What did I say? Hmm? Peter Crouch. I don’t think there’s too much doubt now that he’ll be starting next week against Paraguay – not, of course, that he’ll necessarily finish the match. All in all, this was another satisfactory day at the office for England.
The point has been made several times that England should, perhaps, have set themselves a stiffer test for their final friendly, but there is, of course, a reason for the selection of Jamaica. England had never played against a Caribbean team before, and they clearly felt the need to play against a team of a similar tempo. We’re not the only ones to do it. Sweden recently played Ireland (and, it should be noted, got a sound 3-0 thrashing), whilst Paraguay played Wales. To the extent that friendlies can be useful, this was not merely a pointless training exercise.
For the first ten minutes, it didn’t look much like England were going to run up a thrashing against a decent enough team (Jamaica were rated 46 in the latest FIFA rankings – where they’ll be next time around is anybody’s guess). There was certainly no being “chilled to the core” as they clattered into England time after time. Once England settled, though, it was much more comfortable. Lampard’s finish was definite, from yet another perfect Beckham free-kick. For the second goal, John Terry wheeled away as if he’d scored it himself, although the action replay confirmed that he was no closer to scoring it than I was. Crouch’s goal (number three) was assisted by a massive deflection, and, nice though it was to see Michael Owen getting on the score-sheet with a well-taken fourth goal, it came about, as much as anything, because of a Jamaican defence in a state of utter disarray.
The majority of the half-time comment concerned substitutions rather than the first half goal-glut. Terry and Ashley Cole had been replaced with twinged hamstrings and Beckham was struggling with what looked like an ankle injury. Fortunately, Ericsson wasn’t taking any chances, and the appropriate changes were made. Even poor old Calamity James got a run-out, although he was blissfully uninvolved until being summoned to make a smart save with a couple of minutes to play.
The second half was, of course, The Peter Crouch Show. Now: there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. He took his two second half goals excellently, and even spared us his robot dance with the last one. He also supplied us with one of the great football comedy moments of the year when he ballooned his penalty over the bar after Michael Owen had been bundled to the ground. Something for Mr Ericsson to bear in mind should he find himself selecting players for a penalty shootout at any point over the next few weeks or so.
That’ll do, I think, for this game. Do check back, because there’ll be plenty more gubbins on here during the week, but (and how exciting is this?) the next match report on here will be… Germany vs Costa Rica. The opening match of the 2006 World Cup. I can’t wait.