If you donít want to know the score click your browser back now. Itís nothing new that England should lose to Australia at sport. But unlike all the other sports developed and exported from these shores, this was our game. The game we still invest in. A game not effected by the vagaries of our weather and one in which we have a vast pool of players of high standard to choose from. That Australia beat England so comprehensively is embarrassing. That there is no excuse is even worse. Australia took on two teams; one loaded with experience at footballís highest level, glittering with talent, the other full of hungry aspiring ambition. And yet the side featuring Chipperfield triumphed 3-1 in this circus of a match.
In the first half Englandís problem stemmed from a porous midfield. A combination of Beckham, Scholes, Lampard and Dyer has a temptation to make a late run into the penalty area in anticipation of a clever ball. Sadly when all of them charge
at the same time there is no one to play that ball. Not one of the quartet put in any real challenges and soon Australia realised that the middle ground was theirs. Once possession was gained they wasted no time exploiting Kewellís pace, trickery and mastery of the ball. It was from his run that they won a free kick on the left. This was swung over by Lazaridis and Popovic headed in, despite the attempts of Gary Neville to mark.
That should have been a wake up call to the senior players who were tip toeing about, their heads full not of pride for the national team but a fear of missing out for their club side. I know that friendlies are thought to be inconvenient by the club managers but always thought the players relished any chance to play for England. Maybe that thought belongs to a different era.
The game was full of chances Ė for Australia. James making a superb save from Viduka with Ferdinand and Campbell rendered useless by the malaise that strikes central defenders at Upton Park. The second goal again came down Englandís left. Lampard attempting to run when he should have passed as Dyer didnít make himself available. Kewell picked up the loose ball, dipped a shoulder to send 30m worth of defender sprawling and waltzed around James. It would have been unbelievable were it not so deserved.
England did have opportunities but it wasnít to be Owenís night despite his hard running and cover for Beattie who looked a reasonable Premiership striker with potential. His debut wasnít as dreadful as that of Michael Ricketts 12 months ago but he didnít make the step up with ease.
So England were 2-0 down at the break and needed to make some substitutions. Farcically Sven brought on a whole new team which confused Australia for a while and baffles me still. Joe Cole was left sitting on the bench at the ground where he is blossoming as captain, Danny Murphy let out to play with the kids and another bizarre experiment on the left. Poor Darius Vassell left to be the square peg this time.
The youngsters seemed hungry for their chance and played with a verve and vigour missing in the first half. Rooney looked
surprisingly effective given his lack of Premiership action (through poor discipline and youth) and showed some nice touches. Jeffers had the pace and cunning of a real Ďin the box strikerí with more games he could develop into an Ian Rush type striker, deadly in the box, anonymous elsewhere. The real star was Jenas who took to the scene well and soon showed the simple tidy passing and nifty footwork that has been a feature of his play.
It was his break and cross which Jeffers finished off so well to claw a goal back (or to put them in the lead in game two,
depending on your point of view). This goal at least roused the crowd who had had poor value so far. England seemed better balanced this half with Hargreaves at least fighting for possession and Wes Brown acquitting himself well at the back. The best move of the half though saw Emerton through to finish well and take the wind from Englandís youthful sails.
As a warm up for Englandís pair of qualifiers at the end of March this game was pointless. This was a chance to try a few changes in the 2 or 3 three places that are up for grabs and to attempt to resolve the left side. Though left at home and on the bench both Gareth Barry and Joe Cole had good games by their absence. I suspect the senior squad will have at least noted their likely replacement and once their onerous club commitments are out of the way will be given another chance. If they do not perform there are even younger options available.
James (Robinson 46 mins), G Neville (Mills 46 mins), R Ferdinand (Brown 46 mins), Campbell (King 46 mins), A Cole (Konchesky 46 mins), Beckham (Hargreaves 46 mins), Lampard (Murphy 46 mins), Scholes (Jenas 46 mins), Dyer (Vassell 46 mins), Beattie (Jeffers 46 mins), Owen (Rooney 46 mins).
Subs Not Used: Wright, J Cole, Upson, Parker, Davis. (Full Squad)
Schwarzer, Neill, Moore, Popovic (Vidmar 72 mins), Lazaridis, Emerton, Okon (Muscat 87 mins), Skoko (Bresciano 46 mins),
Chipperfield (Grella 76 mins), Viduka (Sterjovski 85 mins), Kewell (Aloisi 56 mins).
Subs Not Used: Kalac, Tiatto.
England Goal: Jeffers (70 mins)
Australia Goals: Popovic (17 mins), Kewell (42 mins), Emerton (84 mins)
Australia Caution: Lazaridis
Referee: Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain)