I watched the highlights of Spain 2 England 3 last night.
I used to take a decent amount of interest in England and have been to a couple of tournaments in the past.
Obviously when Alan Shearer was captain of both Newcastle and England, that was a massive peak in the interest in the national team.
Plus of course we had plenty of other players (Lee, Batty, Ferndinand, Howey, Venison) involved back when Keegan was at NUFC, then also to an extent when Sir Bobby was here (Shearer, Dyer, Jenas).
As time has gone on though, it has become harder and harder to watch them, far too many meaningless matches and the hype is ridiculous considering how average and boring they are for most of the time.
The World Cup in the summer was of course a great tournament and England making it to the semis obviously was a big bonus, though they did ride their luck and got a very fortunate draw. The reality of course as well is that in Russia, England lost to Belgium (twice), lost to Croatia, got a lucky win against Tunisia and hammered a hopeless Panama team, their only really convincing win against a decent team was Sweden, relying on hanging on against Colombia before edging it on penalties.
Great to reach the semis but to then claim England were now one of the best four teams in the world was very much stretching it.
Once again I wasn’t watching last night but when I saw comments on social media about the performance, I thought I had to see this for myself.
This is where it got a bit confusing, the reaction from media and England fans on social media bore no relation to what I then watched.
As I say above, this is a great result but it is insulting the intelligence to claim the display as showing this was some kind of great England team.
Spain could have been three up before England scored the first goal on 16 minutes.
What I saw was England taking full advantage of some shocking Spanish defending in the first half, they are normally the very best at keeping the ball, yet they kept gifting possession to England.
Two of England’s three goals owed a lot to long passes from Pickford that carried a lot of luck as well.
What you have to give credit to was the way the forward three of Rashford, Sterling and Kane took full advantage of the Spanish horror show at the back. They cut them open with great balls to help create the goals.
However, I would describe it as more of a smash and grab than some stunning overall performance. It was counter-attacking with pace and three times it paid dividends.
However, at no stage were England controlling the match/possession.
England carried massive dollops of luck and struggled to even get out of their half after the break. Spain hit the woodwork and should have had a penalty, on the balance of play I found it maybe even hard to claim England deserved a draw.
I checked on BBC Sport for the stats and sure enough, England only had 27% possession, they had zero corners to Spain’s 12.
Southgate’s team scored with every shot they had on target, whilst in terms of overall shots, England had 5 compared to the hosts’ 23.
Much of the problem is of course the media, going way overboard as usual. It isn’t quite the same story if they were honest and said it was an excellent result but England very lucky, everything going their way and scoring with the only three shots they had on target.
England are what they are. Harry Kane the only real top class player, with a few other decent players, then the team made up with a lot of average players such as Pickford, Dier and a number of others.
As for calling this a competitive match, this Nations League is an absolute joke, you can’t compare it to proper competitions such as the World Cup and European Championships.
Stats from Spain 2 England 3 via BBC Sport:
Possession was Spain 73% England 27%
Total shots were Spain 23 England 5
Shots on target were Spain 5 England 3
Corners were Spain 12 England 0