Iwan Roberts: England boss Roy Hodgson made a big mistake by leaving Ashley Cole behind
13:12 22 June 2014
We’re just over a week into the World Cup and what an incredible eight days of football we’ve been treated to.
Most teams haven’t gone out there to defend, hoping not to lose the first game. They’ve been sent out to attack from the first minute, to score goals and to win games.
It’s been great to see the likes of Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica play with freedom and making great starts to the tournament. In my opinion they have been a breath of fresh air and long may it continue.
The biggest shock came when an average Dutch side hammered the defending champions Spain. Many of you will think I’m mad calling Holland average, but take Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben out of their team and they are a very average side...they won’t win the World Cup.
Then we saw Chile put Spain to the sword, winning the game 2-0 which meant elimination and embarrassment for the Spanish. They’ve set the standards in the last three tournaments but now I think teams have found out the way to play and beat their tiki taka style of football. We’ve seen it with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season when they’ve been beaten by teams who are quite happy to defend in numbers and then hit them on the counter-attack.
This happened in both the Spanish games against Holland and Chile, and with an ageing squad they simply couldn’t cope.
I can only imagine how disappointed you all were after the game on Thursday night when England lost their second game to Uruguay. Having lost their opener to Italy, and Uruguay losing theirs to Costa Rica, it was a must-win game for both.
I thought the performance against Italy was quite good although I would say it’s probably the weakest Italian squad I’ve seen for many a year.
Defensively, England haven’t been been good enough and, for me, Roy Hodgson made a massive error in not taking Ashley Cole out there. In my opinion he’s still one of the best left backs in the world. I think England have struggled badly at both right back and left back in their two games and have been made to pay for both Glen Johnson’s and Leighton Baines’ lack of quality in defending. Granted both are good going forward but as a defender your first job is to defend and anything else you give is a bonus.
I don’t care what anybody says England have no World Class players.People go on about Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard – both very very good players but not up there with the world’s best. Rooney had three good chances against Uruguay and took only one and at this level that’s simply not good enough.
Look at Louis Suarez and the way he performed the other night. He hadn’t kicked a ball in anger since May 11, had knee surgery only four weeks ago and he produces two bits of magic to win his nation the game and give them a great chance of reaching the next stage. Love him or hate him I think you have to admit he is a top top player and one I would put in the world class bracket.
So who do I think will win the tournament? Before a ball was kicked I went like many others and said the home nation Brazil, but I’ve not been overly impressed by what I’ve seen by the five time winners and if they want to make it six they are going to have to improve and not depend on Neymar so much. And even though they’ve only concede the one goal in their opening two games I’m not quite sure how good they are at the back.
Argentina have the strike force to go all the way. Like Brazil I think they could struggle defensively but I wouldn’t be surprised to see then reach the final.
Germany impressed me a lot against Portugal. I know Portugal were reduced to ten men when Pepe stupidly got a red card,but at the time he received his marching orders the Germans had already taken charge of the game and were on course for a comfortable win.I think Germany have the strength in depth that’s needed to win the World Cup.
Whatever the next three weeks brings let’s just hope that the feast of quality,exiting football and goals that we’ve witnessed in the opening week carries on.