Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Turning the tables

What a fascinating night. A good 2-1 win for Scotland against Iceland, in spite of one or two shakes. Kirk Broadfoot of Rangers (pictured, celebrating his goal) made a good debut and the Scots got exactly the boost they needed. Wales were less fortunate to have a draw snatched from them at the end in Moscow by a commanding Russia. But inevitably the talking point of the evening will be England's 4-1 demolition of Croatia. After an uneasy start it was an impressive display of determination, organisation and (when the confidence was flowing) skill. I still don't think they are anywhere near being top class, but Fabio Capello will make them cunning and hard to beat. He is clearly going for the team solidity and tactical depth they have often lacked.

The fact that this was, in some respects, like a blood and thunder Premier League game helped quite a bit. Croatia were unexpectedly poor, too. The decisive difference was the inspiration of hat-trick hero Theo Walcott -- an intelligent, decent young man (and a fine, pacy footballer too) who has been well nurtured by cautious Arsene Wenger and whose time has now come. At the 2006 World Cup, Sven Goran Eriksson was criticised for taking him at just 17 years old. He no doubt hoped that in training he would show the flashes needed to be trusted as a super sub. It didn't work out. But Capello was well rewarded tonight.

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