Ashley Young was touted as England’s saviour after an impressive run of form for the national side but the 26-year-old was very disappointing against France.
The Manchester United winger was deployed up front alongside Danny Welbeck and yet, other than one through ball to James Milner in the first-half, was entirely anonymous.
He carried next to no attacking threat, only attempted 16 passes the entire game, and failed to assert himself against two centre-halves who looked woefully out-of-form.
Young was supposed to be playing in the Wayne Rooney role, just off a main front man.
But instead, the former Aston Villa star just coasted through the game, never making himself available in between the lines nor looking to run in behind the French, while his defensive work was lacklustre at best.
Too often he appeared to be standing around, not closing down the ball, nor taking up clever positions to hurt the French on the counter.
To be quite honest, the sooner Roy Hodgson gets Wayne Rooney back the better because Welbeck looked very bright all game long and with better service, England could be onto a winner.
Young is a better winger than anyone else in the England squad so Hodgson should utilise the Red Devils midfielder where he is most effective.
The nation woke to positivity on Tuesday, amid headlines of Hodgson’s optimism following England’s draw with France.
After the match he was understandably buoyed, perhaps even relieved, but to claim England can compete with the world’s best is an exaggeration – his side demonstrated they can contain the world’s best, which is at least an improvement on Bloemfontein.
Frustrating teams better than them has traditionally been England’s strength and Hodgson has made no bones about how that is the platform on which his side will build from.
But the positivity must be tempered. Firstly, Hodgson’s side is yet to fall behind and struggling to recover a deficit has also been a popular trait among England teams.
And so has an inability to beat sides that are inferior in status and ranking.
In South Africa, England were unable to defeat the USA or Algeria when expected to, and at the 2006 World Cup, they were still relying on David Beckham to get past Paraguay and Ecuador while the 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago was laborious to say the least.
Sweden are up next, and after their defeat by Ukraine, former Scotland international Alan Hansen spoke of how England will simply brush them aside, as well as the co-hosts despite their historic victory – but he also thinks Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands will get to the semi-finals!
It’s in England’s nature to relish being the underdogs but they have never relished the favourites tag – now is the time to start against Sweden and Ukraine.
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