Here's my first conclusion about England. Yes, they always disappoint. Yes, they don't live up to what their fans expect of them. Yes, in past tournament their talent suggested they should have accomplished more. Yes, they've been poorly managed at times. But there's a flip side...
Aside from South Africa 2010, England don't bicker their way out of the tournament like the Dutch have a habit of doing. They don't look completely disjointed or disinterested the way Portugal has made a habit of. They really don't choke on their vomit like Spain used to, or Argentina still does. Generally, they go out on their shields, as infuriating as it might be. Today, that spirit was on display.
Was it the prettiest match? God no. While it was open at times and dramatic, it wouldn't be described as a classic. There was cut and thrust, but not a ton of class moments. In fact, there was a lot of fuck ups on both sides -- Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to be the funniest footballer alive Capable of so much one moment, and capable of slapstick the next. It's singularly wonderful.
But England's resoluteness, their spirit, their desire to simply make it count saw them through. Their defense at times was comedic. Their attack at times unbelievably blunt. Their tactics at times so predictable you thought is was written by the WB. And yet, it saw them through.
Let's do some bullets:
-This was the best and worst of Hodgson. His decision to start Andy Carroll proved a masterstoke when he rose unchallenged to first put England in the lead. It looked a little worse when Andy Lad gave away the freekick that led to Sweden's equalizer. But Hodgson's calling card of completely falling apart when in the lead once again came to display its wares, as the defense fell apart on both goals. Sadly, one of those came courtesy of Glen Johnson, which is a shame because as much shit as he gets for his defensive lapses it rarely results in a goal against. This time it did.
-The second Swedish strike has enough blame for anyone. Ashley Cole stopped running, Joe Hart probably could have come for it, a freekick that shouldn't have been given away, whatever you want.
-That said about Hodgson, his sub of Walcott then changed the game the other way, and when could Eriksson or Capello say that? Walcott scored one and set up the other. It's the perfect role for him, as supersub. He shouldn't start next game, but come off the bench. But if Roy wants to bring in Oxlade-Chamberlain so James Milner stops wasting my time, that's ok
-Once again, Steven Gerrard was immense. Setting up the owner, but disciplined and reserved and determined all match. Exactly what England require out of their captain, they can only hope he can produce it again for a third time in nine days.
-Carroll had himself a match. Some on the good side, some on the bad, but noticeable either way. Me? I'd start him with Rooney in the hole against Ukraine. Don't think that's how they'll go, though.
-Sorry, I don't think there's anyway Welbeck meant it. And I'm sure I don't care.
-Now thinking about it, Gerrard's performance is even better when you consider that Parker was pretty much a passenger.