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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
World Cup scouting for England

Formation and tacticsHow did Eriksson use his substitutions?England extrasCan England win the World Cup?

By Andrew McKenzie
BBC Sport at the Madejski Stadium

England's World Cup warm-up campaign got off to a losing start with defeat to Belarus.

An England B team went down 2-1 to the team ranked 65th in the world and who finished with 10 men.

BBC Sport finds out what England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will have learned from his Reading roadtrip.

FORMATION & TACTICS

It might have been a B international but when it comes to formation at least, Eriksson showed that there is no Plan B.

England started and finished with the coach's tried and tested 4-4-2 system.

The personnel changed but the shape of the team stayed largely the same throughout.

Tottenham midfielders Michael Carrick and Jermaine Jenas
Carrick and Jenas struggled to stamp their authority in midfield

The main difference between this line-up and Eriksson's expected starting side for the World Cup was the presence of two natural, out-and-out wingers.

With Stewart Downing on the left and Aaron Lennon on the right, both supported by attacking full-backs in Ashley Cole and Owen Hargreaves, England looked dangerous from the off.

At times it was like watching Brazil as Cole and Hargreaves bombed forward to provide a multitude of attacking options.

Unfortunately, while England looked like causing problems whenever they went forward, the tactic broke down when their passing became sloppy and loss of possession coincided with men up the field.

They also failed to gain the upper hand in the central midfield area that remains a worry.

Jermaine Jenas and Michael Carrick often got in each other's way and the Tottenham pair have none of the usual unfamiliarity excuses.

Whether it was a lack of concentration or over eagerness to impress, both went through periods where they gave the ball away needlessly.

Doubts remain about whether Carrick has the bite to play the Claude Makelele role he so desires.

Up front Peter Crouch and Michael Owen looked like a potential partnership in the making, providing the level of service is improved.

SVEN'S SUBSTITUTIONS

Eriksson's first substitution proved to be an all-round disaster.

Robert Green replaced David James, who had barely been tested in the first 45 minutes, but the Norwich keeper was stretchered off minutes later with a groin injury that will rule him out of the World Cup.

WORLD CUP FORM GUIDES

One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity and up stepped Scott Carson to take Green's place.

Apart from picking the ball out of the net for Belarus' later winner and a few regulation clearances, Carson had little to do.

He is unlikely to have much involvement on the pitch from now on as Eriksson likely sticks with the experience of Paul Robinson and James.

Theo Walcott was given 30 minutes to shine and offered some evidence to support Eriksson's big gamble.

A bursting run and a long-range snapshot were the highlights, but with England gradually losing their way his opportunities to impress soon dried up.

ENGLAND EXTRAS

The hype was all about Walcott, but it was Lennon who was the real find of the night.

The Spurs winger bears remarkable similarities to Shaun Wright-Phillips BC.

The pace, the dribbling ability, the willingness to attack defenders head on and the confidence to combine all three in a low-centre-of-gravity package bring back memories of Wright-Phillips Before Chelsea.

There were periods when Belarus' tight marking kept him quiet, but on this evidence Lennon could have jumped to the front of the queue of players Eriksson turns to if he needs a spark off the bench.

England striker Peter Crouch
Crouch turned in another workmanlike performance

The role of Crouch will largely depend on Wayne Rooney's availability, but the much-maligned Liverpool forward did his chances of starting against Paraguay on 10 June no harm.

Crouch showed some delightful pieces of skill and awareness to complement the more common attributes to his game - namely being a handful and offering something different.

Jamie Carragher sent a reminder to Eriksson - if he needed any reminding - that if there are injuries to his first-choice centre-halves then he need not worry.

Alongside Liverpool's Mr Dependable in defence there was good news and bad news.

The good news is that Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell made it through 90 minutes unscathed and are both getting closer to match fitness.

The bad news is that on the other side of Carragher, Hargreaves gave a performance that suggested right-back is not his best position.

Too often he was caught out of position and too often he put England in danger or on the back foot with stray passes.

Belarus failed to hand out the sort of punishment that the likes of Brazil will not think twice about.

WORLD CUP VERDICT

With two weeks - and just 180 minutes of football - between now and the World Cup, what did Eriksson discover at the Madejski Stadium?

It could be argued that he learned more about England's prospects for the 2010 World Cup than this summer's tournament.

Three uncapped players made the field and the average age of the team at the end of the game was just 23.

It is certainly good news for Steve McClaren, who takes over from Eriksson after the finals and will clearly benefit from seeing the likes of Walcott, Downing and Lennon cut their baby teeth in international football at such a young age.

Only time will tell how much of a factor any of them will have in Germany.

But despite the loss Eriksson will feel happy that he has sampled a little taste of the future.

Perhaps more importantly, in Lennon more than most, he has discovered something that will worry the rest of the world this summer.



SEE ALSO
England B 1-2 Belarus
25 May 06 |  England
England's World Cup form guide
24 May 06 |  England
England scouting review
12 May 06 |  England
England team guide
22 May 06 |  England
Pick your England team
08 May 06 |  Squad selectors
World Cup schedule
25 May 06 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
28 Apr 06 |  Football
BBC World Cup coverage
27 Apr 06 |  BBC coverage


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