England’s long-ball tactics against Ukraine – fair or foul?


Is it acceptable for a national team to play long-ball?

That’s the question facing Roy Hodgson following England’s display in Tuesday’s 0-0 World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.

Following the result, the England boss faced a wave of criticism from former England international, Gary Lineker, who called the Three Lions display “woeful” and “awful.”

Over Twitter, Lineker asked followers: “What happens to some of these players when they pull on an England shirt? When you see England pass it like they’ve never been introduced to each other, it does make you wonder why [Michael] Carrick doesn’t feature.”

Later Lineker took a tongue-and-cheek approach, writing: “We’re seeing a lot of one-touch football. England have a touch. Ukraine have a touch. England have a touch….” The banter continued when Linker fired a warning shot the world’s best, “Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina et al, you’re in big trouble!”

When informed of the criticism Hodgson explained he thought it was a “very high-quality” performance and that he was happy.

“I cannot comment on what people think at home, but I don’t think that is a fair comment on our performance,” Hodgson said. “If the expectations upon us are now so great we come to places like Ukraine and are expected to roll teams over, it will be difficult for us ever to get a good result.”

Let’s consider the circumstances.

Heading into the match England were top of the group, one point ahead of Ukraine and even on points with Montenegro, who was idle. With home matches against Poland and Montenegro still to come, England could not afford to drop points to Ukraine. Mykhalo Fomenko’s side had already shown their quality in last year’s 1-1 draw at Wembley and with the Olympic Stadium filled with 70,000 screaming Ukrainians, a potential buzz-saw awaited the Three Lions.

So Hodgson gave his men their orders.

“Did we play longer balls forward early?” the England boss asked. “Yes, we did. We didn’t want to play out from the back and invite pressure.” With regards to Lineker’s comments Hodgson claimed he was “surprised anyone who has played for England, captained England and played in games of this nature can be that critical.”

He shouldn’t be. Hodgson employed a Route 1 approach and it was anything but a “very high-quality” performance .

But it worked. It was a tactic, a means to an end and a move that one could argue was not so different than Jose Mourinho’s decision two weeks ago to have Chelsea sit back and play for the draw against Manchester United.

Style of play is important and most would agree that England’s is in need of an overhaul. At the end of the day, however, the game remains a results based business.

In “pretty good listener” Klopp, Liverpool has breath of fresh air

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
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In some ways, all managers are the same: intelligent football men messing around with the puzzle that is winning matches.

But to listen to Jurgen Klopp’s introductory press conference is to get a different view. While some managers sound like they create the puzzles, or even create the game itself, Klopp speaks of the challenge with reverence.

[ MORE: Klopp unveiled as “the Normal One” ]

In other words, it seems unlikely we will be hearing him utter phrases designed at painting himself as a Picasso of the pitch, rather that of a museum curator.

For example, here’s the new Liverpool boss on the club’s history.

From JPW on Merseyside:

“Twenty-five years ago [since the last league title] is a long time,” Klopp said. “History is only the base for us, [we shouldn’t] keep the history in our backpack all day. I want to see the first step next week and not always compare with other times. This is a great club with big potential. Everything is there. Let’s try to start a new way. Everything is different – I don’t know it all but I’m a pretty good listener.”

The “normal one” speaks like an honor student, not the know-it-all professor demanding students regurgitate facts from the book he wrote and tossed on the syllabus.

And perhaps this is the manner in which the Reds will add a new, positive chapter to their storied history.

Kreis, Schmid dismiss Messing’s job switch comments

Sigi Schmid
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Broadcaster and New York soccer hero Shep Messing caused quite a stir with his comments during the Red Bulls/Impact match on Wednesday, and those words have cause plenty of reaction in MLS.

If you missed it, Messing claims that New York City FC is ready to move on from Jason Kreis after just one season, and that Seattle coach Sigi Schmid is set to swap jobs with the NYC boss.

Messing also claims that Caleb Porter could end his disappointing run in Portland to head back to college soccer.

Kreis and Schmid disagree. The latter says he loves the Sounders and is committed to bringing an MLS Cup to Seattle. Kreis was just flabbergasted.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“I was watching the game last night, and it caught me completely by surprise. I thought that was an absolutely ludicrous statement and unfounded,” Kreis said after training Thursday. “I have no knowledge of that information at all, and I kind of scratch my head because at the end of the day I’m very happy here.”

So is there any truth here? The Porter part makes sense, especially if the Timbers fail to make the postseason again and the brash coach wishes to go back to a place where he’s had success.

As for Schmid and Kreis, that’s a curious one. Maybe NYC’s star studded roster would like a change, and Schmid has more success with big egos. And Kreis would thrive just about anywhere, but why would NYC ditch a man who built this from scratch? They’ve invested so much in the ex-RSL legend.