It may only have been a friendly and went against the run of play, but England’s 1-0 win over Spain should be considered a huge step forward for Fabio Capello’s men.
It is only the World and European Champions’ second defeat in 10 matches and their first to England since 2001. It was also the first team England had beaten the current World Cup holders since victory over Argentina in 1980.
Those are not stats to be sniffed at, especially as England went into the game at Wembley as second favourites in the football betting, a reflection of the dominance Spain have had on their opponents over the past few years.
They certainly dominated possession, with the artistry from the likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Silva meaning the men in red had 70% of the ball. England, much to Cesc Fabregas’ chagrin, set out to defend and hit on the counter. Though quite what Fabregas expected England to do I don’t know, lie down and let Spain walk all over them I guess.
The simple truth is that no-one can out pass Spain so you have to try and nullify their attacking threat by closing down the space when they get close to the penalty area. Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott rekindled their successful partnership that blossomed at Everton to do just that and give Capello real options in the heart of defence. Phil Jones looked solid enough in midfield, though I would prefer him to be played in his correct position. The real bonus for England appeared to be the successful blend of youth and experience, with the likes of Lampard, Cole and the excellent Scott Parker, blending seamlessly with Jones, Danny Welbeck and Jack Rodwell – who looked calm and assured on his England debut.
The tone of the post-matches interviews suggested lessons had also been learned from previous friendly wins, that merely raised expectations to unsustainable levels before the big letdown come tournament time. This time though the players knew that this was only a friendly, meant little in the grand scheme of things, but still gives them the belief that they are going in the right direction.
The next live football for England is a friendly with Sweden at Wembley on Tuesday, a team they have mystifyingly failed to beat since 1968 – if that particular record were to fall then it could kick-start some momentum towards Poland and the
Ukraine next summer.