Brian GlanvilleThe general euphoria which followed the wholly unexpected victory of a patched up England team against the mighty Spaniards was easy to understand but hard to justify.

The first half approach by England was surely a deep embarrassment to any objective watcher. Nine men behind the ball against a Spanish team which weaved patterns around them but were desperately prevented from scoring.

Darren Bent at centre forward and Theo Walcott on the right wing, abandoned in far from splendid isolation. There was some criticism of Walcott’s supposedly same old same old display but to me it seemed wholly unjustified.  Not until near the end of the first half did he get a decent ball, and then he promptly whizzed past his full back and threatened to beat the next man too, only to be brought down. As for poor Bent, he might just as well have stayed in the dressing room, that first half. The goal would come.

England you might say began with an inferiority complex, a dismal defeatism, which condemned them to a siege mentality. That they eventually scored emphasised the fact that football is not so much a funny game but a sublimely irrational one. They were never going to score from anything but a set piece, and so it proved. And two fierce attempts by Cesc Fabregas, a luxury of a substitute, in the 90th minute came desperately close to giving Spain the equaliser they surely deserved.

Before the game, there had in some quarters been logical criticism of a current tendency to push defenders into central midfield. On this occasion it was the young Phil Jones, essentially a promising centre back who made a not wholly successfully debut in Montenegro – a penalty he might have conceded, an anxious moment or two in the first half – at right back.

Alex Ferguson has we know occasionally used Jones in midfield himself. He certainly didn’t play badly against Spain, using the ball thoughtfully if not, from such deep positions, incisively, but given the way Capello set out his stall and his own defensive propensities, you knew he was never going to break forward. Everton’s Rodwell, a far more natural all round midfielder, who came on in the second half would always have been a more logical choice.

And Rooney? He could perfectly well have been deployed, given that his three match international suspension involved the European tournament alone and if Capello’s pseudo logic was that he wanted to give his potential Euro team the experience of playing without Rooney, using a depleted and negative formation of this kind was never going to be remotely productive.

Meanwhile, those, like Gareth Southgate, who should surely know better, who eulogised Capello’s dismal tactics were barking loudly up the wrong tree. The win was a massive fluke against a hugely superior team and should objectively be seen for what it was.

Wales’ performance against Norway in Cardiff, though, alas it is far too late for them to be going to the Euros, was a far more inspiring event, showing that, after an uneasy beginning, Gary Speed has fashioned his Welsh team into a lively force. As indeed we saw when they should, even without the exceptional Craig Bellamy – ebullient against Norway – have drawn with England at Wembley.

Gareth Bale is one of the outstanding footballers at the moment, Aaron Ramsey has blessedly and impressively recovered from the horrific injury and long absence inflicted on him by Stoke’s Shawcross. And all credit to Trapattoni’s Irish for their convincing exploit in Estonia. Plenty of brio up front and a glorious veteran keeper in Shay Given.

  • CB

    Nanu – just who the hell is \bragging and crowing about\ the match? This is getting ridiculous: I have yet to hear anyone coming out with the boastful \we thrashed Spain, now we’re gonna win the Euros, we’re the best on the planet\ tripe that is supposedly so rife. All I’ve heard or read is a modicum of VERY qualified optimism, lots of continuing defeatism and shedloads of accusations of arrogant premature triumphalism. I would have expected a WS reader to be a little more measured than the Yahoo trolls though! Deep scepticism is still the dominant England fan mood, I believe.

  • Simon

    totally agree with the first 2 comments.
    BG’s romanticism gone into overdrive !.
    2 shots on target each..not that irrational a result !. why not mentions spain’s increasingly dodgy form in friendlies.

  • Alexandre Turp

    I just wish to quickly respond to Mr. Hanley. In another context, i.e. the Euros, I’d agree with you. But this is a friendly. It’s the time international coaches try different things with different players to see if magic might spark. Goodness knows England need magic. Granted, this is a victory on the scoreboard, but what has this victory done for England? Based on the reports I’ve read on the game, including Brian Glanville’s piece, it seems parking the bus to get a 1-0 victory off a set piece against a Spain which, let us face it, was equally uninspired has done nothing for the hope that England might achieve anything meaningful next summer. Beats losing 5-0 as far as player morale is concerned, I suppose, but what does this accomplish? I’d rather have seen what certain unusual suspects could do, even at the risk of the answer being nothing.

  • Nanu Ugwu

    Even though i do not always agree with mr glanville i must say that he was spot on his assesment of the game. it was like the qpr v chelsea game earlier in the season. the underdogs may brag and crow about their smash and grab but in reality they didnt deserve it, every football fan deep down knows that the better team doesnt always win but sometimes, it’s almost always not about the win.

  • Rick

    Also I wouldn’t be so quick to knock England’s performance in the same breath as congratulating Trappattoni’s Irish success, achieved in much the same manner overall.

  • Dom Hanley

    Mr Glanville

    I have read many, many of your articles as I have been a subscriber for near over 3 years now, and yes you maybe an accomplished writer, but you seem to have a problem with everything football is or isn’t.

    Had England played a game like Spain’s which you tend to suggest, by not having 9 men behind the ball, the outcome would have been extremely laughable for England. Do you not recall how United did that against Barcelona, twice and got taught a lesson twice? This would have been identical.
    While it was not a great disply by England, I would much rather win 1-0 ugly, then get beat trying to play attractive football.