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There’s only one Michael Ballack..
Like political pundits on local election night, football reporters can’t help reading too much into the results of international friendlies.
Pretty much the least interesting thing about England’s error-strewn 2-1 win over Germany in Berlin on Wednesday was the result, but there was food for thought in the performances of two under-strength teams.
1. England seem to bat quite a lot deeper than they used to, with a number of the players coming in doing good jobs. Barry and Carrick easily won their midfield battle with Rolfes and Jones, while Wright-Philiips was probably the best player in the pitch. Time for the Gerrard-Lampard partnership to be definitively retired?
2. England have never been short of confidence in the ability of their players as individuals, but what seems to be developing now is a collective confidence, which showed itself in the patient way they exercised control in the first half.
In the past England have looked nervous and given the ball away too much when they have had to wait for a breakthrough. They looked pretty calm on Wednesday and their performance was all the better for it.
3. England still have a goalkeeping problem to sort out. David James looked nervous early on, while Scott Carson played his part in that ridiculous mistake for Germany’s equaliser. Germany look better placed in that respect. I’ve got a feeling that Rene Adler’s claims that he was impeded on the first England goal might have been heeded in a competitive match, and Tim Wiese looked good in the second half.
4. Germany still have a worrying case of Ballack dependency, and unless coach Joachim Loew is prepared to be more adventurous they are not going to solve it any time soon. Certainly, just plonking Jones and Rolfes together in the centre presented a poor imitation of Ballack and Frings.
Germany looked better in the second half when Marko Marin came on for Jones and Schweinsteiger came infield. Wouldn’t it have been worth a look at Schweinsteiger as a central midfielder from the start? His impact in the first half as a right-winger was effectively zero.
5. There is such a thing as a Germany v England friendly. I don’t know what it looked like on TV, with the sound of the crowd turned up, the excited commentary and the myriad camera angles, but from the ground there was something half-hearted about it, especially for the first hour or so.
Still, there was a lot for England to be pleased about, while Loew must be relieved that last month’s row with Ballack didn’t lead to the captain turning his back on the national team for good.
For Germany, Ballack is irreplaceable. How many England players can you say that about now?
PHOTO: England’s John Terry and Germany’s Lukas Podolski (R) go head-to-head during their international friendly at Olympiastadion in Berlin Nov. 19, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Charisius