When Gareth Southgate sat down to meet the media in the Terry Paine lounge at St Mary’s on Tuesday night, the topic in hand was human error.Such a debate would normally offer great insight for all of us, given our proclivity for mistakes in the most unexpected (and expected) of circumstances. But this was specifically to do with the errors of human footballers, and the very best footballers at that, so the learnings for mere mortals were limited.
However much you might wish to put yourself in Declan Rice’s shoes, in a very real sense, you could not.International football: 10 talking points from the latest round of games Read moreTo be fair, Southgate was struggling to make sense of things too. Kosovo had scored their first goal, in the first minute of the match, when a one-touch passing triangle went horribly wrong and Michael Keane played the ball blind into the hulking form of Kosovo’s Vedat Muriqi.
The second error to result in a goal came just after half-time and belonged to Rice. This one was even worse, with the West Ham midfielder passing the ball to his opponent while looking straight at him.Southgate suggested the glitches could have been due to pressure or to the intensity of the game. Certainly Kosovo had been talked up before the match as being a more challenging opponent than England’s usual qualifying fare and this assessment wasn’t too far off.
The visitors also set about the match eagerly and after half-time, desperate to restore some integrity with the score at 5-1, the intensity was increased. The Kosovans scored all three of their goals during these two periods and, so, the explanations were plausible. Southgate said he would take a little more time to make his mind up about what happened but, either way, it was “concerning”.
Just how concerning is that? Again, without a device that can wriggle inside his brain, we will struggle to know what Southgate really thinks. But you can say with confidence that the mistakes were concerning because they not only took off the gloss, but also a layer of undercoat from an otherwise Sterling performance (pun very much intended).
England tore through the Kosovans with quick, vertical football and a world-class player (that’s Raheem again) directing the play. To see shoddy behaviour at the other end, and behaviour that was duly punished, harshed the buzz of many in the ground.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Brain freeze: Michael Keane (right) passes the ball to Kosovo’s Vedat Muriqi inside the first minute on Tuesday, to gift the visitors an early lead.
Photograph: ITVOn the other hand, it is not like England were ever really in danger of doing anything other than winning the game comfortably. They were so far ahead at half-time that keeping the same levels of concentration would have been difficult however hard they tried. And despite the two quick goals after the restart, England soon regained the balance of play and the initiative.
. They missed a penalty, hit the woodwork and failed.....