England Storms Through. The View From Moscow.
Mojo bar in Moscow, an expat’s favourite hang out, was packed out on Saturday evening with members of the English community, and Russian partners and friends who had all come to watch World Cup football. Here are some comments made by some of the fans, as the England vs. Sweden match progressed.
…15 Minutes In
What do you think of the game so far?
“It’s a bit slow to be honest, England look like they’re the best team, just, but they have yet to really show it. Maybe they’re too frighted to show their teeth after the mauling of the Colombian game. We’ll see. But I’m really happy how the whole thing is going. Russia’s hosting it, and it is nice to see them making history.
The whole atmosphere in Moscow is really cool. A lot of people who were never really into footie have now turned into colourful supports, it’s like an on going party. I’m not sure what will happen if Russia loses tonight though”
…20 Minutes In
How have England been playing so far?
“I want the storm that we had in the first 10 minutes against Tunisia, when we overwhelmed them. I don’t want us to be complacent against Sweden, I want us to be two or three goals ahead, then we will make our mark. …What we need is a concentrated amount of team work and a huge amount of stamina. We seem to be playing for control and possession all the time, but this isn’t enough, we need to overwhelm them, we need different tactics.”
This is a completely different experience from the Columbia game, right?
“The game with Columbia was anything but polite, this is. Columbia should have had three red cards. The referee had a very difficult game and it is interesting to note that the referee was from the USA. It is also interesting to note that Maradona has subsequently apologised and withdrawn his comments when he accused the referee of favouritism. It is potentially true that the referee didn’t have experience. A couple of times, England slipped and reacted to Columbia’s provocation. I thought Columba played in a very un-sportsman like manner. In compete contrast, this game between England and Sweden is very gentlemanly. Very clean, no yellow cards, it’s a sport, a game, that’s what football is supposed to be. At the moment the better team are winning but I want them to win by a safer margin then we can relax. The way to do it is to speed up the game. Sweden are following their own tactics — containment. If we are not contained, if we refuse to be contained, if we try to overwhelm and swarm then we break their tactics. If we attack the goal 100 times and we score twice out of 100, then that’s good. By the way, the British government is very disappointing in its lack of support for the English team and British representation here in Russia.”
Your take on the game so far?
“That second goal has put us into a stronger position but the Swedes can always counter attack at any time. We need to have another goal at least. I think we’ve missed some opportunities, because we should have been two nil up now at half time, Sterling really had a couple of golden chances, he’s got great pace, there’s no doubt about that, but he doesn’t finish it through. It’s easy to see why he hasn’t scored a goal in an awful long time. Most of the people on this table thought he should be substituted at half time, but the commentators like Gary Lineka was saying that he’s really fast, and he is causing problems for the Swedes. So you’ve got to balance that one out. Do you keep them on or do you keep them off. So we’re two nil up now, but you know they say that a week is a long time in politics, well half an hour is a really long time in sports. I’d also like to add that we have an awful lot to thank our goal keep Jordan Pickford for. He’s made two spectacular saves already this afternoon, and God knows how many good saves in previous matches. It’s fantastic to have somebody that good to rely on at the last wall of defence.”
…End of game
How have England played in your opinion?
“My impression is that England are playing so much better during this tournament than I’ve ever seen them playing before. There’s a real feeling that they are going to win each game, instead of going in there thinking that Oh we’re going to get a bad result. So for me, it has been an excellent tournament, England have surpassed all expectations. Even when it went to penalties against Columbia, and England haven’t got a great record in that respect, I still had the feeling that somehow we could get through, which I have never really felt before in this championship. Obviously the games get more difficult, whether we can go all the way or not, I don’t know, but certainly we’re playing extremely well. We’ve had the upper hand throughout this match. Sweden have had a few chances but the dominance has definitely been with England. They had a few chances that they didn’t take, they could have scored more. There was an excellent save by England’s goal keeper early in second half, but certainly if England end up winning, which it looks like it will, with only a few minutes left, that will be a fair result.”
What comparison is there with the game with Columbia?
“It’s far less emotional, in the Columbia match there was a fair bit of unsportsmanlike like play, and the penalties that England scored took a ridiculous amount of time. There was too much intimidation, the referee should have clamped down harder. Here, as you would expect from Sweden, we see a much cooler play, fair play. So the games are very very different psychologically in that respect.”
“England has just scored two goals. I came to this match having read up on the odds and not being terribly confident, but actually, watching this game, it looked like they were having fun. It looked like they were in a party. They were enjoying it.
I predicted two nil today; I thought when the game started it was either going to be nil nil, one all, penalties or two nil. England were brilliant, they really really played well, they got their tactics right, they carried on the attack until the end, they did everything a decent manager would have asked of them, and that manager is Gareth Southgate. They are well prepared, they didn’t under pressure, they didn’t make mistakes. They had a bit of a false start but they recovered from that pretty well, so I think we can be confident that they are gong to make a good account of themselves in the semi final.
Did you think that Russia might play England?
“I think it would have be brilliant for world football in the sense that that Russia would be playing the founders, the people who invented the game, but I think it will be a difficult task. I’m not into politics, but there would be some interesting political developments off the back of it. There are all sorts of undecided issues there.”
But England will not play Russia in the semi final. Later that night, in a very close game Russia lost against Croatia. Social media in Russia was full of foreigners expressing how well Russia had played, and that they really did have something to be proud of. This is very true. England do as well, both teams have made history for their respective countries, and what is so amazing about all of this, is that there is a genuine mutual respect for each other here in Russia. Ole Ole!, let’s have more international sporting events please!