1. What’s going on? – And so England kicked off their last preparation game before the all-important clash with the USA on Saturday with a game that the vast majority of supporters weren’t even aware was happening. Those who were, and dutifully tuned into Sky Sports News to watch live constantly interrupted coverage, weren’t even completely sure what it was. Was it a glorified training game? Was it a friendly? Did goals and caps count towards their over all total? (apparently not) Were they supposed to be taking it in anyway seriously? And had anyone told Wayne Rooney this? None of this was immediately clear, but what was was that England were playing a team called the Platinum Allstars who, rather than being Phillip Schofield’s pub team of grey foxes, was actually a South African Premier League side.
2. And when they’re good they’re good – Early on it seemed as though England would easily re-enforce the gulf in class, status and wealth by taking the lead within the first 5 minutes after nice work from Sean Wright Phillips and Steven Gerrard combined to set up Jermain Defoe. For a brief, fleeting, lovely moment it looked like we’d be able to watch England being effortlessly majestic and sexy for 90 minutes. Happy days.
3. And when they’re bad .. – But alas, still only early doors (whatever that means) and Glen Johnson gave away a penalty somehow. In fairness it was a very harsh call from the ref who just so happened to be from South Africa would you believe? Still, the interestingly named Bradley Grobler – whom Martin Tyler seemed intent on pronouncing Grobbelaar just to confuse me – spooned his conversion over the sticks and England survived a huge embarrassment.
4. King of the Hill – For the rest of the first half England muddled around trying not to get injured. Ledley King looked as assured as he possibly could against such a lightweight team, and didn’t melt or fall apart, which was an undoubted plus.
5. Flight of the Bumblebees – What wasn’t however was our first taste proper of the dreaded Vuvuzela. Some people have called for this 15 inch plastic horn to be banned. They’ve got it the wrong way round. The horn is tolerable, it’s the people who blow it incessantly for 90 full minutes that need to be banned. Preferably from life. While I’d dearly love to go at least one of my articles without culturally offending someone, there surely can be very little difference between someone who finds the concept of blowing a loud tuneless horn without break for an hour and a half not just tolerable, but downright brilliant, and a slightly dim and troubled child banging on a saucepan repetitively for four hours until you slap his fingers and tell him to stop it because it’s getting tiresome now. They’re here to stay, and we’ll have to tolerate it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I very certainly don’t.
6. Sir Mix-a-lot – Capello made 10 changes for the second half, bringing on everyone he had in supply, leaving only Joe Cole to play out a full 90. The introduction of Wayne Rooney and Aaron Lennon in particular galvanized England’s attacking options, although the unwillingness of Rooney to treat this game as anything less than the most important match of all time got increasingly more worrying as time went on.
7. Don’t believe the hype – After Heskey had put a header wide and Rooney needlessly kicked someone (both clearly enamored with the notion of stereotypes) the latter put through Joe Cole who neatly slotted England two up to end the not actually a game as not actually a contest, not that it really was anyway. I don’t think?
8. He’s got the whole world in his hands – The coup de gras came late on as Rooney grabbed a majestic third on the volley after wasting an earlier chance in a futile attempt to set Heskey up on a plate. The last goal of preparation being scored by Rooney is a welcome statistic, as the talismanic man-child hadn’t yet scored for the Three Lions in 2010 (not that he’s actually officially scored now, but lets be positive.) or indeed in any competition since his return from injury late in the Premier League season. With the most important monkey off the back of our most important monkey, things are starting to look up again. That is until Steven Gerrard trips over in the hotel lift an breaks his ankle. Forza England!
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