Are pundits right to be so critical of England’s 5-0 victory?

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For once, it was satisfying and thrilling to actually watch England playing positive football. Overpowering San Marino 5-0 on Friday night, a nation with a third of the capacity of Wembley, England players seemed to be enjoying themselves.

San Marino defended well for half an hour, as England could not find enough penetrative force. Then, courtesy of a belting top-left Rooney penalty, the game was more than won – the whole squad started to hunt extra goals to add to their tallies. Even Jagielka had a go, only to be denied by the chest of a blue shirt.

It must be said that the Wembley pitch looked phenomenal and England too were world class at times!

In the first half there were some nicely-woven one-to-one passing between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rooney, Carrick rocketed a shot off the bar, followed immediately by Welbeck teasing a shot off-the-post. Mr Welbeck himself also scored a cheeky back-heel flick like he did in the Euros this year against Sweden.

The second half too, did not fail to excite. The Ox’s curving goal and England’s fifth was the best of the night. Baines’ 25-yard free kick dipped and clipped the roof of the net, San Marino’s Rinaldi made his only break of the game and comically Joe Hart got his second touch of the ball!

Sadly, the pundits were not impressed. Roy Keane thought that they should have been 5-0 up at half time against the salesmen, bank clerks and insurance-brokers. Southgate humorously said ‘what is the point of San Marino?’ BBC pundits summarised the game as ‘predictable, efficient and adequate’.

The pundits had good reason for their dismay: Walker’s ball control on the right wing was appalling, where he let it go out for a throw on several occasions, Cahill did an almighty spoon over the goal in the 91st minute, Welbeck kept being squeezed out of the box and he was honestly lucky to score, Carrick displayed poor finishing and importantly, if it had not had been for Lennon’s pace, Walker’s fast passes into the box would not have been met.

Ultimately, limited effort was made in the first thirty minutes and it was no wonder Rooney’s penalty was so stressful. Slammed Walcott was also hospitalised at the 8-minute mark after a horrific challenge by amateur San Marino keeper Aldo Simoncini; Southgate described this as ‘reckless’.

I agree that all countries have the right to a national squad, but was there really any gain from this San Marino match other than a slight boost in confidence for players and smiles from the 84,000 who probably paid a tenner to see England play? It was a positive win with some real moments of class, but it was also fodder for the pundits who insist that England should be winning 10-0. Whether that’s fair or not, is a whole other matter.

What’s your take?

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