There appears to have been an attack of the clones in Nuremberg tonight.
For a start, they’ve clearly replicated Trinidad and Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker and been letting their creation loose to wreak media mischief.
The real Dutchman has just had to fend off a challenge that he described his England opponents, at half-time tonight, as “too predictable”.
What rubbish, he quickly countered.
“I wasn’t interviewed at half-time. That wasn’t me. Call me a lookalike – I don’t know…”
Not content with that stunt, the copycat-creator must have set to work on a few of those wearing England shirts this evening.
Surely, for instance, that can’t have been the real Frank Lampard, scourge of Premiership defences with his fierce firepower, his pinpoint accuracy?
This one certainly looked like the real deal, sure, in face and physique.
But he might as well have been one of those life-size Lampard cardboard cut-outs following you at every turn in Tesco, for all his accuracy when countless chances came his way.
Then how about that alleged “Paul Robinson” out there in Nuremberg, going walkabout and flapping around with all the goalkeeping prowess of his Neighbours namesake?
Most misguided impression of all, however, was the entire England side’s pale imitation of genuine World Cup contenders.
Except, except… they got away with it. Again.
David Beckham, switched to right-back in one of the most unlikely of improvisations, redeemed his stinker of a performance with the dead-eyed cross for Peter Crouch’s late breakthrough.
That 82nd minute goal redeemed Crouch, who had earlier combined truly humiliating finishing with a shoddy lack of effort to track back and generally do the good-natured hard work he should at least always have in his favour.
Then Steve Gerrard, like Lampard and Beckham a calamity against the Caribbeans tonight, also salvaged the night – albeit in more stunning style, with the injury-time flyer.
So we’ll moan, and it was miserable for much of the match. But we’re through to the next round with a game to spare – and the boy Wayne-der was resurrected, for a heftier-than-expected 35 minutes too.
Also encouraging was the cameo for Aaron Lennon, ever keen to skin a full-back with his pace and trickery.
He even managed to stretch his tiny frame a crucial extra millimetre or two to head an ambitious Downing pass back into play, teeing up Beckham to tee up Crouch.
So England managed to rally in Nuremberg, endured an arduous trial, and eventually got out of jail.
Or something like that, I’ll leave tomorrow’s papers to polish the inevitable metaphors.
Perhaps, if tonight’s Sweden-Paraguay game ends a draw, guaranteeing us top of the group, we might even see key players rested and our rookies blooded in an experimental line-up next Tuesday?
Certainly a change of approach of some kind would be welcomed, if we are seriously to trouble the likes of Italy, Brazil, Argentina, the Czechs or even Germany?
For long, oh-so-very-long periods tonight, we were just so laboured, so ponderous and predictable (yes, Leo may not have said it but plenty did).
Neither were we the stylish, patient passers of Continental aspirations – nor the pacy, pressing
This was the third way – and it proved a dead end.
Or surely will do if we don’t move into a higher gear – and then another, and then another – when the serious stuff starts, second round onwards.
So Beenhakker was eventually tempted to say, in a detailed and convincing critique of his (narrow) conquerors tonight.
“Almost every time, the first option for them was looking for the high ball for Crouch. I understand that.
“But at the moment, you’re eliminating some very important midfield players like that.
“Every coach is driving the same road, but we’re all of us driving in different cars. Coaches of other teams know their players much better than I do.
“But to go on in this tournament, you have to demonstrate a little bit more patience.
“It’s important and dangerous to bring in someone in the box like Crouch or Ibrahimovic.
“It’s an option – but not the only option.
“When they meet stronger teams, they will probably have to show more patience.”
Friendly and intelligent guy, that Beenhakker. Maybe it’sch that Dutschh accschent that does it.
But still: “This is free advice. I will not ask payment for it.”
Minutes later, we had Sven insisting: “I think we played a lot better than we did on Saturday, especially in the second half. We showed a lot of patience.
“If we had taken the chances in the first half or earlier in the second half, it might have been a different match.
“If we play the big teams in the tournament, it will not be much like today. We will be better.”
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