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Page last updated at 22:19 GMT, Wednesday, 12 September 2007 23:19 UK

BBC pundits on England

The BBC's team of expert analysts from Match of the Day and Radio 5live give their verdicts on England's 3-0 victory over Russia.

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
Match of the Day pundit

It was a great performance from England.

We said on Saturday that the bigger test was still to come and this was it. They needed to build on the performance against Israel and that's what they did.

They were excellent right from the word go. The tempo was high, they got it down and played some great football.

There were a lot of star performers: Gareth Barry in the middle of the park was brilliant all night long, Emile Heskey just killed them and Michael Owen once again proved that if you put the ball in the slot, there's nobody better at finishing.

Never in a million years did I expect to be discussing whether Emile Heskey should keep his place ahead of Wayne Rooney

Alan Shearer
Steve McClaren's selection for the next game will be interesting.

In my opinion, it would be very, very difficult to change this team because they've played so well over the two matches.

It is the great managers who show no sentiment whatsoever: they just pick the best team for a particular match.

The performance on Saturday was difficult to gauge because of the standard of the opposition but tonight they played extremely well against a half-decent team.

We've always known that England have great players, there's no doubt about that, it's just getting the right formula.

Maybe Steve McClaren's found it.

Alan Shearer
By Alan Shearer
Former England captain and Match of the Day pundit

England did the damage in the first half and it was a classic second-half performance where they just killed the game.

They kept on doing what they had to do and then got the third goal they so deserved. It was a great performance.

Never in a million years did I expect to be discussing whether Emile Heskey should keep his place ahead of Wayne Rooney but the Wigan striker was outstanding over both games.

You have to give great credit to him for the way he has performed. He didn't get the goal that his performances deserved but he's done everything else. He battered Russia all night long in the air.

Rio Ferdinand's goal topped a great few days for England. The feel-good factor is back.

The negative vibes have been wiped away by two very good performances, particularly against Russia.

We all said that Israel put up a very poor performance but Russia were no mugs. They may not have had much of a cutting edge going forward but let's remember, they had only conceded one goal in qualifying until tonight.

McClaren has almost stumbed on a winning team.

If Wayne Rooney, Owen Hargreaves and Frank Lampard had been fit and Peter Crouch hadn't been suspended for the Israel game, we probably wouldn't have seen Emile Heskey and Gareth Barry in there.

Ian Wright
By Ian Wright
Former England international & BBC Radio 5live pundit

You have to take your hat off to the manager. He brought in Emile Heskey and a lot of people weren't really happy but he's been proved right.

Owen may have scored the goals and he'll get all the plaudits but in my opinion, Barry should be man of the match.

Your star players don't always make your star team

Graham Taylor
I'm pleased for Owen though. People might think his first goal was an easy one to take but you need anticipation and composure.

He's ready for the ball when it comes to him, makes himself some time with the first touch and then shows the composure to pick his spot. A lot of strikers would have panicked in that situation.

As for the second goal, it was magnificent.

Owen's partnership with Heskey is a classic England partnership. It's the way we play when we play well, with the small man running off the big man and wingers creating the chances.

I'm pleased for McClaren. He got a lot of flack when he recalled Heskey but tonight will be the first time he'll be able to sleep well since he took over as England boss.

Graham Taylor
By Graham Taylor
Former England manager & BBC Radio 5live pundit

England haven't won two successive competitive games like that for some time and they're in a much healthier position as a result.

The point is your star players don't always make your star team. You have to get the balance and the shape right and anyone with half a brain can see the balance and shape Barry has given this side.

Barry has had to wait for his chance. He played 27 timees for the under-21s and never made that step into the full side but all along, he's had an inner conviction that he is good enough to play for his country.

He played very well in central midfield and he and Gerrard compliment each other very well.

If England had dropped points against either Israel or Russia at home they would have been fortunate to go through.

Now, if they beat Estonia they will go to Russia five points ahead.

Even if they were to lose, psychologically it's important that they'll still be ahead of them, but don't forget, if Russia win their remaining three games they go through.

Chris Waddle
By Chris Waddle
Former England international & BBC Radio 5live pundit

It will be interesting to see what McClaren does with his system now.

He has been forced to play in that way because of the injuries, but the players who have come in have done us proud.

If it was me, if nobody's injured, I'd play the same team against Estonia and leave Rooney on the bench.

Heskey and Owen are outstanding as a partnership - Heskey won everything in the air, is mobile and got himself in great positions and it's nice to see Owen fit and looking sharper and sharper.

The only slight downside is a lack of quality from Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole from the flanks on their deliveries, but Wright-Phillips, or Aaron Lennon, has to play because of their pace.

Maybe you could move Gareth Barry slightly left and bring in Owen Hargreaves, but how can you drop Barry? He has been absolutely first class in these two games.

see also
England 3-0 Russia
12 Sep 07 |  Internationals
Rejuvenated Owen boosts England
13 Sep 07 |  Internationals
McClaren heaps praise on England
12 Sep 07 |  Internationals
Euro 2008 qualifying as it happened
12 Sep 07 |  Internationals
International photos
12 Sep 07 |  Football
Pick your England XI
31 Aug 07 |  Internationals


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