The week England played …
Monday 20 March
The women have been drawn at home in the FA Cup, Sunderland will, with indecent haste, turn up on Sunday at Stains Town. The FA Cup is being rushed and the spring series has been invented to switch the elite women’s game back to an August to May schedule. Big pat in the face for the marketing wonk who thought they should play in the summer in the first place.
Wednesday 22 March
Germany 1:0 England
Lukas Podolski has been such a force in German football they threw a testimonial for him with England as the opposition and for once the result doesn’t matter as a vibrant, intelligent England grabbed the initiative and, playing three at the back, dominated the world champions.
Adam Lallana and Dele Ali provided the flicks and tricks while West Brom’s Jake Livermore supplied the midfield steel. If that sounds unpromising you have to remember that this was a second string Germany side playing for fun.
Lukas Podolski, probably tired of listening to meatheads in the England section singing about shooting down German bombers – as if seventy years was not long enough for the English to have achieved something else worth singing about… oh, and while we are here, singing about one World Cup to the Germans is hilariously hubristic. They will just point to the three they have racked up since our solitary triumph… back to Podolski, who smashed in a winner from thirty-yards that seemed to say, however well you play, we are Germany and we win.
Southgate deserves praise for experimenting but will probably ditch the new formation and opt for the safety blanket of 4-4-2 in time for the next competitive match.
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Thursday 23 March
Karen Carney signed a new deal to keep her with us until 2020. The women are preparing for another FA Cup game this Sunday and this news will be welcome.
Brazil came from behind to beat second placed Uruguay and virtually guarantee their qualification for Russia. Willian came off the bench late on.
Friday 24 March
Diego Costa scored as Spain lashed four past Israel, Cesar Azpilicueta and Pedro both sat on the bench all night.
Nathanial Chalobah, Lewis Baker and Tammy Abraham all played as England U21 were humiliated by Germany. For all the promise of the full-squad on Wednesday this was a 1-0 drubbing.
Better news down at U19 level where Mason Mount, Trevor Chalobah, Jay Dasilva and Dujon Sterling all played in a 3-0 thrashing of Spain that means they qualify for next summer’s European Championship.
Saturday 25 March
Eden Hazard could only sit and watch as Belgium scraped a draw with Greece. Courtois was helpless with the shot that gave the Greeks the lead but old boy Romelu Lukaku finally grabbed the goal back after 45-minutes solid pressure.
N’Golo Kante and France managed a little better as they beat Luxembourg but not before conceding an embarrassing equaliser.
Sunday 26 March
Chelsea 5:1 Sunderland
Behind to an early penalty Chelsea rallied with two goals each for Ramona Bachmann and Hannah Blundell and a closing strike from Drew Spence. We didn’t always dominate but our attacking play was brilliant to watch when we clicked. Rhythm will come with games but few will be able to live with this Chelsea team.
England 2:0 Lithuania
Watching international football is rarely anything less than a chore and Southgate’s decision to ditch in interesting experiment with 3-4-3 resulted in a stultifyingly boring but solid win without a Chelsea player on the pitch – Gary Cahill served a one-match suspension.