Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 9 September 2009

England Qualify for World Cup in Style

Coming into their much-anticipated ahead of Croatia in their penultimate home game in their World Cup Qualifying match, England needed just 1 point to qualify, following Ukraine's failure to win in Belarus 10 minutes ahead of kickoff. The same result was required 2 years ago when Steve McLaren and his umbrella left Wembley after a 3-2 defeat at home to Croatia and failed to qualify for the European Championships, leading to Slaven Bilic mocking England with quotes of "we are simply better team" - claiming it wasn't Steve McLaren's negative tactics that resulted in defeat.

Bilic was top of the world then, even getting linked to Fulham and West Ham over the summer of 2008, before he embarrassed himself with an early celebration when they took a 120th minute lead against Turkey in a quarter final match at Euro 2008, only to see his side concede a late equaliser and lose on penalties.

Then, almost a year ago to the day came Croatia's 4-1 humiliation at the hands of England in Zagreb that included a Theo Walcott hattrick that helped boost his club career, getting him more time in the first team at Arsenal. Slaven Bilic didn't come into this game as cocky, infact he came into it with a desperate attempt to get under England's skin by claiming the national team had lost their "Englishness" under Fabio Capello - presumably he was talking about them winning 7 qualifying games in a row???

Fabio Capello and his side didn't get caught in the Croatian boss' mind games and put pressure on Croatia from the get-go, which resulted in a clumsy tackle inside the area from the experienced Josip Simunic on Aaron Lennon that resulted in Frank Lampard giving England the lead from the penalty spot after just 7 minutes. Mr Simunic - the same man who claimed Croatia's reserves would be match for England ahead of the match. Perhaps they would have been a better match. Aaron Lennon continued to cause Croatia problems down the England right and it was his cross that Steven Gerrard headed home after 18 minutes to double England's advantage. Who's the "better team" now, Mr Bilic?

Lampard and Gerrard headed in second half goals before Eduardo pulled one back after Rob Green had made 2 close range saves, for a late consolation for Croatia; similar to the match in Zagreb. A howler from goalkeeper Vedran Runje lead to Rooney extending the score to 5-1 as Slaven Bilic hung his head in shame.

England have qualified for a World Cup with 2 games to spare for the first time in their history. It's not worth getting carried away and claiming this time is good enough to win a world cup, Croatia were a very poor side to compare England to. England need to be motivated for every game like they were this one if they want to go far, and need to cut out their concentration and defensive problems that allowed Slovenia and Croatia to score against them this week when they were in their comfort zone. Thumbs up to the team and the manager, this was a fantastic result.

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