Ukraine 1 England 1: Tedious tempo, quarterback Kane, Henderson fails to spark


Share post:

England may already have one foot in next summer’s European Championships but this still counted as a frustrating night for Gareth Southgate.

A scrappy draw against Ukraine in Wroclaw – the game was staged there due to the ongoing war in Ukraine – felt like a missed opportunity as Southgate tries to regenerate momentum after England’s fine finish to last season.

Our experts debate the big talking points from the 1-1 draw.

England’s pedestrian pace

England are moving in quite a troubling direction. Ever so slightly, they are regaining the characteristics that made previous eras such a slog.

The pitch in Poland was not a good one. It is only fair to acknowledge that. But this was still a stale performance that depended on individual quality to retain its modesty and lacked support from a cohesive system. The European Championship is still almost a year away, but disjointed England away games that follow a week of grumbling about selection patterns feels very familiar and not in a welcome way.

There is plenty of merit to Southgate’s stance regarding the players he picks. Tactical familiarity matters in international football and not everything within it should be dictated by who has and who has not had a good six weeks in the Premier League. At the same time, those ends have to justify the means; there has to be evidence that players afforded special status within this squad are worth their hall pass.

(Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

On this evidence, the critics have it right. England’s terrifying lack of confidence in defence mirrored the struggles of its centrepiece, Harry Maguire, and their physical difficulties in midfield were suggestive of the fact that one of its key components, Jordan Henderson, is an ageing player intent on seeing out his career in a second, or third-tier league.

Yes, there was more to this than that; clearly so. But in the abstract, what made people buy-in to this team was the meritocratic basis of its construction. That seems to be ebbing away.

The window to achieve something is closing all the time. At the moment, England’s biggest impediment to crossing that threshold appears to be their inability to recognise their own flaws.

Sebastian Stafford-Bloor

Kane the Quarterback is back

Once more, England reaped the benefit of Harry Kane’s vision and his long-range passing.

Kane attracts so much defensive attention and causes such defensive displacement, that it seems almost unfair that he should also have that kind of ball in his armoury.

The pass from which Kyle Walker equalised was the most vivid example of just how much value there is to that part of Kane’s game. It was not just a looping ball pass over the top, nor one knocked into an obvious space. Instead, it was well-timed enough to survive VAR inspection, but also disguised in a way that gave Vitalli Mykolenko little hope of covering Walker’s run.

This is how it broke down:

Screenshot 2023 09 09 at 17.51.36

Walker signals where he wants the ball played…

Screenshot 2023 09 09 at 17.51.43

Kane spots him and times the pass to perfection as Walker stays (just) onside…

Screenshot 2023 09 09 at 17.52.18

Mykolenko knows he is in trouble as he realises Walker is behind him…

Screenshot 2023 09 09 at 17.52.25

Too late, he is stranded as Walker curves his run to collect the ball and now just needs a good first touch…

Screenshot 2023 09 09 at 17.52.33

And that is exactly what he gets, allowing him to finish with ease.

Condensed and turned into a YouTube compilation, you could make the case that Kane is a world-class player without even featuring one of his goals; his quarterback-style playmaking is really that good.

This evening it was also timely. England looked a little lost at 1-0 down and their equaliser owed everything to attacking diversity and an element of surprise. Particularly so on a bad pitch, and against a team who were proving a physical and technical match for them, and who were enlivened by an emotional crowd.

Nevertheless, whenever Kane drops deep, complaints follow. Even now. Even when it is obvious that the trait is a response to the state of a game and his willingness to adapt to become relevant within it.

Sebastian Stafford-Bloor

Henderson’s ho-hum night

All eyes were on Jordan Henderson after his controversial move to Saudi Arabia and the, in many people’s eyes, inflammatory interview he gave The Athletic earlier this week.

It was a distraction Gareth Southgate, who was asked more questions on Henderson in the build-up than any other subject, could have done without, but a man as intelligent as him will have surely have anticipated a reaction when he called Henderson up.

There was no booing of Henderson from the away end and no obvious protests either, but Jill Scott reflected the feelings of many when she said on Channel 4 before the match: “In terms of the morals and values, I’m a really big Jordan Henderson fan, he’s a Sunderland lad and really hard-working. But for me, the fact that I couldn’t go and watch him represent his team, that’s what doesn’t sit well for me. Football for me is for everyone and the fact that I don’t feel like I would be welcome (to watch him play), that’s a very sad situation.”

GettyImages 1670089881 scaled

(Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

After all the talk, what of the football? How did Henderson play? Well, he was typically busy and aggressive, he made a couple of important clearances in his own box and he popped up sporadically in the Ukraine third without doing anything of real note, with one shot comfortably clearing the bar. His fitness levels – which will come under scrutiny in the coming months depending on the pace of the Saudi Arabian league – were fine, and he was still darting around in the closing stages.

Like the team, it was all a bit meh, very safe, nothing to really write home about.

Basically, leaving the Saudi argument aside, whatever you thought of Henderson before the match (i.e. a good team player doing the dirty work for others to thrive, or a bit of a jack-of-all trades, master of none), you won’t have changed your mind after this.

Tim Spiers

Bellingham-Maddison axis didn’t work – but was worth a go

As is being shown by Real Madrid’s early season displays, the key to extracting the most from Jude Bellingham is to allow him freedom. He has to able to roam and interpret within a game and Carlo Ancelotti’s privilege is to have midfielders who allow that to happen – and without the team’s structure suffering.

For England the quality is not the same, but the selection of James Maddison did help to create a similar dynamic. By playing Maddison on the left of midfield and Bellingham ahead of him in the attacking line – and then allowing them to switch throughout the game – England always possessed quality of distribution in that area.

Bellingham is a superior player with broader ability, but Maddison has more similarities with him then, say, a wide midfielder or a more vertical, driving midfielder like Phil Foden.

GettyImages 1670078943 scaled

Jude Bellingham (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Within the first 15 minutes, Bellingham had been spotted in central midfield, wide on the left, in the No 10 corridor behind Harry Kane and at the base of England’s midfield. Maddison rotated in much the same way and yet England always retained that precious ability on the ball in deep positions.

It was a good idea, it just did not work that well. Bellingham probably tried too hard to bend the game to his will. At times, Maddison seemed to have too many options around him and too often made the worst decision available. Both had trouble with their touch and with the pitch.

But that’s okay; nights like tonight are necessary. If England are to see the best of Bellingham, then they will have to suffer some risks of discovery.

Sebastian Stafford-Bloor

Nervous Guehi

With John Stones injured – and with Eric Dier, Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings and Ben White all unlikely to get back in the squad before the Euros for one reason or another – England’s defence needs new faces, especially if Harry Maguire is barely going to get a minute of football at Manchester United.

Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi is the next cab off the rank (ahead of Levi Colwill, Fikayo Tomori and Lewis Dunk) and he took a while to settle here, perhaps understandably given the occasion, the stage and the atmosphere.

His passing was very safe and he didn’t drive forward in possession or show the calmness or composure he does at Palace. Guehi had a 98 per cent pass accuracy in the first half but only a couple of the 78 passes he made were forward, the rest were sideways or backwards and it was similar for Maguire, reflecting a tempo that was often far too sedate, albeit Ukraine defended deep and well.

Guehi 1st Half

Maguire 1st Half

As for the goal, this was the first shot on target England have conceded since they beat Italy 2-1 in March, let alone the first goal (2-0 v Ukraine, 4-0 at Malta and 7-0 v North Macedonia since then) and no one really escaped blame as Ukraine doubled up down the right and no one tracked Zinchenko’s burst into the box. Maguire and Guehi almost ended up colliding as they both got nowhere near cutting the ball out.

At least they were untroubled in the second period.

Tim Spiers

At least the occasion was memorable

For a game played at a neutral venue, this was some occasion. It is estimated that around 250,000 Ukrainians have settled in Wroclaw since the war started last year and many of them helped pack out the 45,000 capacity Tarczynski Arena.

There were, as ever, a few thousand travelling England fans, most of whom had set up camp in the city’s beautiful Market Square for the previous 24 hours, all in fine voice and with no trouble reported.

The stadium, a couple of miles out of town, was a sea of yellow and blue and to all intents and purposes this was a home game.

GettyImages 1670063851 scaled

(Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

It was played in a respectable atmosphere (the Ukraine fans applauded the England players out for their warm-up and there was absolutely no booing of either anthem) which was no surprise given the UK’s support for Ukraine during the war and the emotional occasion these teams played out in March at Wembley. Southgate also spoke politely and courteously (not that you would expect anything less) about Ukraine before the match.

The ‘home’ fans generated a terrific, vociferous noise with an incessant chant of “Oo-kry-ee-naa” throughout and they almost lifted the roof of the place for Oleksandr Zinchenko’s goal.

Tim Spiers

(Top photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Source link

Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

Recent posts

Related articles

Marlins-Mets game suspended in top of ninth with Miami’s playoff hopes in limbo

Thursday night’s game between the Miami Marlins and New York Mets was suspended with two outs in...

Craig Leipold talks Kirill Kaprizov’s future with Wild, Bally Sports North, world juniors, more

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kirill Kaprizov is fit as a fiddle and motivated to get off to...

Matt Olson adds franchise RBI record to collection, helps Braves sweep Cubs

ATLANTA — The Cubs came to Atlanta brimming with playoff hopes, and with their new leader Dansby...

Alexis Lafrenière gets his shot in the Rangers’ top six

NEW YORK — Peter Laviolette cautioned not to read too much into the forward lines he assembled...

Matt LaFleur calls Packers’ first half vs. Lions ’embarrassing,’ team booed off field

The Detroit Lions turned in a dominant performance in the first half of their “Thursday Night Football”...

Orioles clinch AL East, announce 30-year Camden Yards lease extension on huge night in Baltimore

On the night the Baltimore Orioles clinched the 2023 American League East title with a 2-0 win...

Lionel Messi’s addition sends Inter Miami season ticket prices soaring for 2024

Inter Miami’s season ticket prices are way up for the 2024 season, nearly doubling in some sections...

Mel Tucker preparing to potentially sue Michigan State after firing

Former Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker informed university officials on Thursday that he and his legal...