Although the Euros kicked off last night with host nation France winning against Romania, for many fans it didn’t feel like the tournament kicked off until today, especially with two home nations in action.
Wales under the weight of hope and expectation managed to take on Slovakia and win thanks to goals by Bale and Robson-Kanu to become the first home nation to win their opening game in the tournament; no pressure then England.
The evening came and England’s time was upon them. The starting eleven made up of a very young and inexperienced team with Rooney leading out as captain, and as a player who had more tournament games than the rest of the team put together. Although it may come into criticism, I am glad Roy Hodgson is giving a chance for the younger players to shine and possibly give England something to push them to into the quarter finals, but then that may be more wishful thinking. I’m not hoping for finals, that would be deluded.
The team came out to a fairly tense atmosphere, loud cheers from the England supporters and boos from the Russians. Throughout both anthems, you could hear booing and I did expect the tension to translate to pitch and for there to be plenty of yellow cards but with only 2 shown, it was quite a sedate match.
Roy has settled for a 4-4-3 formation and it seemed to be paying off as soon as the game kicked off as England had all the chances. Alli had a shot that went over the crossbar, Lallana’s shot went straight at the keeper and Alli again heading into the box for Kane only just missing from being able to slot it into the goal. That was just in the first ten minutes.
Russia had a chance with Ignashevich having a shot on goal that evoked a good save by Hart.
More chances from England followed and more chances went. The ball did end up in the goal but the whistle had already gone for off-side before Kane kicked it. Rooney later has a great chance with a powerful kick but the ball is punched away by Akinfeev.
A few more chances by England but it doesn’t amount to anything. Lallana has played well so far and also in positive news, the advertising deal with Nivea is really making his skin look amazing. God Saves the Queen bellows around the pitch for I think the seventh time but it is cut short abruptly by the referee blowing his whistle for half time.
Now as the game was shown on ITV, I took the break as an opportunity to make a tea. I did catch the frankly odd football promotional tie in between the sequel to Independence Day and the ’96 England team. Got to love advertising trying to capitalise on a sporting tournament. Looking forward to the summer where Toilet Duck finds a way to relate to the long jump at the Olympics.
Second half kicks off and England keeps up the pressure on the Russian goal. 15 minutes later, England have yet another free kick and Rooney decides to take it but the ball hits the wrong side of the netting above goal.
A worrying moment for England as Russia earns a corner which is taken by Shatov and Dier’s attempt to defend and it nearly goes straight into the goal but Hart thankfully saves him from embarrassment. More pressure from Russia yet still no goal. Starting to get the sinking feeling this could be 0-0 and frustrations seems to be starting to bubble on the pitch as Cahill makes a sloppy tackle and is booked for it.
70 minutes in and with no goal or even substitutes to talk about, a bit of drama occurs when England goes on the break after a Russian free kick and Rose shoots and it’s palmed away by the keeper across goal, in front of Lallana who misses and is also off side.
Something has got to give soon surely?
Yet another free kick is given, and it seems that anyone is allowed to take it now as there have been so many and all the team may as well get a go so Dier gets the honours on the edge of the box. Turns out this was a great idea as Dier kicks the ball with all his force and it flies straight into the back of the goal. Finally, the breakthrough that’s been so richly deserved!
England now playing with renewed energy since the goal as they keep pressing, the England fans singing with revived passion and Three Lions echo around the stadium. Do Baddiel and Skinner get royalties for this?
With just over 10 minutes to go, England are still holding on and Russia are pressing, this is going to be a tense few minutes. The first substitutes are made for both sides, Wilshire coming on for Rooney who hands the captain’s armband to Cahill. Golovin goes off to be replaced by Shirokov.
Another free kick for England that doesn’t result in a goal and some more substitutes are made as Smolov is replaced by Mamaev and Milner comes on for England at the expense of Sterling to stabilise the team and keep the lead. Obvious choice because if you want things to calm down and nothing to happen, choose boring James Milner. He’s very dependable.
3 added minutes are shown. England can do this can’t they?
No, they can’t.
A slightly flukey header from Berezutski finds its way into goal and despite an extra poke into goal by Glusachev who tries to claim it as his, however the goal is rightly awarded to Berezutski. Not that this matters as England are only concerned with the fact they have one minute to try and salvage the three points.
In the end, the whistle goes and we come away with a point. The overall performance was great and there were a lot of positives to take from such a young and inexperienced side, but again for all the chances that were made, they weren’t capitalised upon and England need to improve on closing the game down.
The game will be marred not only with the disappointment of the result, but the clashes between Russian and England fans so I like to try and look on the more cheerful side of the supporters. With the reputation of the cameramen always focusing in on the good-looking female supporters in the crowd, as kept happening in the earlier game between Albania and Switzerland, I like that the fan that stood out for England, was the man who was dressed up as a frog. Well done that man.