So despite a distinctly average performance in Tallinn as England struggled to breakdown 10 man Estonia, a breakthrough was eventually forced by captain, Wayne Rooney (JOB DONE I SAY) and the Three Lions left the Estonian capital with the points and their 100% qualifying record intact. However, seemingly the big headline from the game was that Raheem Sterling felt that he was too ‘tired’ to play the full 90 minutes. Manager Roy Hodgson told the truth when interviewed pre-match on his absence from the starting line up. The inevitable furore began as to how a 19 year old professional athlete can be tired only a few months into the season, especially when you bear in mind he only played 45 minutes football in the previous week, and looked lively enough when he came on and inevitably was the player fouled for what became the winning free kick – sods law 😀 . For me it is very strange, there is obviously a club vs country issue between England (Roy Hodgson) and the players ‘day job’ employers Liverpool (Brendan Rodgers) stemming back to the fact that Daniel Sturridge sustained an injury on international duty in September (he has not played for his club side since). One thing I noticed was that Sterling was not massively missed – Roy does now have options – Adam Lallana, who played and had a decent game, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who came on to good effect) and Andros Townsend were on the bench, bear in mind with players such as Theo Walcott, Ross Barkley and the aforementioned Sturridge to come back, feeling tired may just cost a player a starting berth for the national team – strength in depth indeed.
Now according to some experts, the bloating of the next European Championships to 24 teams will make the ongoing qualification process boring as nearly half of the nations (23 out of the 53) will eventually qualify. Yes we know the top teams are very likely to qualify but it has not been as straightforward for some as might have been thought with defeats already for Germany, Spain and the Netherlands – even Russia only drew at home to Moldova. For me the new format gives a lot of hope to the middle and lower ranking teams, giving them a much more realistic chance of making it to France in 2016. Ask the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish to name just a few, what they think, I’d imagine they are delighted especially as they have not qualified for a major tournament for a number of years. Furthermore look at a team such as Iceland, three wins from three and topping a group that contains Netherlands, Turkey, Czech Republic and Latvia, they have never qualified for a major tournament in their history, they have a fantastic chance under this new format. Fans of all these nations who now have this opportunity will be crossing their fingers in anticipation and for me that’s a good thing.
Let me know what you think – you can also tweet me @biggishmouth or go to my facebook page at www.facebook.com/thebiggishmouth