On the football

What a dire start to the World Cup?

I understand that it’s important to not lose your opening game. But jeesh; this is pants.

I can accept that England is rubbish. I expected as much. We’ll qualify out of very poor group. But beyond the second round? It’s anyone’s guess. I’m surprised at the dour football on display from sometimes exciting teams. If it weren’t for the Germans giving Australia an absolute mullering, I might have just given up on the tournament.

Admittedly the Argentinians were good for the money. They dominated Nigeria, and if it wasn’t for some brilliant keeping, they’d have scored a bin-lorry load of goals. But the rest? Shite.

Going back to England. The most important player in the modern football team is the anchor. The defensive midfielder that provides cover for marauding full-backs and distributes the ball intelligently. Claude Makélélé is the archetypal anchor. He was immense in empowering the best attacking players in the world to realise their potential. In Essien, Chelsea have as good a replacement as they could hope for – even if Essien is far more attacking in his play.

Without Gareth Barry England were disjointed. And as the midfield swept forward at every opportunity, they both smothered out the threat of Wayne Rooney and exposed the lacklustre centre-back paring of Terry and Carragher.

This is not the fault of Gerard or Lampard. Both are terrific players. But they’re both attacking minded players – England needed a Mascherano, a Pirlo or an Alonso. Barry should suffice, but without him England will be home before the quarters.

Jamie Carragher is a good player. He can play all over the pitch, and two or three years ago, would have made the perfect utility player. He’s too slow now against snappy forwards. If we face the Ghanians in the second round, he’s going to struggle against their raw pace. And the thing is, if Barry suffers another set-back, we might need Carragher further forward.

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