England wait for their fate
Friday, 05 August, 2011
Third straight draw with Mexico means England have chance of progressing.
By Nicholas Veevers in Cartagena
England finished their World Cup group round with a third successive draw, as they shared the points with Mexico in a hot and humid Cartagena on Thursday afternoon.
With both teams finding the conditions a struggle throughout, it was a fair result in the end with opportunities to win the game at either end but finding goalkeepers Jack Butland and Jose Rodriguez in top form to earn their respective nations a clean sheet apiece.
Head Coach Brian Eastick and his squad now have to wait and see how all of the other groups finish up on Saturday evening before they know if their record in Group F will be enough for them to reach the Second Round stage.
However, it looks likely that England’s results will be good enough to secure a place as one of the four best third-placed teams from the six groups to reach the last 16.
Given the circumstances, that is a great achievement for Eastick and his squad who have emerged unbeaten from one of the toughest groups in the competition against all odds and with some good performances under their belts. People may point to the fact there have been no goals, but it hasn’t been through a lack of trying and England have been unfortunate not to score in all three games.
Here though, they found it tough going in the afternoon sun of the first half and Mexico had a great chance to edge ahead in the 14th minute, when Reece Wabara tripped Erick Torres in the area giving the referee little option to award a penalty. Taufic Guarch stepped up and aimed a low shot towards the bottom corner, but Butland second-guessed him and made a fine save in catching the ball to keep things level.
Prior to that, a cross into the area from Callum McManaman had forced Butland’s opposite number Rodriguez into an unconventional punch which really could have gone anywhere. Fortunately for Mexico, they managed to tidy up and clear the danger.
Another McManaman delivery, this time from a free-kick on the left, was then headed back across goal by Nathan Baker but this time Rodriguez was more reassured as he caught the ball under pressure from Saido Berahino.
England had to thank Butland again just before the half-hour mark when a long range shot was diverted into the path of Guarch in the area. He only had the ‘keeper to beat but again Butland pulled off a fabulous stop to deny him before Ben Gordon cleared the danger.
Guarch spurned another decent opportunity to open the scoring five minutes later when Ulises Davila’s cross from the left found its way to the Tecos UAG forward, but his left-footed volley flew high over the bar.
Chances at the other end weren’t quite as forthcoming, although Berahino’s cross from the right picked out Matt Phillips in the area before Nestor Araujo recovered to make a good challenge and win his side a free-kick.
And it was from a set-piece when England threatened again, as Phillips was upended 25 yards from goal before Billy Knott fired over the free-kick.
On the stroke of half-time Phillips was again the instigator as his pass into the area picked out Berahino, who just couldn’t quite turn quick enough to get a shot in.
England introduced Dean Parrett at the break, to replace Knott in midfield and add some fresh legs to the team in the stifling conditions. The Spurs man provided instant energy too, moving the ball quickly and incisively as the Young Lions looked to probe Mexico a little more in the second half.
And it was Parrett who almost helped break the deadlock, as his deep cross to the far post from the right was met unerringly on the volley by McManaman. It looked a goal all the way, but Rodriguez produced a fine reaction save to just get enough on the ball to prevent it rolling over the line.
Unfortunately Parrett wasn’t quite so accurate in the 69th minute, when he blazed over a free-kick which he’d won himself on the left flank.
At the other end, Torres flashed a volley wide of the target after finding himself in space and connecting with Cesar Ibanez’s free-kick from the right.
Parrett then tried his luck with a powerdriver from 25 yards after neatly receiving and turning on a pass from Ben Gordon, but his effort was always rising and went well over the bar.
As time ran down, the news of Argentina’s 2-0 victory over Korea DPR in the other Group F game no doubt filtered through to the players, meaning Mexico wouldn’t be able to finish top of the group and with both teams visibly tiring, it was a much more slow paced end to the game and one which they would no doubt have settled for two hours earlier.