England 1 - 0 Belgium: Danny Welbeck strike sees off Belgium
MANAGER Roy Hodgson saluted the coolness of Danny Welbeck last night after the Manchester United striker scored the goal which sent England off to Euro 2012 on a note of optimism.
Welbeck’s first-half strike gave England a 1-0 win against Belgium at Wembley to go with their 1-0 victory against Norway in Oslo last weekend.
They now leave for Poland and Ukraine where they face France in Donetsk a week tomorrow with Hodgson admitting he is much closer to knowing his best team.
There was another injury scare, though, as Gary Cahill required an X-ray on his jaw after he was shoved into Joe Hart early in the game.
With Joleon Lescott needing a hefty bandage to cover a cut above his eye and skipper Steven Gerrard looking uncomfortable as he departed, it was a worrying end to a pretty dire week for Hodgson, who has already lost experienced central midfield duo Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry to injury.
But Welbeck became England’s youngest goalscorer since September 2008 and put himself in line for a starting berth in the group opener against France thanks to his well-taken effort.
Hodgson said: “It was a very good goal. I was delighted with the way he [Welbeck] took it and delighted with the way they [Welbeck and Ashley Young] fashioned it. It was a good piece of work from the two front players.
“They worked well together to pressurise the Belgium defence. When Ashley played him in I thought he showed remarkable calmness to keep his head on his left foot and chip it over the goalkeeper.
“That for me was the highlight of the game.”
Hodgson, however, admitted his England team would need to improve in terms of creativity and their forward movement although he was satisfied with the stability of a defence which survived a second-half Belgium onslaught.
Hodgson said: “In terms of the shape of the team defensively we haven’t done too badly.
“There have been some good signs for us there, but there is certainly a lot of work we need to do on our shape offensively.
“Sometimes when we have got the ball we are too wide in the wide areas and not making enough of getting the ball into those pockets behind the midfield players but it is something we are working on.
“But I am pretty happy really with the defensive shape. We’ve played Norway away and Belgium at home, we haven’t chosen an easy route for ourselves. Belgium are a good team.
“They gave us exactly the sort of test I thought they would and we came out with a victory and I am satisfied with that.
“I’m not prepared to be too critical. I am more than satisfied with what the players are trying to give the team and the country.
“I admire the fact that they have given such a great amount of determination and concentration which I thought was encapsulated in a lot of things Steven Gerrard did, the tackles he won and the headers he won.”
Defensive solidity was also helped by Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker, who faded towards the end but still managed to complete the 90 minutes following his recent Achilles injury.
“Scott needs games, he needs training,” said Hodgson.
“He obviously isn’t at his sharpest and that sharpness has to come with all the work we do in training and in the games. It would have been nice if the competition was starting not Monday week but perhaps two or three weeks on Monday. That would have been better for us.
“I’m happy he’s [Parker] got over the injury and is fit to play. But towards the end of games he is running on memory. The longer the time goes on the fitter he will become.”
Hodgson also praised the contribution of Arsenal’s 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who made his first start.
“He did quite well,” said Hodgson. “He did some very good things. But we will have to keep working on him in respect of what we expect from him in his position out there when we have the ball. He’s played quite a lot of his football in the middle of midfield and playing wide was something a bit different for him.”
Hodgson, however, admitted he was close to knowing his preferred formation.
He added: “My ideas on the starting 11 get clearer every day and training sessions help, but nothing like games.
That game has cleared up a few things in my mind and I am a lot closer now to knowing how I would like to start the game [against France] but I am going to keep that to myself.”
Keeper Hart added: “We need to do better in lots of ways. We need to have really high standards. We need to trust each other more on the ball. I think we’ll perform differently when it comes to France. It’s going to be a neutral venue, it’s going to be tough but we are going to be united as a side.”
Of last night’s match, he added: “It was a really tough game, a good run-out. I thought we played well.”
Meanwhile, Belgium manager Marc Wilmots said: “We were very satisfied with the game. We deserved a draw. Unfortunately, we made a mistake when we gave away the goal. We controlled the game in the first half hour.”
Asked about England’s chances at Euro 2012, he added: “It is a difficult tournament. England have good individuals but they have to survive the first three games and get to the quarter finals and after that anything can happen.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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