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England vs. Portugal: 5 Things we Learnt

England v Portugal

It’s fair to say last nights match between England and Portugal left a lot to be desired.

Whether it was because Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was missing or the fact that every player was cautious over getting injuries, the game was simply flat before Chris Smalling scored the winner on the 86th minute.

The only other event of note was Bruno Alves being sent off for a disgusting, unnecessary challenge on England’s Harry Kane.

It must be said though that Kane did well to get straight back up after the challenge as opposed to staying on the ground which he had every right to do.

England will leave for France and Euro 2016 on Monday in preparation for their first group against Russia.

But before that, let’s have a look at what we learnt in last nights games.

Kyle Walker is England’s Number One Right Back

Many positions in the England starting 11 are nailed on: Joe Hart in goal; Cahill and Smalling at centre-back and Harry Kane as starting striker; but one position up for grabs is the right back sport between Kyle Walker and Nathaniel Clyne.

Before this month’s warm up games it looked as if Liverpool’s Nat Clyne held pole position for the right back berth but during the last three games it looked as if Roy Hodgson is going to opt for Walker’s pure attack over Clyne’s more rounded defending.

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Kyle Walker was the standout performer from the drab match last night.

Kyle Walker has improved drastically this season with Spurs and last night he deservedly earned the Man of the Match award for his constant threat, tireless running and calm defending.

Many assume last night’s starting team will be the one Hodgson chooses for the opening game against Russia next Saturday.

Some performances last night were flat; but you could not put Walker in that category.

Portugal offer no threat without Ronaldo

Much has been said about England’s defensive frailties over the past few performances but against arguably their toughest warm up test, the team defended very well.

Was this due to an improvement in performance or the opposition offering nothing going forward? I feel it was the latter.

It was not clear who was the attacking option for the Portuguese last night. The most likely candidate was former Manchester United man and stand in captain Nani but this ‘fact’ only amplified the problem for the away side.

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Ronaldo’s absence was obvious to everyone.

Without their talismanic Ronaldo, Portugal are easily contained.

I am unsure how Portugal can rank 8th in the world but depend so obviously on one player.

Kane, Vardy and Rooney did not work

Last night Roy Hodgson wanted to show what he felt were his best attacking options as he played Wayne Rooney behind a duo of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.

Kane and Vardy scored 49 goals between them in the league this season and with Rooney’s new-found industrial play surely this was a recipe for success?

Unfortunately it was not. Rooney worked hard but couldn’t seem to find space or gaps to play his compatriots into. Both Kane and Vardy worked hard with Kane having mildly more success but before Smalling’s goal England’s best chance was an Eric Dier shot from 30 yards out.

Many fans blame Rooney for this inept attacking performance and I would agree with them slightly.

You cannot blame Wayne Rooney for doing as he’s told by manager in my opinion. The man who has to answer is Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson has been accused of ‘crow-barring’ into the line-up where many feel he shouldn’t be right now.

The decision to play Rooney as a number 10 forced other players out of position such as Dele Alli on the left side and consigned Raheem Sterling to the bench where England could do with a natural wide man.

Hodgson has to decide whether to play Rooney deeper or not at all.

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Rooney’s role in the side is in question

This isn’t Roy’s strongest team

In my opinion this is not Roy’s strongest team from the players that can be selected.

As mentioned above the attacking options were all wrong and this left a disconnect between midfield and attack.

Jack Wilshere if fully fit is would probably start instead of James Milner who didn’t really offer anything going forward.

Dele Alli should probably play in place of Rooney and Sterling should start on the left side/wing.

The defence and Eric Dier were probably the strongest Roy could pick but further forward that cannot be said.

If England were playing a diamond formation playing James Milner on the right side was always going to offer little and put too much pressure on the right back Kyle Walker.

The same can be said for the left side where Dele Alli was forced to the periphery of the game despite causing chaos in the league behind club and country team-mate Harry Kane.

I think Roy focused too hard on making his team solid that he expected the rest just to fall into place.

He will have to retreat to the drawing board before the Russia game because if sides ‘park the bus’ against England, England will be left frustrated.

The fans want more

The game last night left a sour taste in the mouths of England fans.

Many were complaining how Roy Hodgson has such a talented set of players but no idea what to do with them.

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A lot looked back to the Germany game where England came from two down to win in the dying moments in Berlin. Is it as simple as play that way all the time?

I don’t believe so. England caught Germany napping but at the same time Germany were not sitting back and absorbing pressure. Many teams will aim to do just that in the Euros to try to frustrate England.

All in all, three wins from three and against some good opposition in Turkey and Portugal, that’s a great thing.

Does it matter how a team wins or is a scrappy victory all we want?

I’ll let you decide.

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images (tottenhamhotspur.com, soccerblog.com, ronaldo7.net, Getty Images, The Mirror)

 

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