Attempting to review the contents of an international break may seem a futile task, but here I am to give it a good go. Hopefully, we’ll make some use of this time, and to both of you reading this, we can now both count the days together until the Premier League is back.
Let’s cast our minds back to Friday night against the Netherlands, when we were treated to yet another riveting England performance which resulted in a 1-0 win for the Three Lions, like it always seems to. To make matters worse, the winner was scored in the 59th-minute by the ever-popular Jesse Lingard. Even the minute when the goal was scored couldn’t have been a duller minute. Not close enough to the start, when you are eagerly staring at the TV, apparently blind to the fact that the last hundred England friendlies have made you consider setting fire to the machine. And, not close enough to the end, where the faint excitement of an irrelevant last-minute winner is enough to calm the inner pyromaniac. Holland didn’t even seem to bother turning up for this one, seeing as they easily put three goals past Portugal on the Monday’s fixture. It’s like they were ordered to follow the tradition of mind-numbing England friendlies.
Instead of being unbearably boring, we were treated to just a tedious game on Tuesday night when England faced Italy at Wembley. England endured a very shaky start, in which John Stones could have been mistaken for… well, this is usually where I’d put John Stones into the joke, so that’s awkward. Thankfully, he only gave the ball away twice to the aptly named Ciro Immobile.
Once England grew into the game, Jamie Vardy notched first with a trademark shot of power, after Raheem Sterling had shown great awareness on several occasions previously to tee him up. From midway through the first half when the deadlock was broken, to the last five minutes of the second half, the match proceeded like a typical England game – plenty of half-chances and enough sideways passing to make you consider making the switch to the Bake-Off. Eventually, though, we got what we wanted. Some action. Except, it wasn’t what we wanted at all, as it involved an Italian penalty being converted after another dodgy VAR decision. The game finished 1-1 thanks to Insigne’s confident penalty, but the main talking point as always was VAR. This does indicate potential for controversy in the World Cup, as stated by many an incensed fan. However, we will be coming back to this topic for the myth of the week.
Another stand-out game from this international period would be Spain’s 6-1 hammering of Argentina in Madrid on Tuesday night. A game which was expected to be a close-run affair of few goals, was proven to be completely otherwise due to some awful Argentinian defending, but some scintillating stuff from the Spaniards, too. A hat-trick from Isco and a goal from Thiago too, so plenty of talent in those missed transfer targets of Manchester United. Even Iago Aspas put in a brilliant performance and scored a goal (assisted by David De Gea, too), which doesn’t reflect well on Argentina at all. Not too much should be taken away from friendly games, but the manner of this heavy defeat for Argentina before the World Cup has certainly lowered their stock, although they were without Lionel Messi, which kind of lets them off the hook a bit.
The Myth Of The Week:
Anger was rife amongst England fans once their lead against Italy had been blown by a controversially awarded penalty. James Tarkowski just managed to clip the legs of Federico Chiesa (I know, who is he? No wonder Italy won’t be in Russia come summer) leading to the referee requesting a VAR decision which resulted in an Italy penalty, to much uproar.
The commonly held belief among England fans now is that VAR is a useless piece of technology which will ruin the World Cup. However, it remains to be seen what the reaction would have been if England had been awarded a last-minute penalty when 1-0 down. In all likelihood, fans would have been praising the use of VAR, and only irate Italians would have had issues with it. Perhaps, VAR won’t ruin the World Cup itself, but it could ruin it for an England fan should a tough decision be made against their team. This is the same way in which a bad referee’s call, or a clumsy own goal by Chris Smalling, I mean, a defender, would effectively ruin the World Cup for England supporters. VAR appears to be here to stay, so supporting its usage and having patience while it is improved is surely the best way forward.