The internationals are over and we can now look forward to the Premier League again. But first let’s examine some talking points that relate to England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
England – Jordan Henderson? Heh
These low standards are joined by high expectations. Gareth Southgate dropped Wayne Rooney for tactical reasons against Slovenia before deciding to bring the Manchester United skipper on in the second half after a woeful midfield display by Tottenham anchor man Eric Dier and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson.
The game ended 0-0 as both teams shared equally threatening opportunities in front of goal. But it was worrying to see Slovenia unsettle England, forcing mistakes and creating a sense of pressure. It was a performance that would make other managers watching confident about beating the Three Lions.
Meanwhile, Henderson is not an international player, let alone England captain, but standards within English football are low and the problems run deeper than the senior team.
Ireland – Lower expectations, please
Ireland won both of their World Cup qualifiers during the international break against Georgia and Moldova, however, it was against the latter that James McClean had something to get off his chest following his brace that saw the boys in green win 3-1.
The controversial Premier League star was irked that Martin O’Neill’s team had received criticism of late.
“We got a lot of flak after the Serbia game and a lot of flak after the Georgia game, I think unfairly so,” said McClean, as per Yahoo Sports.
“I think the Irish press needs to have a bit of a reality check: we’re not going to blow teams away, we know that. We’ve always been a team that works hard. When has winning never been enough?”
Yes, football is a results business but if you’re not performing to the team’s overall best ability, other countries are going to look at ways to hurt you. Ireland were better against Moldova but the performance wasn’t the most convincing.
But seven points from Ireland’s opening three games is impressive. Just behind group leaders Serbia, who O’Neill’s men already drew with.
Wales – Brought back to reality
Many wondered if Chris Coleman’s Wales side could continue the great form shown at Euro 2016, and with talisman Gareth Bale people thought why not? Going into the game against Georgia, who Wales haven’t the greatest record against (no wins in four after Monday night), there was a sense of optimism that they should top the group and cause qualification panic for their neighbours across the Irish Sea.
Georgia more than deserved the point they earned by drawing with Wales and a clear observation made throughout the game was how Sam Vokes lacks the touch and technique expected of a international footballer.
Scotland – What is going through Gordon Strachan’s head?
Things have not gone to plan for Strachan and Scotland since the European Championship qualifiers when they dramatically finished third behind the Republic of Ireland. Now, the Scots find themselves without a win the World Cup qualifiers and a lot of talk surrounds Oliver Burke, who many describe as the young hope for Scottish football.
The Red Bull Leipzig winger had started Scotland’s game against Malta and Lithuania but wasn’t deemed worthy of a strip in a 23-man squad in Slovakia. Strachan’s reason to this was down to experience, which will puzzle those following Scotland as their national team. This is a player that scares defenders, but of course a degree of consistency comes with his age and his position on the field.
There could be more reasons behind Burke’s snub as everyone is aware of Scotland having wider issues than ability on the pitch.
Northern Ireland – Incapable of stunning world champions unlike the Republic of Ireland
Germany dispatched Northern Ireland to maintain a perfect start as the current World Cup holders seek automatic qualification for Russia 2018. A 2-0 win granted the Germans three wins from three in Group C, so, as expected, Joachim Low’s men are well on their way.
But losing to the World Cup by 2 goal margin is hardly worthy of embarrassment. Michael O’Neill has brought Northern Ireland a long way, not to mention Euro 2016 qualification and a recent 4-0 win over San Marino.
Unfortunately for Northern Ireland, they couldn’t spring a shock on the Germans like Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland did at the Aviva Stadium last year when Shane Long pounced on a long ball from Darren Randolph before slotting the ball past Manuel Neuer.