Five goal England qualify for South Africa’10!!!

9 09 2009

England took on Croatia at Wembley in their world cup qualifier with a win being crucial for both sides. The last time these two met, it ended tearfully for the English Lions as they were unceremoniously dumped out at the threshold of Euro 2008. This time around, the English didn’t want such unnecessary situations to arise and to say the least, they wanted a comfortable victory what with the Croatians depleted by injuries to some of their star players, their mainstays.

Capello went with Heskey and Rooney up-front instead of the in-blistering-form Defoe and Rooney. Although Heskey’s goal scoring skill has been patchy off late, his physical presence was quite disconcerting for the Croatian defense.

England certainly started well with Aaron Lennon being brought down in the Croatian box. The resulting penalty was taken by Frank Lampard who saw the ball into the back of the net through the flailing hands of the Croatian goal keeper. This lead was to be doubled on 21 minutes through a rare Steven Gerrard header. The last time I saw him score a goal of a header was way back in the  2004-2005 season against, you guessed it, AC Milan in the historic Champions League final at Istanbul.

Croatia were trying to push forward but were well thwarted by a strong English defense and midfield. The closest they got was Eduardo da Silva skying one about 10 feet wide of the net. Late in the first half, Heskey had a couple of back-to-back chances which he should have put away if he were to claim a starting place in Capello’s plans for the future — he might have just been relegated to the bench with this slew of misses.

There was an apparent role reversal of sorts at half time as Croatia came out with purpose and started poaching the English half with the zest that England had shown in abundance in the first half. This even almost yielded a goal for the Croats as Eduardo went to ground for the second time in two weeks. But this time it was legitimate! He WAS INDEED stymied by Glen Johnson. However, the referee didn’t think it was enough to award a penalty much to Slaven Bilic’s indignation.

Just as the hour mark approached, Glen Johnson turned in a magnificent cross while under pressure and this was headed with panache into the net! This third goal provided a sense of premature guarantee that the English would progress into the first round of next year’s world cup. However, there were 30 more minutes to play and this passage of play was commenced by the trademark switch of Jermaine Defoe for Emile Heskey.

I was under the opinion that England would cool their jets now and sit back and ensure that they came away with a 3-0 win but the English team had other ideas! They had ideas of a rampant nature as a clever little goal by Wayne Rooney provided Steven Gerrard his second goal of the night (Wow!) and England’s fourth goal of the game!

As if to bring some balance in the game, Croatia’s Eduardo, who has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently, squeezed a goal past the impressive Rob Green to give the scorecard the semblance of a Croatian fight back, if any, at 4-1. It might be useful to note that Rob Green might be England’s No1 come next summer although he does face stiff competition from Ben Foster, David James (maaaaybe…) and Paul Robinson (maaaaybeeeee…..).

Close to 80 minutes into the game, Croat Goalie Vedran Runje made a complete mess of a clearance which fell plop to the feet of Wayne Rooney who seldom misses chances these days and so the score was not 5-1 stamping English authority on the match. This was a day to forget for the Croats! With this, Milner and Beckham came on for Stevie G and Lennon respectively as England marched on, with certainty, to their 8th consecutive win and qualified for the World Cup with two games to spare!

The 90th minute and the 2 added minutes of stoppage time saw Wembley erupt into applause as England qualified for the world cup to spare! They will certainly be making a case for themselves in South Africa and who knows… just who knows….!!

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