Sunday, September 03, 2006

Czech Rep. 2-1 Wales

After the intial registration of the sunlight beaming into the room, it was my second cognitive thought of the day. A picture replayed in my mind of a Czechoslavakian substitute turning slowly, frame-by-frame. The ball hit his shin as he spun a right boot at it, and it curled away from Paul Jones, hit the side netting, and nestled inside his right hand post. The clock showed 88 minutes. A gloom fell over me and I buried my head in the pillow. Not again! Not another bad luck story!

I don't believe in God, fate, luck, karma, destiny, or any other of those mumbo jumbo unscientific crutches. But something, somebody, must be against our National football team. It happens too often for it to be coincidental.

Or does it ? The fact is that we went out there and played against technically superior opponents. We defended reasonably well, and our two quick strikers ran onto long through balls to create a couple of chances. It was more than we could have hoped for. But a defensive action can only bear so much. If it hadn't have been an absurdly offside first goal, it would have been a goalkeeping blunder, a penalty, a lucky rebound, or some other jammy means of scoring. We always seem to suffer bad luck, but really we can't complain about the defeat.

It still hurts though.

What about the performance ? Firstly, the manager. I thought he was brilliant. He put out as solid a team as he could muster for the first half, but then he sniffed an opportunity. The Czechs weren't causing us enough trouble to warrant both Fletcher and Robinson taking up space in midfield, so he brought on Ledley. In a midfield desperately lacking creativity, there was always a chance that Ledley could grab a goal. And he very nearly did. When we went a goal down, he brought on two attackers, and it paid off.

Compared to the sterile negativity of Hughes' reign, Toshack's tactical bravery looks promising. It might be worth watching this team develop into an attacking force. Tosh seems to know when to batten down the hatches, and when to go for it. I couldn't help thinking of the game in Serbia in 2003. Serbia were motiveless, down and out, and we just needed a killer punch. Hughes bottled it, stayed tight, and we failed to qualify.

I am a bit concerned about what we will do when we play at home. We can't sit deep and lob balls up to Bellamy and Giggs. A series of 0-0 draws would follow. But after this performance, I'm confident that Tosh will know what to do. We have creative players to come in, like Ledley and Koumas. Cotterill's move to Wigan is good news. Now we need David Vaughan to step up a gear, and Simon Davies to get away from Everton. And I'd love to see Robbie Savage picking up the pieces.

Sky reported 4,000 Wales followers. How times have changed since we took less than 100 to away games, and all the fans were on first name terms. Some resent this growth, but not the team. Fantastic support last night surely helped the young players.

Still, I am hopeful that this wasn't the best performance that we will get from this group. We seem to be moving in the right direction after years of little development beyond the first team.

We have a couple of good keepers coming in to replace Paul Jones.
We have a back three in Collins, Gabbidon and Nyatanga that can play together for the next six years. If Delaney can stay fit, we have no worries on that side.

Sam Ricketts always surprises me. Technically I don't rate him very highly, but he's got some balls. He seems to work well with Giggs, and is far from in awe of him. There aren't many inexperienced players that would ignore Giggs calls to have a crack at goal from left back. Fair play to him.

With all due respect to Fletcher and Robinson, we need to move on in central midfield if we are to have any real chance of success. We have to keep the ball much better than we did last night, and Fletcher needs to turn around 180 degrees and face the opposition's goal. There is talk of Ledley moving to left back, so a central midfield of Koumas and Giggs might be the answer, with Earnie partnering Bellamy up front. For the home games at least.

I was a little concerned at kick off that we had no real striker on the pitch. Bellamy is thrilling of course, but he's not what you would call a goalscorer. Earnshaw should play, with Giggs dropping deeper. Can Craig Davies come on quickly enough ? Maybe Hartson should be there as another option. A plan B.

So I think it's time to stop the self pity. Yes, we were unlucky, but so are lots of football teams. This is a side that could be fun to watch. Let's not put pressure on them. Let's support Toshack and the lads that want to play for Wales. Give them a chance to develop and I'm sure we'll get something out of this campaign. Probably not qualification, but a couple of tidy results , and a climb up the rankings would be good. Watch us move up to fourth seeds for the next draw, and stay positive.

Bring on Slovakia.

1 comment:

tarkus said...

I couldn't agree more