Lions roar at last

England's World Cup challenge is up and running after a couple of false starts. Skysports.com editor Chris Harvey saw Fabio Capello's men get their mojo back...

Last updated: 28th June 2010   Subscribe to RSS Feed

England v Slovenia Wayne Rooney Jermain Defoe mobbed

Jermain man: Defoe is mobbed after netting the winner

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Cap that: Fabio Capello celebrates England's win with his players

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Thank goodness! England's World Cup has finally kicked off with Fabio Capello's men clicking into gear at the third time of asking.

The 1-0 victory over Slovenia in Port Elizabeth contained more drive, belief and inspired football than in the turgid total of 180 minutes against USA and Algeria.

A 22nd-minute goal from Jermain Defoe was the statistic which mattered, but this match was about more than goals - it was about England proving the doubters wrong.

Fabio Capello had called on England to play with more freedom and tempo but, most of all, to play with spirit. Where it has been until now is a mystery which might well be solved when we learn the inside stories of what has been going on at their training camp.

But it returned in bucketloads in Port Elizabeth. Whether the catalyst was John Terry's press conference, the players' clear-the-air meeting or a concerted determination within the squad not to go home as abject failures is debatable.

Yes, there were nervy moments as they invited Slovenia to press forward in the latter stages, but for the first time in South Africa they looked like a team with a collective will. And with the draw opening up they could now go far in this tournament.

"We're not going home," sang the England fans and the supporters in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium were magnificent, Wayne Rooney's words last Friday forgotten as they roared on the Three Lions.

They blew their vuvuzelas, banged their drums, screamed their support and if there was the odd boo at the mention of Terry's name on the stadium tannoy at the start then it did not detract from the feeling they were all in this together.

Nervous

They played their part and the players responded. At first they were a little nervous, giving away possession too cheaply but once they had settled and found a rhythm which had been so elusive in their earlier matches then they began to dominate as they should against opponents who are 25 in the world rankings for a reason.

James Milner began to put in the sort of crosses he does so regularly for Aston Villa, Frank Lampard strutted around like he does for Chelsea, Terry was back to his domineering best and Rooney, while still not at his sharpest, at least had shed the frustration of recent weeks.

Then there was Defoe. The little Tottenham striker is not going to run the channels like Emile Heskey but what he does is score goals and he was on the mark after 22 minutes, stealing in front of his marker in the six-yard box to get on the end of a Milner cross to plant his shot past Samir Handanovic.

You could sense the release of tension. A snap returned to England's play; at one point Rooney even smiled, even if it was replaced later by a glower when he was substituted for Joe Cole after 71 minutes.

Overall, however, the demeanour was much improved, the understanding much better. Steven Gerrard and Rooney combined in a series of one-twos. Gerrard sprayed long passes, short passes and this time they actually found men wearing the red shirts.

Rooney hit the foot of a post although replays showed Handanovic had in fact made a superb save. In short, England were in complete control.

Where can England go from here? Well, World Cups have a habit of being dominated in the latter stages by teams who have grown as the tournament progresses. It is no good peaking too early; England have certainly not fallen into that trap.

But there will be a healthy respect for them after this display. A realisation that, after all, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Capello, who significantly embraced Terry first of all when the final whistle blew, received the tempo he demanded. He witnessed the fight. At last he saw the spirit. And his team booked their place in the last 16 where they now await the winners of Group D.

Comments (8)

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Vinnie Barker (Leeds United fan) says...

Even though the scoreline was 1-0. It was very similar to the Spain v Honduras match, we were like Spain because we dominated completely through the whole match, we were very unlucky with that disallowed goal and Rooney could've been a little sharper in his finishing, not to mention Steven Gerrard merely passing the ball to the keeper after a great layoff from Defoe. Good luck against the Germans in the next round.

Posted 06:19 24th June 2010

Jonathan Dempsey (Liverpool fan) says...

I just moved to Australia after living in Blackpool for 22 years and my favourite moment(s) of the Slovenia game was hearing how vocal our fans were, you could see the injection of energy it gave the players, 12th man indeed. For the Germany game I don¿t believe Capello will need to try hard to motivate the players, I doubt in fact, that that has even been the problem thus far (nerves more probably). I honestly think that Rooney and Crouch are 'the men' up front, leaving Defoe as an impact player. You then get a target man to supply Rooney, but who can also put his own chances away. Milner was industrious and offered some defensive steel and a half decent end product so should be a cert to start ahead of Lennon. Lampard is becoming a liability. The amount of times he gave the ball away due to loose passing in front of our back four was unforgivable, and everyone keeps saying he was invisible.....he was much worse than that! I would play a diamond in midfield, of Gerrard at the top supporting the strikers, Gareth sitting in front of the back four with Cole left and Milner right. We can get away with this due to the width being supplied by our overlapping full-backs. Consistent and patient build-up play is essential as the Germans, although not renowned for speed, most certainly are for their work rate and pressing which makes losing the ball in midfield an even more common occurrence. Carragher may also do better against the slower and more tactical German attack as he was clearly beaten for pace in his first outing. My team; James, Johnson, Terry, Carragher, A.Cole, Milner, Barry, J.Cole, Gerrard, Crouch & Rooney.

Posted 06:15 24th June 2010

William Portelli (Chelsea fan) says...

Team England has to raise the tempo to reach the semis even though they showed glimpses of good football against Slovenia, Win is good for moral, passion good for the fight and winning mentality to get the big prize! It is up to them.!

Posted 22:32 23rd June 2010

David Richardson (Manchester United fan) says...

This wasn't the best performance the three lions have produced but it was certainly better than the Algeria game. We now have 3 days untill the second round now lets kick on and go the whole way. Plus i hope we get a better pitch than the one we just played on.

Posted 19:37 23rd June 2010

Joseph Genovese (Manchester United fan) says...

Well done England lets keep on going thanks to everyone.

Posted 19:09 23rd June 2010

Jason Hydes (Manchester United fan) says...

God help us, we're gonna need him. It wasn't as poor but still not very good.

Posted 19:01 23rd June 2010

Mark Foster (Newcastle United fan) says...

i think we played massively better than the first 2 games yet will need to improve more against teams like germany argentina etc if we are going to continue in the world cup.for now we can enjoy the win and look forward to a big next game.

Posted 18:42 23rd June 2010

Phil Djokic (Liverpool fan) says...

Can anyone tell Rooney what a fantastic part he played today

Posted 18:09 23rd June 2010

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