Slovenia 0-0 England: An England Perspective
A lively enough opening period saw an erroneous Eric Dier pass forced Joe Hart into two rare effective saves in an England shirt. Dier’s horrific 40 yard back pass gifted Slovenia an opening but Hart rushed out on bended knee to deflect any attempt, yet the ball remained in play. Then seconds later diving to his right, he may have been fortunate that the ball was struck at a good height, but Hart nonetheless managed to prevent it from finding the net.
With Dier trying his best to play just as badly as the man he replaced, Wayne Rooney, and Hart forgetting that he was despatched to Italy for his inability to make such saves, the scoreline somehow remained 0-0.
At the other end, Daniel Sturridge galloped forward for the away side and into the penalty box. With initial elegance and pace on display, Sturridge then inexplicably decided to jump both into his opponent and onto the turf in a vain attempt to receive an undeserved penalty. His appeal was rightly turned down, but how he managed to avoid sanctioning from the referee is anyone’s guess. That was 15 minutes in, and you could turn off the first half from that point onwards.
This half detailed all there is to dislike about international football. There is a lack of cohesion and understanding amongst these Englishmen that is not seen when with their own clubs. There is no flow. Compare the way the Tottenham players integrate, press and move with pace at club level, to the way they and the entire England squad are slow, cumbersome and even thoughtless on the ball at international level.
Another reflex save and then world-class stop diving high to his left to begin the second 45 officially marked Joe Hart as England’s man of the match. When Gary Cahill forced yet another save from Hart near the 70th minute with yet another dreadful back pass (this appears his current specialty), his status as the travelling nation’s saviour for the night was confirmed. If there is one positive to come from the night for England, it could be a revitalised Hart.
0-0 was all that England deserved, and they were lucky to get that really. The lack of any threat going forward must be of concern to Gareth Southgate. Yet against arguably the strongest opponent in their group, away from home, ultimately taking the point is far from a disaster. If anything it shores up their position at the pointy end of the group.
Southgate needs time to mould these players into something cohesive, time that he may not be afforded. A display like this can surely not help his chances of scoring the job in the long-term, but it is hardly his fault. This performance was a hangover from the pre-Allardyce era, and has Roy Hodgson written all over it. This was a poor match for England, but they didn’t lose and Joe Hart is back (for now). Let’s just hope for better next time around.