England’s speed proved too much for Hungary as their resistance crumbled in the second half… the Three Lions are a very good side in the making but creating chances remains a challenge
- England beat Hungary 4-0 in their World Cup qualifier on Thursday night
- The Three Lions’ speed proved to much as they broke through their defence
- Creating goal scoring chances remains a challenge for Gareth Southgate’s side
- England are a very good side in the making and Southgate will feel vindicated
Italy, the champions of Europe and conquerors of England, failed to beat Bulgaria at home on Thursday. Maybe football is not as straight forward as some people think.
Gareth Southgate and England, meanwhile, have a 100 per cent World Cup qualifying record and can begin to think about a place in the Qatar finals in winter 2022.
The encouraging thing about this group of England players is that they are fundamentally talented. Even the most determined curmudgeon cannot deny that.
England beat Hungary 4-0 on Thursday with four goals in a dominant second half
Conversations and discussions about the manager and his tactics will always be there. Whenever with England was this not the case?
For a nation that has won as many major trophies as Greece, Czechoslovakia and Portugal, an awful lot is expected. At least in part, this drives recent criticism.
So this was a timely reminder of what the current England team is capable of.
Largely impotent during a first half that saw them unable to think their way through and round a Hungary team determined to remain resolutely in their own half, they cut loose once Raheem Sterling scored their first goal early in the second period.
The Three Lions’ pace proved too much for the hosts as Raheem Sterling opened the scoring
It was speed that did it in the end. It was not Southgate’s tactics or instructions. It was just the speed of England’s football.
After half-time, they moved the ball quicker and with more sharpness. Once they managed that and scored the opening goal, they clicked in to a rhythm and Hungarian resistance fell apart. That is often the way the psychology of football works.
There had been much talk of the home crowd at the Puskas Stadium but that proved to be a decoy too.
Supporters need their team to do something on which an atmosphere can build. In Budapest, Hungary gave their fans nothing and by way of return the locals threw paper cups at England players after they scored and monkey chants at some of the visiting substitutes. We will hear more about that.
In defending his tactical approach ahead of the game, Southgate spoke of his team’s comfort in possession of the ball and the way his England likes to build play from front to back. All that was evident here.
Creating goal scoring opportunities is something that can sometimes come less easily to them. That remains a challenge, particularly against the really good teams. For a while it was in this game, too.
Here the challenge was familiar for a game of this type. Hungary earned two good draws against Germany and France in this stadium in the summer but did not get there by being expansive. They struck their opponents on the break and that was clearly the plan once more.
Creating goal scoring opportunities is something which remains a challenge for England
As such, possession was not an issue for England. They had bags of it. The problem was finding a way through.
That was a puzzle that lasted until half-time but became a memory once Sterling scored and in doing so compelled Hungary to effectively join in with the game.
Early on, with Jack Grealish and Sterling lively either side of Harry Kane, there were reasons for optimism as England stretched the home team across the width of the pitch. Looking at England in the long-term – to the World Cup and beyond – this still feels like the way forward and it certainly was here in the end. When Southgate’s team get the ball in to wide areas with overloads coming from midfield and full-back, they are at their most dangerous.
It was football such as this that brought England such success against Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark and, early on, Italy during the summer.
It was absent for long periods before half-time here. It is never a good sign when Kane is seen dropping deep in search of the ball and at times here he left footprints in the centre circle.
Harry Kane found himself having to drop deep in the first half but it was not to last
Gareth Southgate belives in his system and tactics and will feel vindicated by the scoreline
But it was not to last and it was right-back Kyle Walker who signalled a change of tempo early in the second half. His through pass to Kane was zipped perfectly across the turf and the captain should have scored.
The first goal was then reminiscent of the summer. A counter attack, a dashing overlap by Mason Mount and a pull back despatched by Sterling. Lovely football and that was the game.
Hungary were not good enough to get back in to it. Maybe the home team should have been more ambitious from the start. Maybe that would have got the home supporters involved.
Here, those questions were for someone other than Southgate. The England manager has a belief in what he does and will not change. He is also human, though, so he will feel vindicated by this performance and this score line.
England are a very good side in the making. Tactics and systems will impact on that but only to a degree.
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