Captain Rooney spares England’s blushes in dull Wembley affair
A record low Wembley crowd of 40,181 turned out for the friendly between England and Norway, and the performance certainly proved why.
While on paper, a goal from new captain Wayne Rooney as well as Roy Hodgson’s men keeping a clean sheet could be seen as a solid start following their woeful World Cup, it certainly didn’t tell the whole story.
Yes, the Manchester United skipper was the only member of the 22-man squad originally called up with over 50 caps (now on 96), but on the whole it was a full side.
Hodgson used this game in preparation for their Euro 2016 away qualifier against Switzerland, and to blood in two new Lions for their first cap, Calum Chambers and Fabian Delph, but they could not inspire the crowd either.
The game brought a total of four shots on goal, two from each side, including Rooney’s penalty, and it is fair to say that fans went home wondering why they made the effort, as did television viewers.
However, manager Hodgson was more upbeat, saying: “We dominated the game, played well, with some good movement but they defended well in their area.
“I was disappointed with the start of the second half – we didn’t do anything like as well in the first 15 minutes but then we changed things and brought some different players on changed the formation and I thought we finished strongly.
“When Danny [Welbeck], James [Milner] and Fabian came on we were already leading 1-0. We were playing against a team who were not making too many attempts to attack us in the first half – getting a lot of players behind the ball and they frustrated us.”
One player in particular who did look lively and provide the crowd some entertainment was Liverpool’s teenage star Raheem Sterling, who also won the penalty. New Arsenal signing Welbeck, meanwhile, showed flashes.
“It is not always right to compare performances in the first 20-25 minutes with the last but I am happy with Danny Welbeck – I thought he was very lively when he came on,” Hodgson continued.
“I do think that when Sterling move into the centre he did show the full range of his dribbling ability so it’s nice to now we have these options and we aren’t going to be restricted to just one way of playing.”
New call-up Danny Rose had to watch from the bench, and wait for his debut, but right back John Stones, who won his third cap, impressed.
Such was England’s poor performance on the whole, though, Coral have made them unfancied at 9/5 to beat Switzerland (6/4 favourites) on September 8th.
The Three Lions’ odds have even shifted from 8/15 to 8/11 for them to top their Euro 2016 qualifying Group E.