it ain’t 2001 any more , you can’t do it, mate. Rooney was, if anything, worse – although he provided a fine pass for Sturridge’s well-taken goal.

Raheem Sterling was excellent, so too Barkley late on. We didn’t see enough of Adam Lallana. In general, though, we were ponderous and predictable, too slow to switch the ball around, lacking a player who could provide an incisive pass in the last third, almost never doing the unexpected – which, if you disdain scoring opportunities from set pieces, is the way you get goals from open play. The unpredictable. Sterling has it, but nobody else.

Worst thing is, I didn’t think Italy were up to much, either; largely anodyne going forward. Sweaty, pasta-munching, hobgoblins.

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