If the purpose of these international friendlies in the no man’s land between qualifying and a major tournament is to experiment and learn, then mission accomplished for England and Gareth Southgate. An old system featuring new faces was tested and fought against against Switzerland, before changes were needed to turn back the clock and make a winning start to this World Cup year.
One thing that these games also come in handy for is a bit of stat stuffing. Harry Kane is now level with Sir Bobby Charlton on 49 goals for his country, with only all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney to catch. The England captain completed the turnaround with an adamantly converted 78th-minute penalty awarded to Steven Zuber for the handball after a lengthy VAR check.
Breel Embolo initially put Switzerland ahead, capitalizing on a mistake by Benjamin White, and rightly so. England were rough around the edges and mostly second until Luke ShawThe equalizer near half-time, after which the pattern of the game changed with all the substitutions that come in during these friendlies. To be honest, there wasn’t much pacing in the game before that either.
Then again, complaining that these games aren’t particularly entertaining sights is like criticizing the chimpanzee with a typewriter for not writing great literature. When it comes to producing classics that stay with you, they have about the same success rate. As Mexican waves raced around the National Stadium under floating paper planes, you knew it was a Wembley friendly, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.
The most intriguing aspect of this friendly game has always been the line-up selected by Southgate and the experiments they conducted before the tournament. Debutants Marc Guehi and Kyle Walker-Peters were the headlines, but Conor Gallagher was also making the first international start of his career alongside Jordan Henderson and Mason Mount in midfield, with Phil Foden further up the pitch in a front two with Harry Kane.
It was no different to the system successfully used in Russia in 2018. Foden took over the role of Raheem Sterling and Gallagher and Mount acted as two roving number eights in the style of Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard. This set-up produced England’s best showing at a World Cup in 28 years, but never quite looked to be this side’s final form under Southgate and their return left something to be desired.
There was a blocked shot for Gallagher a quarter of an hour later, with the Crystal Palace midfielder checking inside and curling in goal after a clever knockdown from Mount and Kane slotted through the lines, but it was England’s best game before they left. behind. Switzerland had also been the busier of the two teams and almost deserved to go through Embolo.
England were caught napping, including White, a late addition to the starting line-up after John Stones was injured in the warm-up. The Arsenal defender may be in fine form at club level but was slow to react when Xherdan Shaqiri fished out a left-footed cross and lost track of Embolo, who had the time and the l space needed to place his head over Pickford and out of the England keeper. to reach.
Switzerland were well worth that lead and could easily have doubled it in the moments that followed. Just before Embolo’s opener, Pickford had reacted quickly to parry a Granit Xhaka strike from distance and had to be vigilant once again to deny Fabian Frei from a corner, tipping the strike from the centre-half against the underside of the crossbar. Despite Everton’s general malaise, their goalkeeper continues to perform at international level.
And after that brief period of Swiss pressure, England finally started to apply some of their own. Walker-Peters hit the base of the post to wrap up a fast forward break but turned to see the flag raised as Foden swerved offside in the build-up. It looked like Southgate’s side would enter the break behind, but as time was added late in the first half, they equalized.
That said it all about their mastery of possession until the equalizer came from a rather aimless Henderson punt in the corner, but this group of players are nothing if not hard workers, and pressure. Foden’s tenacity allowed Walker-Peters to cut the Frei Pass deep into Swiss territory. Gallagher picked up the loose ball and failed to play Mount, but the ball worked well for Shaw and invited him to put his shoelaces on it.
It was to the same end as his third-minute opener in the European Championship final, from a similar change of game, albeit obviously a goal of lesser consequence. It at least gave Southgate something to work with in the dressing room and there was more of a goal in England’s play early in the second half, with Guehi and Conor Coady almost converting a corner.
Southgate’s side also looked more comfortable once they moved to a 4-2-3-1 on the hour mark after a string of substitutions, although that may have more to do with some changing freshest faces for last summer’s veterans. Jack Grealish’s introduction received the loudest cheers of the second half up to this point and it was from his corner that England won the decisive penalty.
Zuber was a bit unhappy, certainly with the interpretation of the handball rule that we expect in this country. Guehi’s header from Grealish’s corner hit him in the arm, which could be considered an unnatural position, but his back was turned and he knew little. Nonetheless, he was punished and Kane was, predictably, infallible. Despite all the experience that comes in these games, some things never change.
Harry Kane penalty puts England back against Switzerland at Wembley
Source link Harry Kane penalty puts England back against Switzerland at Wembley