2014 World Cup Warm-Up: Ecuador Exposes England’s Defensive Woes in Draw
In their preparation for the 2014 World Cup, England and Ecuador faced off in a tune-up match. The result was a 2-2 draw, which is not good enough for an England team hoping to get out of the group stage. They were threatened by speed all night and showed many weaknesses on defense. Despite a largely experimental side, there will have to be several improvements for England to reach their goal in Brazil.
England was on the back foot within the first 10 minutes. It was a spectacular cross by Walter Ayovi that was headed home by Enner Valencia. Valencia sat inside of Luke Shaw, who seemed to be staring at the ball rather than getting in front of Valencia. Chris Smalling gave too big of a gap and was nowhere near the cross. Keeper Ben Foster had no chance to save the header.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley and Wayne Rooney were among the players that helped lead England back. The attack was very smooth for England, but it was not enough to overshadow the defensive errors. There were plenty of short passes and long shots by Frank Lampard and others.
When Oxlade-Chamberlain threatened the defense on the right, the holes opened up. However, the first goal they scored was not necessarily smooth, as it came off an uncalled Rickie Lambert handball.
In England’s defense, this was an experimental crew. Phil Jones was struggling to partner with Smalling. James Milner had a very rough match in an unfamiliar right back role. The combination of Jack Wilshere and Lampard was allowing Ecuador to get into the channels for most of the game with a focus on offense rather than getting back to shield the defense.
Antonio Valencia‘s speed was a challenge until he was sent off with a red late in the second half. The equalizing goal was a bomb from Michael Arroyo after Milner gave him way too much space. England will need their first-choice defenders for the World Cup.
Given that the World Cup is only a week away, the decision to play an experimental squad by manager Roy Hodgson is questionable. Hodgson will also have to get the news on possible injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere. This adds to the uncertainty on England’s form extenuated by the strange lineup choices so close to the start of the tournament.
Their next match will be on June 7 in Miami against Honduras, and Hodgson will need to employ his top choices.