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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

England beat the World Champions Spain but what have they actually learned from the game?

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After the dust has settled and the benefit of hindsight has reared its head, any number of positives can be taken from England defeating Spain on Saturday. Joleon Lescott put in a determined, organised performance; Scott Parker once again laid down his claim to be a starting midfielder in next year’s tournament and Joe Hart, having saved bugger all throughout the duration of the match, showed immense concentration levels when he saved a last minute shot to keep our heads above water.
But what is the greatest positive to take from Saturday’s encounter with Spain? None other than a great helping of confidence.
This friendly was a test, not another kick in the teeth or chance to criticise England. We were playing the greatest team in the world. We had a chance to learn a bit about ourselves and perhaps even the opposition when we turn up against the favourites a year before the tournament with the benefit of there being less pressure than if we faced them in the quarter-finals. England could feel free to have a good go at one of the favourites without fear of crumbling when the spotlight is intensified during a major tournament.
This seemed to be apparent on Saturday – we defended doggedly and appeared to be without that sickly look than when we face such a behemoth in the Euros/World Cup. In hindsight it was a no-lose situation really: lose and the same old criticisms appear, but win? Our morale is increased tenfold and a beacon of hope can emit from beneath the shadow we so often find ourselves faced with post-match.
The papers often choose to point out inadequacies of Engand or of Capello, while  forgetting that to correct those inadequacies we must take action rather than employ a defeatist, woe-is-me attitude. Before the game we had to play Spain with tenacity rather than whimper to a 3-0 kicking, scared to try things for fear of failure while withdrawing further into a shell. Have an attack, face your test bravely and perhaps we’ll realise Spain are not as untouchable, and we not as hopeless as is assumed.
Our boys duly obliged.
And now we have performed well, there will be a confidence around the dressing room; a confidence instilled in our senior and youthful players alike. Of course on a different day Spain could beat us. Of course on a different day England could perform badly. But what we must do is look at the game, correct any negatives there are to be taken from it (Darren Bent’s anonymity for one) and take this game as a positive and a massive morale boost.
It doesn’t exactly matter how we won, all that matters is the fact we have won. A scrappy Lampard header, a few chances Fabregas should have put away, the fact that Spain will be deadlier and more assertive when it comes to the Euros – ignore all of those. England will be on such a high right now instead of having a boot kicking them in the teeth when they are down, or instead of the nation once more baying for Capello’s blood and perpetuating Spain’s brilliance and our awfulness to the point where we are doomed before we even step foot into next year’s tournament.
Think of there being a giant brick wall restricting England from beating Spain or Germany or Holland. A few of those bricks have been knocked away by their win and the brilliance of Spain perhaps chipped away. Confidence snowballs and we’ll see this if we defeat Sweden; we can go into the New Year with a slither of hope. It’s the psychological advantage as much as anything: when you look at Spain they appear to be so ominous – and they are. But if England do progress from the group stages they can at least have the knowledge in the backs of their minds that ‘hey, we’ve done it once.’
It may be harder to repeat in the tournament but all that matters is they have a win over Spain and the sense of dread when facing Spain or a side as good as them will be diluted a fraction. The win certainly doesn’t indicate we’re better than Spain, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we can all look ahead to the tournament next year expecting England to lift the European trophy high.
But what it does give us is a timely boost and, if we face a genuine contender next year, hopeful evidence to suggest we ‘can’ do it, rather than the morale-sapping opposite of ‘cannot’.

Do you agree with Jack? Whatever your view we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth



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