England – Thinking the Unthinkable about Euro 2012

Guest blogger Richard Smith takes a look at the aftermath of England’s goalless draw with Montenegro, which was a return to the depressing ‘form’ displayed in South Africa.

Fabio Capello was appointed head coach of the England football team on a salary that would dwarf even those paid to BBC TV presenters and which is aligned to a contract that rewards failure and success with a breathtaking equality, has surely been kept awake following England’s dismal display against Montenegroin their Group F qualifier at Wembley this week.

A sleepless night mixing both his English and Italian thoughts would have been all he had deserved for overseeing such an inept display from his team, who seemed not to have the first idea of how to get the better of a Montenegro team, cobbled together from a population of just 700,000 people.

The dire 0-0 scoreline means that Montenegro will head the group into the New Year and provide them with the confidence needed to, dare I say, win the group, something that will do if they carry on winning their remaining matches.

For England on the other hand, they must now, no doubt with some trepidation, face an away match in Podgorica on October 7th 2011 for the final qualifying game! This should provide an opportunity for Capello’s side to redress the situation, knowing that anything other than a win should, if everything in life was fair, disallow them from re-entry back into England.

England fans will be hoping that the Three Lions will have already booked their place in Poland and Ukraine for the European Championship by the time the time the team travel to Montenegro but nothing is that predictable with England. The same was said ahead of Croatia’s visit to Wembley prior to the final group game of qualification for Euro 2008 and we know what happened there…

Of course it is unthinkable that England will not qualify for Euro 2012, but it was also unthinkable about any other team topping the England Group in the recent World Cup. England fans are becoming used to the unthinkable and Fabio Capello is beginning to realise why.

Montenegro, who has only been a recognised football nation since 2007, play a tidy game of football, at a pace that was slow at its fastest and almost still at it’s slowest. Their players all know how to pass the ball and know that creating options for those passes are the key to denying the opposition possession – nothing complicated about that at all. However, it became frustratingly obvious as the match went on, that England were baffled by both the pace of the match coupled with the Montenegrin passing game, so much so that when they were in possession themselves, they seemed to forget that they usually play their Premier League games at breakneck speed, which is the traditional hallmark of England’s football culture.

It would be easy to blame the result on the lack of a full squad, but England’s team was made up from some of the most expensive players in the world. They all play for teams in the higher echelon of the Premier League, less maybe Kevin Davies, who came on as substitute for Peter Crouch, who had possibly his worse performance to date in an England shirt. There is simply no excuse at all. They visit Wales for their next qualifier in March next year, a team who have virtually been eliminated from the competition losing badly to Switzerland. However, if England thinks that they are going to have an easy time of it at the Millennium Stadium, then they should quickly rethink – or could it be that the unthinkable will happen again!

Maximum points from Switzerland’s visit to Wembley, followed by a trip to Bulgaria before the final home game against Wales should be enough to secure qualification before the final game, with the addition that Montenegro drop points at some stage. However, a winner takes all scenario cannot be ruled out.

With the other three teams in Group G trailing behind, it now appears a two horse race for the one place in the finals and bookmakers still hold the opinion that it’s England’s to lose, offering odds of 1/6 about them winning the group still – the price unaffected by this week’s result. The same confidence is not evident in the latest Euro 2012 odds for which England have been eased out to 10/1 to win their first European Championship and based on Tuesday’s performance; would-be punters are probably best waiting to have a few patriotic pounds on the unthinkable happening in June 2012 with the price of victory only likely to head in one direction based on recent evidence!

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Should Darren Bent start at Wembley?

Thanks to guest blogger Thomas Rooney for this thought provoking article – which we completely agree with!

Darren Bent is one man who certainly doesn’t let criticism or controversy affect him easily, which is good because he’s had a fair amount of it sent in his direction during his career. Remember Harry Redknapp’s jibe when Bent missed a sitter whilst at Spurs? Remember Fabio Capello overlooking him for the World Cup squad despite a successful season with Sunderland? Luckily for fans of the Black Cats, Bent seems to take each setback in his stride and appears to have a burning desire to prove his critics wrong.

The latest snub was fired in his direction by Capello this week, when the England boss stated that Bent is a player for “the future”. At the age of 26, with many years of Premier League experience under his belt, the player could be forgiven for reacting with anger or contempt towards the England boss. However, the player has reacted in his usual manner, laughing off the comment and simply hoping that perhaps it means he will now be given an extended chance in the England set-up.

With this in mind, should he start at Wembley next week? His goal scoring tally at domestic level speaks for itself and he has five league goals to his name already this season. His achievements are even more remarkable because no one would make Sunderland betting tipsto win the league. He also scored his first goal for England in their victory over Switzerland last month. Surely what the player needs now is an extended run in the England side, to see how he can fit in alongside players such as Wayne Rooney, who is one individual with a lot to prove this week in front of an expectant Wembley crowd. After all, England are most people’s football tips to win the game comfortably, so someone will need to provide the goals.

With Peter Crouch seemingly distracted by off-field issues similar to those affecting Rooney, now could be the time for Bent to prove that he boasts the consistency and reliability that could make him a mainstay in the England set-up for many years to come.

So come on Capello, give Bent a chance!