Sunday, June 25, 2006
David Beckham for England (vs Ecuador), 25th June 2006
I have been slightly surprised at the volume of criticism in the English papers over the last couple of days aimed at David Beckham. Not contributing enough, apparently. Only in the side because of his profile and because Sven will never drop him. Aaron Lennon would offer more dynamism and more penetration down the right-hand side.
I'm not the biggest Beckham fan (its pretty well documented here and elsewhere that I think he's a preening clown), but I have to say that I've been relatively happy with his contribution to the England side in this World Cup. The whole England side has been performing some way under par thus far into the competition, but Beckham has been a constant threat with his dead ball delivery. It worries me a little when he deserts the right flank to take a free kick or a throw-in on the left, but he has weighed in with two assists (only one other player has contributed more in the World Cup so far - Schweinsteiger with three)... and of course he scored the winner against Ecuador this evening.
Lennon definitely offered us a glimpse of the future when he came on for the last ten minutes (presumably neatly stepping over the product of Beckham's technicolour yawn as well as the ball), but I think he remains best used as an option off the bench for now.
I thought England played okay tonight. Yes, we offered Ecuador chances far too late in the game, and yes, the centre of defence is looking worryingly (and unexpectedly) wobbly, but I think we have made some real strides in the right direction tonight. Owen Hargreaves had another solid game, this time at right back, and Wayne Rooney lasted a whole 90 minutes - even if he was blowing quite hard by the end of the game. Perhaps most importantly of all, the introduction of Michael Carrick seemed to encourage a shorter passing game; there were fewer Hollywood balls from Beckham and Gerrard and as a consequence it was easier to keep possession.
Overall though, much more promising. We'll have to wait for the result of tonight's Portugal v Holland to see who we'll get in the quarter-final.... but on the evidence of the group games, I don't think either of them are unbeatable.
I tell you what though, if an Ecuadorian player had time-wasted as blatantly as Paul Robinson did at the end of the game, the whole nation would have been incandescent with rage. What the hell was he playing at? Don't tell me he was being professional.... it's little better than cheating, and it has to stop.