By Jennifer Juneau
The England national anthem sung by Miss Wales hardly rang through the stands at Millennium Stadium on 26TH of March; a booing crowd drowned out the notes as if they would make the England national team itself disappear.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart couldn’t keep from smirking—boos only made the team that much more determined to show what they’ve become since their embarrassing stint in South Africa, in which Hart was left out. He trusted his teammates and with good reason: a penalty shot successfully taken by Frank Lampard, after Ashley Young was fouled by James Collins, set the tone for the first half and England were on their way. A remarkable second goal from Darren Bent sent England to capture the 2-0 win.
Wales thought they had the match in the bag. But a first international game at home with manager Gary Speed, who carefully put together a solid squad set out to defeat England’s 4-3-3 formation of men in the Euro 2012 qualifying match, saw Wales defeated in front of thousands of fans by England, who is ranked 6. Wales, who believed they had a shot, are ranked 116 in the world.
What went wrong? couldn’t possibly be the question on anyone’s mind although critics were quick to scramble for the excuse that Gareth Bale’s absence to the Wales’ side made a difference.
Craig Bellamy, at age 31 who plans to retire from the international team soon, did his best to hold the squad together. No question regarding Wales’ performance is worth debating but the answer clearly is that England have a steadfast determination that any team will find difficult to surpass.
A World Cup humiliation would be enough to see Fabio Capello’s side through to the end and win the Euro 2012. And speaking of sides, this is where the tightening began.
Often seen in the stands throughout the season at Premier League matches, Capello was on the lookout for young blood to fuel the national team. Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, age 19, was said to be watched closely by Capello. Andy Carroll, 22, who is beginning to prove himself at Liverpool and Manchester City’s phenomenal goalkeeper Joe Hart, 23 were easy contenders. Although a more experienced side dominated the Euro qualifying matches with the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney, these up-and-coming players have become a solid fixture for the team.
The first remedy was to place Joe Hart in goal, as England’s goalkeeper problems in South Africa were evident enough to assume this is where the change would start. The dismissal of Rio Ferdinand as captain in exchange for Terry, a natural strong leader at Chelsea, is another factor to guarantee England’s success.
If the worst we can say about Capello’s leadership is that the problems he creates are internal within his team, that his English isn’t good enough to get through to his players, then it’s wise to assume England are in pretty good shape.