England's 0-0 draw in Kiev on Tuesday edged them ever closer to qualifying for the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer as they moved a point clear of both Montenegro and opponents Ukraine to top group H with two games to go. However, there has been much criticism of the Three Lions for their performance in Kiev on Tuesday night, so the question remains: was a point good enough for England?
The game in the Ukranian capital was dubbed the 'crunch game' of the qualifying group and, driven by the need to take something from the game, many would've settled for a point before kick-off. So why were so many fans left disgruntled and annoyed when the game finished goalless after 90 minutes?
It's not because England didn't win, nor is it the fact that they didn't score - it's the fact that England never even looked like scoring. Everything from Roy Hodgson's team selection to the way we played suggested that they were setting up for a draw, and it doesn't exactly inspire fans when the manager feels the need to tell his players to sit back and defend to ensure a point against a team like Ukraine.
This implies no faith in England being able to actually win the game, claim the three points and steal an even bigger march on their rivals. While the result gives England a point advantage at the top of the group, in reality it highlighted many faults with the England side and showed why, even if they get to the World Cup in Rio, they will make little impact in the finals.
Admittedly, England were a bit limited in terms of strikers before the game, with Wayne Rooney and Dnaiel Sturridge's injuries added to by Danny Welbeck's suspension. But do England really only have three capable forwards? Rickie Lambert proved last season that he's a top-flight finisher, yet was deployed as a work horse chasing loose ends for the entire match.
When anything did stick he had little support, and when we needed to inject a little more excitement going forward the introduction of Jermain Defoe was not forthcoming. England offered very little and their sense of attack was virtually non-existent, but Lambert wasn't to blame. What is he supposed to do when he has little meaningful support?
The onus fell on a midfield that was nothing short of dire against opposition that wasn't much better. Hodgson persistently plays James Milner out wide, a player who retired his place out wide a long time ago when converted into a central-midfielder. Theo Walcott was limited to rare glimpses of pace when he should've fared much better against an ageing full-back, and in general we were ineffective out wide.
This was in stark contrast to Ukraine who, through the excellent utilisation of talismanic duo Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, provided a constant threat to England and showed how excellent wide-play can cause problems. Don't get me wrong, Ukraine were by no means excellent, but what they did do was use their best players to their advantage.
Every time Konoplyanka got on the ball, the whole stadium expected something magical and an atmosphere like that can be difficult to play against. Furthermore, the Dnipro winger completely exposed Kyle Walker's continuing struggles in his defensive duties as a right back. Yes, he bombs forward and causes problems but in a game where we saw little attacking threat from England, his flaws were exposed. It doesn't bode well for when we face trickier opposition and Walker's ability against wingers who are even better than Konoplyanka.
England were also thoroughly outdone in midfield. In a triumvirate boasting two centurions and England's 'future' in young Jack Wilshere, we could barely keep the ball and never imposed ourselves where it mattered most. Lampard never really had a chance to show the great player he is on his 100th cap, while Wilshere was easily brushed off the ball by Ukraine's strong defensive midfield set up and was unable to stipulate play like he usually does.
Neither really got forward, but things were even worse for captain Steven Gerrard, who's deep lying midfield role seemed to be to compensate for Walker's struggles and to basically ensure that Ukraine didn't score. The game was crying out for Michael Carrick, an excellent passer who is beautifully simple in his work and would've given us greater control over the ball, but again no such change came. This suggests that Hodgson didn't want to be in control of the game, as he was happy to sit on the point we had when we started. There wasn't even a hint of intent from England, and that's what disappointed fans most. It looked as if we didn't even try.
The one shining light that came from the game was the impressive performance of Gary Cahill, who took to Hodgson's defensive tactics like a duck to water in holding of the Ukrainian advances while also threatening from a few early corners. With John Terry and Rio Ferdinand gone, England need someone to cement their place in the heart of our defence and Cahill is taking great strides towards that aim. He and Phil Jagielka are the first centre-back pairing to feature in five consecutive games since Terry and Rio in the 2006 World Cup and, even if we don't look wholly convincing going forward, at least a capable defence is beginning to form.
Hodgson will probably get the points necessary from the final two matches against Poland and Montenegro, but the performance against Ukraine on Tuesday remains a worry. We got what we played for but England are still yet to register a meaningful win in the group. Bearing in mind who we still have to play, it doesn't bode well at all.
In all likelihood, that final win will come and England will book their place in the finals next summer. But there are still many question marks about the side; questions that neither Hodgson nor the players themselves are any closer to answering.
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