Even worse than reading about fantasty teams (TTL’s NFL team won, ha) is reading how busy someone is. So no excuses about the lack of posts. Like the Cubs TTL is failing in the clutch. But will attempt to remedy the situation tonight with a live blog of England v Russia starting at 8:30 CET or 2:30 EST depending on your time frame. Until then.
England v Russia Live from Wembley.
Love the Match of the Day tune on BBC, one of those songs that hasn’t changed in 20 years. England starts an unchanged team from their 3-0 win over Israel on Saturday. That is:
Robinson (goal) Richards, Ferdinand, Terry (captain), A Cole in defense, Wright-Phillips, Gerrard, Barry, J Cole in midfield with old Liverpool and England teammates Hesky and Owens up-front.
Russia, managed by the excellent Guus Hiddink, is expected to play 11 men in defense and hope for a draw. The Russians have only conceded 1 goal in their 8 qualifying games.
Here is a quick peek at the Euro 2008 tables and they show this a MASSIVE game in Group E as Croatia and Russia have easier games ahead than England. Remember, the top 2 in each group advance to Euro 2008 next summer in Austria/Switzerland.
Russia is starting a team with all 11 players currently plying their trade in the Russian League. It includes a set of identical twins at right/left back. And it would take me until halftime to type out all their names.
TTL predicts a comfortable 2-0 win for England. Why? Because Lampard is injured so the midfield belongs to Gerrard. He is England’s best player and paired with Barry who’ll hang back a bit defensively, Gerrard is free to surge forward, something he does ever so well for club and country.
86,000 fans, including 5,000 Russians, greet the teams as they walk on the field for their respective National Anthems. Wembley is buzzing. God Save the Queen indeed as the English fans overpower the singer on the pitch.
TTL will also be flipping occasionally to check on France v Scotland from Paris, a big game between the top 2 teams in Group B. Also, fair play to USA rugby team (the Eagles) who lost 25-15 to Tonga today. USA is playing some competitive rugby.
Early corner for the Russians as they power forward (surprisingly) and England struggles to clear their goal.
Hesky already proving his worth as big target, heading a ball back down to Gerrard who had gotten forward. Hesky is reborn this season for Wigan and England. He last donned the national shirt at Euro 2004. Richards long throw troubles the Russian defense and corner to England. Barry plays in a great ball, its cleared out to him and then Barry sends in another good ball that Michael Owen cooly places in the right corner with his right foot. GOAL and the perfect start for England. 1-0.
England fans taunt their Russian counterparts with a chorus of “You’re not Singing Anymore.” Gerrard plays through Hesky who misses due to a great save and Owen stumbles trying to pounce on the rebound. It’s like Liverpool circa 2000-2003.
Jerkoff (sp) is providing some danger from Russia down the right flank and he sets up a decent chance for Russia which is buzzed into the side netting. Apparently, tiebreakers in the qualifying are determined by head to head match-up so this game and the one in Moscow are immense as Owen skips past a few defenders while England emulates Brazil and pass the ball with some aplomb all over the pitch.
Another corner for England. And before all the pundits praise Manager Steve McClaren for these performances remember he was forced into this “makeshift” line-up by England’s injury woes. Nothing quite like the buzz of the crowd when Gerrard launches a shot from way out. He sliced it way right.
Russian captain sneaks behind Terry and Ferdinand and only an unlucky bounce of the ball prevented him from having a one v one with the English keeper. The impressive Gareth Barry tracked back from midfield to break-up the attack. He and Gerrard are dominating the game. But just like that, Russia counterattacks and scores but the goal is disallowed by the non-blonde Swedish referee who ruled that the Russian player controlled the ball with his hand/arm first. Tough call need to wait for more replays. Still, a warning to England. Who, respond quickly, as Wright-Phillips heards over the bar after a great cross from J. Cole as they try and reenact their goal from Saturday.
Robinson is forced into making a good save as the Russians look dangerous on the attack.
As the England backs Richards and A. Cole bomb forward, Russia is finding some space down the flanks, especially down the left side. Hesky bails England out, by fighting off two defenders and holding the ball until more England players join him in attack. Unheralded skill, but a big striker who wins balls in the air and holds it up is a huge asset to a team.
Barry wins a ball, plays it back to J. Cole who unleashes a good (deflected) shot that the keeper parries away. This a fun game, as these teams are both attacking with some verve. Hesky wins another ball in the air and heads it down to the rejuvenated Michael Owen who unleashes a right-footed laser into the top left corner for his 40th goal for the Three Lions. 2-0!
England is rampant, like they are playing 12 on 9. The Russians aren’t closing down well (shocking for a Hiddink-coached side) and England seemed poised to score every few minutes. Best performance by an English side in a long time.
France and Scotland are tied at 0-0. Let’s go Scotland!! Russia makes a change bringing on another forward and taking out a midfielder to change their alignment to a 4-4-2. “England are in harmony” according to John Motson, the Vin Scully of English soccer broadcasting.
Continuing my love/hate relationship with England, TTL doesn’t want England to qualify but is estatic that Owen is finally playing well again after 2 disastrous injuries. The cold-blooded striker is the reason why TTL became a Liverpool fan.
Russian freekick right at the half is cleared harmlessly away. Would really like England to rest Gerrard in the 2nd half as England should be able to maintain their 2-0 advantage in the 2nd-half. For the record, Owen scored in the 7th and 31st minute. Count TTL among the impressed by England’s superlative 1st-half.
Half-time replays show England got a big break as Russia’s goal should have counted. But when things are going your way you get calls like that.
Scotland and France are 0-0 at the half. The 3rd place team in that group, Italy are up 1-0 in the Ukraine at half. The dreams of N. Ireland look to be dashed as they lost 2-1 to Iceland despite David Healy’s 12th goal of the qualifying campaign. They also lost on the weekend to Latvia.
Gerrard almost bulldozes through the Russian defense and the Russians promptly respond with a nice 1-2 down the the right flank and buzz a shot past the post. A minute later, a Russian cross just misses an outstretched leg. Two good chances for Russia as Gerrard drives forward and forces a good save from a left-footed shot.
Zerkoff and the substitute Brusoff causing England some real problems in the back as this turns into a wide-open affair. The Russians don’t want to go quietly into the goodnight as they are now playing with 3 strikers. Yes! Why not go for some goals. Russians deserved to be rewarded for this risky strategy but they are leaving themselves vunerable to a counterattack and possible hat trick for Mr. Owen.
The overrated A. Cole is having all sorts of problems at the back for England. Think Aresenal were right to deal him to Chelsea for William Gallas. England are all over the place at the back as the Russian pile on the pressure.
Ribery denied by the excellent Scottish keeper Ben Gordon as it is still 0-0 in Paris. England seem content to absorb pressure and have lost control of the game. Haven’t had enough possession to stem the Russian hordes. J. Cole found Gerrard open at the penalty spot but the Liverpool skipper completely mishits it.
England looked to have regained the upper hand but here come the Russians as they have a freekick from a dangerous spot that they promptly waste. Another change for Russia: Shrusonklsy for Shithalkcmeonk. Problem with playing 3 strikers is the difficulty in working the ball up to them, especially past the rock that is Gareth Barry. He’s having a fantastic game.
Hesky continues to be a menace (too big to be a nuisance) by getting his head on every ball sent his way. The Russians are valiant, but it is a young side and they seem to be lacking that little bit of class needed to score goals. Think some changes might be in store for England as they look a bit tired. Good low cross from the Russians but suddenly they only have 1 man on the receiving end. Where did all the strikers go?
England broadcast record as it takes 69minutes to mention Beckham. Announcers are wondering about who’ll be selected for the next round of qualifying game in October. Gonna be a headache for McClaren as these 11 have made a STRONG case for their inclusion. Great news, as McFadden puts Scotland ahead 1-0 in France. Oui! Italy is up 2-1 in the Ukraine.
England have regained control of the game by keeping possession. Don’t think the Russians have it in them to come back now as the clock ticks.
Owen almost send Wright-Phillips clean through but is thwarted by his own unsteady feet. Feel that England now more likely to score than Russia. As that sentence is typed, Russian forces Robinson into a good save from a wicked left foot shot. Oh, what a different game this would be if that goal wasn’t dissallowed. J. Cole involved in 2 straight controversial tackles and receives a yellow. Crowd is booing as Russia almost works a nice freekick into the box but England clears. Hesky comes off from Peter Crouch while Russia makes its 3rd and final change.
Crouch immediately heads one down to Wright-Phillips whose fine right-foot volley is pushed aside for a corner. Scotland continues to lead with 10min to go. England corner as they push for a 3rd. Barry takes it with his left and the keeper punches away from Terry. Barry plays it back and Ferndinand channels his old striker skills by beating the keeper at his near post (poor keeping, he’s actually Russia’s 3rd choice) and England lead 3-0.
All just a formality now, so switching over to Scotland game. Watching it on French TV featuring Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on color commentary. Scottish wearing some uncharaterisitic white uniforms with gold numbers. Awful, do they think they’re Italian. Looks to be all hands at defense as the French stream forward. Lots of Scottish banners hanging up as the Tartan Army loves to travel to support their side.
In honor of the injured Thierry Henry, Scotland players dribble the ball to the corner flag to waste time and force French defenders to take it from them. TTL absolutely abhors this technique. Pass it around, it’s ridiculous to dribble around like that. Gordon makes an easy save as the French look dangerous despite the Scottish wall in front of them as the clock hits 90.
3 minutes of injury time as even the normally stoic Wenger is psyched for a French corner. Scottish counterattack as they clear their lines but then lose possession. Ribery is everywhere for the French as Scotland boots the ball all the way back to the French keeper. Scots break-up another attack but the French have a corner in the 92nd minute. Get a head on the ball drawing another corner which is cleared as the final whistle blows and the Scots have a monumental 1-0 win in Paris to go top of their group. Yes!!!!
Great scenes in Paris as the Scottish fans go wild in the stands. Solid night of football. England win 3-0 and more importantly the Scots prevail in Paris. Enjoy the games and thanks for reading. Back tomorrow with a recap of all the qualifying action.