Tuesday, June 22, 2004
  England - Croatia
A highly impressive display. Even when England went 1-0 down, they looked the better side. Despite Joe Royle's unbelievable whining ('They've got to make a substitution, bring someone on to shake this up...' - about a minute before the first England goal), England totally dominated the first half and richly deserved the equaliser.

Scoring so early quite clearly wasn't in the Croatian plan. They didn't know what to do when they were ahead and looked confused and lost.

Scholes looked much more confident once he'd scored. It's only a pity that Owen couldn't have put one away. But you sense there's more to come from him.Ledley King seemed as assured in midfield as he did at the back.

Note: all four goals England have conceded have come from set-pieces. I'm inclined to blame James for this. Not only does he fail to command the area, the defence look disorganized and anxious. A confident goalkeeper would tell them exactly what to do.

There's no doubt that England have looked much better than Portugal. If England play as well as they can and Portugal play to potential, England should comfortably win. England have goalscorers all over the pitch now, whereas Portugal never look like scoring. Their approach play has been over-intricate and lacking in directness, and Gomes' goal against Spain, however brilliant it was, was a bolt from the blue. England are just the opposite - you always feel they are likely to score. The only reason England lost against France was because the game ended. More time and they would have equalized. Thursday: payback time for all those recent Portugal defeats?
"The only reason England lost against France was because the game ended."

Isn't that the reason anyone wins or loses?
Isn't that the only reason anyone loses?

Not really. Some teams could play all week and not score; or the longer a game goes on, the further behind they get. England always looked like they could score; they probably would have scored if time hadn't run out.
Ah, but note that I asked "Isn't that the reason anyone wins or loses?"
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