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Rooney, Kane & Sterling – Talking points from England’s draw with Russia

rooneywilshereEngland once again failed to start a major tournament with a victory after a stoppage time equaliser by Vasili Berezutski gave Russia a draw they barely deserved. Despite the result, there are positives to be taken from what was  a good performance in Marseille.

England were dominant from the first whistle and Eric Dier’s stellar free kick 17 minutes from time was well deserved although one lapse in concentration in the dying minutes cost England.

Plenty will be made of the draw, on paper it’s a poor result although the performance was encouraging with Hodgson’s young side looking like they could handle the demands of tournament football. The game should have been out of sight after an hour which is testament to Hodgson’s approach, with Wales and Slovakia still to play, we should be confident of still topping the group.

Boldest decision his biggest mistake?

The decision to play Rooney alongside Dier in midfield would’ve certainly raised eyebrows but it worked a treat, the England captain was able to take control of the game, dictate the pace of England’s attacks as well as looking fit and fresh, something we haven’t seen from the United man in a summer tournament for some twelve years.

Rooney benefited from Dier’s defensive approach, it meant he had the freedom to roam in deeper positions, allowing himself to pick passes out early, the pair certainly complemented each other.

For 72 minutes, regardless of the result the performance was very good, so the decision to take Rooney off after Dier’s late strike was peculiar, Hodgson decided to bring on a fresh pair of legs in Jack Wilshere, although it may have disrupted the rhythm of England.

It was a sucker punch which ruined a solid night’s work in the south of France, but it will provide an important lesson to the group about grinding out results and seeing out games.

Of course we should have had enough to deal with Russia although given how the game went, Rooney’s experience would have been invaluable in the dying moments of the game, it’s not the end of the world although it has certainly heated up the pressure against Wales in Lens on Thursday.

Rooney future?

He was mischievously criticised by the Russian media as well as players in the lead up to the game but Rooney’s performance showed he still has plenty to offer. In the lead up to the game he maintained he had no need to defend himself and nothing to prove, but you would think his performance on Saturday night was one for the critics.

It’s important we’re realistic, this was against a very poor Russian side who allowed Rooney to have the time and space to dictate the game from deep, something he may not get against Wales.

He was able to help out at both ends of the pitch, joining in attacks where he nearly gave England the lead if it wasn’t for the Russia keeper Akinfeev as well as knowing the responsibilities he has defensively where England fans acknowledged his work rate with rapturous of applause.

A more ruthless England

Given how the warm up games played out, you wouldn’t have blamed anyone for predicting a hard fought 1-0 win, so the fact we was able to create numerous chances was pleasing however the fact we couldn’t score more than one will aggravate Hodgson.

England’s nine shots in the first half were the most we’ve had in a single half at European Championships since Croatia in 2004 (11) so it certainly signals that this England are out to attack sides rather than sit and hope.

At times Kane looked isolated and failed to make any significant impact; the Tottenham man failed to touch the ball in the Russia box all evening, although you would like to think that eventually he will replicate his club form in France in the coming games.

And while Rooney’s switch to midfield was a resounding success and Adam Lallana justified his selection, Raheem Sterling struggled desperately and will be fortunate to keep his place against Wales.

It’s a blow but only a minor one, despite the result the signs are positive and if Hodgson can get his side to replicate a similar performance against Wales and Slovakia, there should be no doubts that we can still top the group let alone qualify.

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