England went for a forceps victory (2-1) against Poland on Wednesday, which allows them to fill up on points after three matches in Group I of the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup.
After their victories against San Marino (5-0) and Albania (2-0), the Three Lions have 9 points and are ahead of Hungary by 2 lengths and Albania by 3, while Poland only points to 4th place with 4 units.
This victory owes much more to the character than to the talent of the English, whose offensive play purred, despite a large possession of the ball.
Coach Gareth Southgate had however warned his men before the match against the temptation to “ease off” under the pretext that Robert Lewandowski, the main red and white threat, was absent due to injury.
The opening scoring, even before the first 20 minutes have passed, on a penalty obtained with a little skill by Raheem Sterling, seemed to offer them a quiet evening.
Harry Kane had in any case not asked a question to strike in the center and register his 34th goal in 53 caps (1-0, 19th).
But by failing to widen the gap, or even to really put the opponent under great pressure, the English seemed to come out of the game and John Stones, so solid and so good with Manchester City since the start of the season, made a blunder that we thought was a thing of the past.
On a pass from his goalkeeper Nick Pope, hardly reassuring in his kicking game, Stones procrastinated and Brighton player Jakub Moder stole the ball from him.
After a one-two with the Marseillais Arkadiusz Milik, he pierced the goalkeeper with a powerful strike for an unexpected equalizer (1-1, 58th).
It wasn’t clear how the locals were going to pull through, as Southgate sat surprisingly inactive on his bench, not making any changes until the 86th minute.
Driven in doubt by a thirst for revenge, John Stones finally threw himself at the very end of the match to save a badly started corner and put back for his central defense partner Harry Maguire, whose powerful recovery was only touched by Wojciech Szczesny (2-1, 85th).
Deprived of a lot of its offensive assets, and despite a composition to move forward with Kane, Sterling, but also Mason Mount and Phil Foden, England knows in any case that it does not have much margin.
The lessons learned from this international break will undoubtedly concern more defense, where the four-way system scored points despite the blunder of the evening. The choices for the Euro 23 list will be very complicated for Southgate in some positions.
© 2021 AFP
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