So – England won 1–0. Overall, I felt it was the team's best performance so far; there was a liveliness and sharpness that had so far been missing. I was impressed by Carrick; he did exactly as he needed to; played solidly in front of the back four, providing precise passes (aka maintaining possession) to his teammates.
Carrick's presence indeed allowed Gerrard and Lampard to go forward and attack. Gerrard had a good game; constantly making himself available to receive passes and making some good runs. Lampard, on the other hand, still hasn't performed as he does for Chelsea. According to Fifa, he's had the most shots in the tournament so far, but, from what I can recall, most of them have been like the shots he had today; forced, dragged wide, or easy for the keeper. Having said that; you cannot contemplate dropping Lampard; he is a key player who WILL score, especially in the big games.
Rooney played very well upfront; for the most part managing to resist is desire to get more involved by dropping deep. His customary probing passes, pieces of skill, hold–up play, well–timed runs and strength (I could go on) were all on display again today; and show why he is so important to England.
Ashley Cole – blinding performance. His pace and stamina constantly amaze; and THAT interception at the start of the first half – immense.
John Terry and Paul Robinson – a bit iffy at times. I have no doubt Sven, McClaren and co will be putting the centre backs and keeper through some solid defensive drills this week. Thay have to; as England really do need to shore it up at the back.
David Beckham – delivered one of his special free kicks for the first time in 3 years. Without a doubt, this was his best moment of the match; as beforehand, England had had 3 or 4 free kicks in promising areas, only for Beckham to put in a poor delivery. I've started feeling a bit sorry for Terry and Ferdinand, constantly trekking into the opposition box on set–pieces, only for the delivery to fail to clear the first man. The best is yet to come from David Beckham.
Which can also be said for England. Slowly, but steadily, England are going up the gears; something that will have to continue in the Portugal game on Saturday. England, I believe, should beat Portugal; in spite of Scolari being something of a 'bogey' manager for Sven, and especially seeing as Deco is now out of the game.
All in all – if England can continue to improve; they should be in the semis.
But then again, it's never that easy with England..