England‘s failure to put in a complete performance and capture all three points was disappointing, but if you think the name Montenegro is an embarrassing team to draw against then you’re naive.
Roy Hodgson‘s side have now failed to beat any of the Group H contenders and have no room what-so-ever left for error. But if you ignore the group situation you’d have to say that a draw away in Montenegro was a good result. I know that’s a slightly strange way of looking at it, but keep in mind the task England faced. We know this side isn’t anything especially strong, and when up against a combative opposition and a quite-simply frightening crowd, you’d say it’s slightly understandable that England were forced out of the game.
Montenegro were woeful in the first half, but they came out with a contrasting display that clearly shocked England. England were lured into a false sense of security because of that. But they should have matched that aggression and known that if they kept the ball they could have started to build again. But they didn’t, they took around 30 minutes to really react, and by then it was too late. Credit must go to Montenegro who despite their small population are still evidently a dangerous opponent especially in their own ground. I never knew that a growling PA system was allowed to ‘cheerlead’ the supporters, whilst the constant missile throwing is surely set for a UEFA review.
But focusing on England, they are failing to end games and failing to overcome the tasks that arise following on from a strong initial start. It was a situation similar to that in Warsaw in October, when England battled their way to a secure a point vs. Poland that at the time was too called a ‘good draw’. Given the fact England could have lost tonight, that phrase is suitable once again. But it shouldn’t be.
Hodgson and England now face a real battle, a real period that will not only determine their Brazil 2014 fate but also that of manager Hodgson. The task is to do the opposite to what is going on currently; beat Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro — if not, next summer has little to look forward to. With Ukraine playing Montenegro in June, England could find themselves five points behind by September, meaning come late 2013 it will well and truly go right down to the finish line.
It’s going to be a frantic task for England, unlike the Fabio Capello qualifying times. England have it in their hands still though, the task is to win all their games and therefore top the group. Fortunately, the fixtures vs Poland and Montenegro are at Wembley, where things are a little calmer to say the least; however, when times are nervous, a Wembley crowd only heightens that.
Hodgson’s decision to not act with substitutions was an odd one; The only reason I can see is that he felt the 11 out there needed to handle the task themselves, given the fact they’d experienced the previous 50-60 minutes. Hopefully he’ll explain that one.
It’s a tough task, and it’s tough to defend England. They weren’t good enough and haven’t been this qualifying campaign. But tonight, I for one am not entirely up for slamming the squad, I felt that atmosphere was barbaric at the very least; add the 16 Montenegro fouls to England’s seven and you’re hopefully agreeing with me, at least slightly.