Tag Archives: revival

Stewart Downing says Liverpool revival is down to Brendan Rodgers

Downing: Rodgers fallout and being told I could leave inspired my Liverpool revival

By
Press Association Reporter

PUBLISHED:

16:13 GMT, 24 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:58 GMT, 24 January 2013

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing admits a difference of opinion with manager Brendan Rodgers over where his future lay sparked his revival in fortunes.

The England midfielder was told a couple of months ago he could leave in the transfer window if the right offer came in as he was not a regular under the Northern Irishman.

Downing, however, saw it differently and, helped by injuries and unavailability of other players, got a chance to earn a run in the team and his performances in the last six weeks have shown a marked improvement.

Settled: Downing is happy again at Liverpool

Settled: Downing is happy again at Liverpool

'It was very open,' the 28-year-old said of his discussion with Rodgers. 'I wasn't in the team or playing and he said to me maybe I could look elsewhere because I need to play at my age.

'I didn't totally agree but I understood where he was coming from.

'Obviously he needs players who are going to play and not be sat about, but I thought in the back of my mind if I get a chance I can prove myself
to him.

'Luckily enough I did in the next week or so after that.

Open: Rodgers had told Downing he could leave

Open: Rodgers had told Downing he could leave

'Our conversations have been very open. If I'm doing well he will say so and if not, I'll be pulled and told what I need to do.

'It's the same for all the players. It's good for me and that's how I like it, to be told if it's right or wrong.

'At the moment it's all going well and he's pleased with me, so I have to keep it going.

'I said to him I'd love to stay and if I keep playing well, then hopefully it can continue into the seasons after.

Hotshot: The form of Raheem Sterling was one reason Downing was not a regular

Hotshot: The form of Raheem Sterling was one reason Downing was not a regular

'I've still got a few more years on my contract so I'd like to see it out if that can happen, and the only thing I can do is play well and he'll keep me in the team.'

Downing believes his recent performances have been the most consistent of his 18 months at Anfield.

He also feels it helps the team have put in some positive displays which have boosted confidence all round.

'The first season was patchy, I was in and out, but this year since I came back into the side it's been consistently quite good,' he told liverpoolfc.com.

Competition: Suso was another to keep Downing sidelined

Competition: Suso was another to keep Downing sidelined

'It's probably because the team is playing quite well that it has all come together.

'A good run of games has been good for me. I think I've proven in my career that if I play regularly I tend to give good and consistent performances.

'It was disappointing because I was in and out, in and out and it was becoming a bit frustrating at times, but the best thing is playing in a winning team and playing with good players helps.

'There's consistency in the whole team, which is helping my game as well.

Provider: Downing has contributed to Sturridge's scoring start

Provider: Downing has contributed to Sturridge's scoring start

'My aim every game is to make the manager not leave me out. The only way to do that is to perform well.

'I've basically had nothing to lose in games and I think that's helped me over the last few weeks and long may it continue.'

Liverpool's pursuit of Inter Milan's Philippe Coutinho rests on whether the Italian side are prepared to accept what amounts to a final offer for the midfielder.

Targeted: Coutinho could yet join Liverpool

Targeted: Coutinho could yet join Liverpool

The Merseyside club have made a bid approaching 8million for the Brazil man, who is keen on a move to Anfield despite previous comments suggesting he was happy in Italy.

However, Rodgers has no inclination to pay above his valuation for the 20-year-old and will not be persuaded otherwise, despite reports Southampton are interested.

Steven Fletcher backs Sunderland revival after beating Southampton

Red-hot Fletcher revels in Sunderland revival after victory over Southampton

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UPDATED:

15:09 GMT, 23 December 2012

Steven Fletcher always knew Sunderland's season would start to turn around and believes their win at Southampton will help them through their tough Christmas period.

The Black Cats have struggled this season and headed to St Mary's in 16th place, just a point and a place better off than the hosts.

Fletcher's first half strike proved the difference in appalling conditions on the south coast as Martin O'Neill's side eked out a 1-0 win to make it two victories from their last three matches.

Festive cheer: Steven Fletcher celebrates his winner at Southampton for Sunderland

Festive cheer: Steven Fletcher celebrates his winner at Southampton for Sunderland

'We're all professional boys,' the Scotland international said. 'We all know what is needed when we need to go and win game.

'I thought it was a good performance. We attacked well and defended well so you're always going to win games when you play like that.

'Sometimes it is not pretty and we ground it out. We needed the three points and we got that.

'We're just happy we got three points and a good performance as well.'

It is a result that Fletcher hopes can act as a catalyst for further success this Christmas, with Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool all lying in wait.

'We approach them with a bit of confidence,' the striker said.

Pleased as punch: Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill was delighted after his side picked up three points away from home

Pleased as punch: Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill was delighted after his side picked up three points away from home

'We know we've got a hard Christmas period coming up but we've built a bit of confidence and we'll take that into the next game.

'The boys are all very tight. We all get on very well. It is a good bunch of lads.

'If we keep our heads down and keep working hard, we'll get results like this.'

Fletcher's instinctive strike was the summer signing's eighth league goal of the campaign.

The 25-year-old has shone for Sunderland and would like nothing more than to add to his tally when City visit the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day.

'I think Sessy [Stephane Sessegnon] will take an assist for that one but I think he had a shot,' he said with a smile.

'I am just glad I got another goal and we got the win.

'It just came to me quick and my instinct was to side-foot it away. Luckily for me it went in the back of the net.

'It would be nice to get a goal under my belt and another win, but we'll wait to see what happens.”

UEFA chief dismisses Celtic"s escape plan

UEFA chief dismisses Celtic's escape plan and tells them to stay playing in Scotland

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UPDATED:

14:06 GMT, 22 December 2012

Celtic have been warned by UEFA that the latest plan to escape Scottish football is doomed to failure.

Parkhead Chief Executive Peter Lawwell expressed support for the establishment of regional leagues amidst reports the Russian and Ukrainian leagues are close to a merger.

Keen to compete financially with Europe’s giants, the Parkhead club are also lobbying for a move to England or a revival of the Atlantic League concept featuring Scottish, Dutch, Belgian and Scandinavian clubs.

Keen to explore: Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell watching with interest as the Russian and Ukrainian leagues move closer to a merger

Keen to explore: Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell watching with interest as the Russian and Ukrainian leagues move closer to a merger

In a stark warning, however, UEFA events chief David Taylor says the European power remains opposed to cross border competitons.

'We are a long way short of what people might call a Berlin Wall moment,” says the former SFA chief.

'There are all sorts of complications and there are not any formal talks about this at all.

'Of course there are always ideas circulating in European club football.

'UEFA has to be aware and alive to what the clubs are thinking.

'But at the end of the day football still is organised on the basis of national associations in each country organising their football.

'And there is no appetite to move away from this.

'It’s far from the case that anything has been agreed in Ukraine and Russia.

'There have been some discussions, ideas have been floated and nobody can stop clubs discussing anything. They are perfectly free to discuss things – but not with UEFA. That is not happening.'

Draw time: Celtic manager Neil Lennon watches intently as the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League gets underway in Nyon

Draw time: Celtic manager Neil Lennon watches intently as the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League gets underway in Nyon

Sergei Palkin, Chief Executive of Shaktar Donetsk claims a league is inevitable at some point, but admits reports of a deal have jumped the gun.

Speaking at Thursday’s Champions League draw he said: 'Yes, there have been conversations but these conversations have all been at the Russian side.

'As yet they have not invited anyone from Ukraine.

'For sure it will happen at some point in the future because there is huge interest from the people for the countries to come together as leagues.

'We all want one thing. Good results in Europe.

'In the European tournaments you need to be strong – so it is vital you have a strong domestic competition.

'Its tough to compete with Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid because they play in far strong leagues than we do. That shows in their results in Europe.

'Even if it is going to happen it won’t be for at least two years.

“But we must speak with UEFA, we must speak as bodies, we must find out the details.

Euro stars: Gary Hooper celebrates with Giorgios Samaras and Victor Wanyama after Celtic made the last 16 of the Champions League

Euro stars: Gary Hooper celebrates with Giorgios Samaras and Victor Wanyama after Celtic made the last 16 of the Champions League

'For example, how many places are going to be granted to a new championship for the Champions League

'The proposed joint championship is a very interesting situation, but it is still some way off and nothing is concrete.'

In a quest to address the unrest, UEFA president Michel Platini has improved access to the Champions League group stages for less wealthy nations – with the changes assisting Celtic’s progress to the last 16 of the elite competition.

The French legend has also spoken publicly of merging the Europa League with an expanded Champions League featuring 64 teams.

Taylor insists that won’t happen, however, and that the Champions League remains the best possible revenue stream for the champions of Scotland.

'Our aim is to make our competitions the best of the best – the pinnacle.

'There are no plans to merge the Champions League and the Europa League, that is not on the agenda at all.

'That was an exaggerated and misinterpreted report which seemed to grow arms and legs.

'Neither are there any plans to expand the Champions League. I can say quite clearly that is not likely, not even up for discussion.

'The Champions League is an excellent competition. It is where the best play the best.

'How people qualify for the Champions League and the Europa League is what people are discussing.

'But any discussions about what might happen at any other level of the game Well, that needs FIFA’s approval, it needs UEFA’s approval and we are well short of that.

'There is nothing formal about it. It is still some way away.

'Whether UEFA will have a more liberal attitude in future – that remains to be seen.'

Frank Lampard says half-time discussion was key to beating Leeds

Half-time discussion was the key, says Lampard after Chelsea smash Leeds

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UPDATED:

22:58 GMT, 19 December 2012

Frank Lampard revealed a dressing-room discussion at half-time sparked Chelsea's revival as they came from behind to beat Leeds 5-1 in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.

Chelsea had trailed to a Luciano Becchio strike but turned the match at Elland Road around with goals from Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.

'We upped it,' said Lampard on Sky Sports News. 'In the first half we weren't at our best, a bit slow with the tempo of the game and we gave a away silly goal that allowed them to score.

Turnaround: Frank Lampard (right) said Chelsea knew they had to up their game after the break

Turnaround: Frank Lampard (right) said Chelsea knew they had to up their game after the break

'Once we upped it with a bit of pace in our game you could see a big difference. We had a word with ourselves at half-time.'

Chelsea flew back into London from the Club World Cup on Monday, but the journey from Japan did not appear to take any toll in the second half, especially once Mata equalised just a minute after the restart.

Lampard said: 'We didn't make the greatest preparation but there's no excuse, we had to up it.

'The early goal gave us the impetus, we believed from then on and we didn't think we could lose the game.

'Some of the football we played, we opened them up and showed what we could do.'

Leeds manager Neil Warnock saw his team end the first half on top.

'But to concede as early as that (in the second half) against world-class players you're going to be in trouble,' Warnock said.

'It was such a relief from them to get back into the game. Then they took over and were too good for us.'

Mata's goal owed a lot to a fumbled attempt at a save from Jamie Ashdown in the Leeds goal.

'When you're a goalie you make a mistake and it counts. When you're anywhere else on the pitch you get away with it,' Warnock said.

'I don't think the scoreline reflects the game but I've got no complaints. I thought it was a great cup tie for an hour.'

Congratulations: Rafa Benitez speaks to his troops as they walk off the pitch at full-time

Congratulations: Rafa Benitez speaks to his troops as they walk off the pitch at full-time

Interim Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez was delighted by his side's performance in the second half, especially after their exertions in Japan.

'The team was quite good in the first half and the reaction of the team in the second half was fantastic after coming back from Japan, jet lag, changing some players… the reaction was amazing,' Benitez said.

'We were looking for character and we talked about it at half-time.'

Tucked away: Juan Mata equalised but Jamie Ashdown should have done better

Tucked away: Juan Mata equalised but Jamie Ashdown should have done better

Manchester City Roberto Mancini: We must beware Rafa Benitez"s Chelsea boys

Mancini worry: We must beware Benitez's Chelsea boys – a new boss means they'll be firing

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UPDATED:

15:16 GMT, 23 November 2012

Roberto Mancini has warned his Manchester City players that Chelsea will be at their most dangerous this weekend under new manager Rafael Benitez.

City travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday hoping to put the disappointment of their Champions League exit behind them.

Mancini’s team are unbeaten in the league this season but lost for the first team in the league last season when they travelled to Chelsea in December.

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Early start: Roberto Mancini (left) arrives at City's HQ ahead of first-team training today

Early start: Roberto Mancini (left) arrives at City's HQ ahead of first-team training today

Warning: Mancini reckons that Chelsea will be dangerous on Sunday because of their new manager

Warning: Mancini reckons that Chelsea will be dangerous on Sunday because of their new manager

City manager Mancini said: 'When a club changes manager they are always very difficult in the next game.

'Chelsea were a good team under Roberto di Matteo and they will be a good team under Benitez.

'They have very good players and have played some fantastic football this season. Not so long ago they were top of the league.'

As a manager who operates under extreme pressure himself, Mancini said this morning that he felt sorry for Di Matteo, sacked on Wednesday.

Mancini said: 'He won the Champions League a few months ago but this is our life.

Rafa revival: Chelsea's new interim 1st team manager Rafa Benitez with assistant Bolo Zenden during his 1st training session at the Cobham

Rafa revival: Chelsea's new interim 1st team manager Rafa Benitez with assistant Bolo Zenden during his 1st training session at the Cobham

'When you make the choice to be a manager you know at times it can be difficult.'

Mancini confirmed that captain Vincent Kompany is struggling to make Sundays game with a knee injury. Gael Clichy is fit.

The Belgium defender suffered a knee injury in a clash with Cristiano Ronaldo late in Wednesday’s Champions League encounter with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

The 26-year-old completed the 90 minutes of the 1-1 draw but required treatment after the game and left the ground on crutches.

His place for the champions’ Barclays Premier League trip to Stamford Bridge is in doubt but Mancini has not yet ruled him out.

The Italian said: ‘We need to wait until tomorrow. I hope we can recover him for Sunday because Vinnie is strong.’

VIDEO: Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini talks ahead of tomorrow's away fixture against Chelsea

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The talk is over… it"s time for England to deliver

The talk is over… it's time for England to deliver (starting with a big win over understrength Fiji)

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UPDATED:

23:15 GMT, 9 November 2012

England are in such a heightened state of readiness for this arduous autumn series that they even turned up for Test week armed with gift-wrapped soundbites. ‘It’s production time,’ said Stuart Lancaster. ‘Time to rebuild the fortress,’ said various players.

Quite right, on both counts. Management and squad are alert to the shifting of emphasis and mood since they were last at Twickenham.

Back in March, England were coming off a win in Paris and the warmth of the reception from the stands as Ireland were put to the sword was founded on the public’s support for a decent man as Lancaster made a promising pitch to retain his interim role long-term.

Driving forward: England captain Robshaw sets the

Driving forward: England captain Robshaw sets the

Back then, the host nation were still raw from the wounding aftermath of the World Cup, so the revival in the Six Nations created a bubble of relief and hope, especially as the players responsible were new and young and so evidently awash with pride and spirit. But times have changed. Expectation levels have increased.

Those who swarm into HQ today will bring with them a desire to see all the talk of progress writ large on the famous field. They will know that Lancaster is now in charge for the foreseeable future and that his coaching staff is complete. They will know that the ground-work in the championship was followed by a necessary quantum leap in intensity during the June series in South Africa, when England found out what was required to live with the southern hemisphere elite.

Going through the paces: The England players have a final practice at Twickenham

Going through the paces: The England players have a final practice at Twickenham

Lancaster is no fool, so he is aware that the stakes have been raised — hence the ‘production time’ remark. And his players know all too well that England’s stadium has been plundered far too often by southern visitors in the last nine years, having previously been a place even the All Blacks approached with caution. So re-establishing the ‘fortress’ aura is an urgent priority.

A sudden barrage of injury setbacks have been cruel to Lancaster, just when he thought he might have something approaching a first-choice team available, but that is no excuse.

All together: The England team gather during training at Twickenham

All together: The England team gather during training at Twickenham

England as a rugby nation of such bountiful resources should be able to absorb the loss of a few good men and still send out a line-up capable of mixing it with all-comers at home. So the loss of Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes, Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Jonathan Joseph must be taken in stride.

There will be three debutants in white today — Tom Youngs starting at hooker and Mako Vunipola and Joe Launchbury on the bench providing cover at prop and lock or flanker respectively.

In addition, Joe Marler, Tom Johnson, Thomas Waldrom and Alex Goode will all be making their first Test appearances at Twickenham, but they have been in front of full houses there before, so the arena should hold no demons.

Running game: Tom Johnson runs with the ball during training

Running game: Tom Johnson runs with the ball during training

What’s more, Lancaster is adamant that the players he has brought in are the best available, in which case they must be judged without too much allowance for the naivety of youth.

The IRB rankings provide a constant backdrop this autumn, as countries jostle for position prior to the World Cup pool draw on December3. England are fourth on the list and Fiji down in 14th.

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England Line up

The visitors have a swathe of newcomers in their squad, are unable to pick several leading players based at European clubs and did not even arrive in this country with enough appropriate kit. As ever, however, the Pacific Island side possess raw quality and a willingness to run from all parts.

They have ample power and a high-class flanker in Gloucester’s Akapusi Qera, but what they do not have is a promising record in this fixture. England have played four against Fiji and won the lot.

This time, England should be well capable of squeezing their opponents and building a steady lead before cutting loose when their superior fitness and collective understanding starts to tell.

What Lancaster really needs is a performance mixing power, precision and the hint of a swagger to set his team up for Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

There will be plenty of focus on Tom Youngs, who could install himself as the preferred deputy to Hartley or even make himself a rival to the Northampton captain.

There will be an onus on Waldrom to impress, as Ben Morgan is breathing down his neck. The same could be said for Danny Care, who has Ben Youngs close behind.

Midfield has been a problem area for most of England’s recent history and the underlying issue now is how best to harness the brute force of Manu Tuilagi. Brad Barritt will today resume his quest to be considered the ideal foil for Leicester’s Anglo-Samoan wrecking ball, but the No 12 must offer proof that he can be a creative presence at Test level.

He must do so while confronted by a giant combination in midfield for Fiji — Sireli Naqelevuki of Exeter and Leicester’s Vereniki Goneva.

There will soon come a time when the England line-up must be settled and galvanised — preferably just before the All Blacks sweep into Twickenham on December 1.

Enlarge

Scouting report

Edgar Davids set for Barnet debut against Northampton

Dutch legend Davids set to make debut for League Two strugglers Barnet against Northampton

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UPDATED:

12:05 GMT, 19 October 2012

Former Holland international Edgar Davids could make his debut for Barnet tonight after the League Two club's new joint heaad coach was registered to play in the home fixture against Northampton.

The 39-year-old former Champions League winner has been given the number 38 shirt as he dusts down his boots to return to first-team action in the less than glamorous surroundings of Underhill.

Dutch of class: Edgar Davids is set to make his debut for League Two strugglers Barnet

Dutch of class: Edgar Davids is set to make his debut for League Two strugglers Barnet

Football League blog

Davids had been out of football since a brief stint at Championship side Crystal Palace in 2010, until joining Mark Robson in the Barnet dug-out last week.

His arrival at the club failed to spark a revival of fortunes for the Bees, as they lost 4-1 to Plymouth last weekend to remain as the bottom team in the Football League.

On standby: Davids watched from the stands as Barnet went down to Plymouth last weekend

On standby: Davids watched from the stands as Barnet went down to Plymouth last weekend

Joe Cole: I"m ready to kick-start Liverpool career

Cole: I'm ready to write a new chapter of my career at Anfield

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UPDATED:

20:00 GMT, 23 July 2012

Joe Cole is ready for the battle to win over hearts and minds as he stated his determination to play a key role for the 'new' Liverpool.

After enjoying a successful season-long loan with Lille, Cole's enthusiasm and eagerness to succeed on Merseyside cannot be called into question and he feels the club to which he has returned is dramatically different to the one he left last August.

Brendan Rodgers, who worked with Cole at Chelsea, has been impressed with England international's desire during training here in Boston and there is little doubt he has the skill and knowledge to fit into the style which the new Liverpool manager wants to implement.

Fresh start: Cole is hoping to kickstart his Anfield career under Rodgers

Fresh start: Cole is hoping to kickstart his Anfield career under Rodgers

Cole, though, has never shown his true form at Anfield and, for that reason, there is scepticism on the Kop about what he will be able to contribute under Rodgers.

The 30-year-old, however, is confident he can turn public opinion in his favour.

When asked if he felt he had to win people over, Cole replied: 'Yeah but I am only looking forward. Everything I have done in my career is in the bank and has been and gone. But I want to write new chapters.

On tour: Cole featured for Liverpool in their 1-1 draw with FC Toronto on Saturday

On tour: Cole featured for Liverpool in their 1-1 draw with FC Toronto on Saturday

'I want to be part of the revival of this great club and help make it successful. I want to help my team. I have spoken with Brendan and, as far as I am concerned, I am here (for the season). I'm looking forward to the season and we will go from there. It was great to pull on the shirt again.'

When Cole signed on a Bosman in July 2010 after leaving Chelsea, it was envisaged he would dovetail sweetly with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres but a red card on his Barclays Premier League debut against Arsenal, coupled with a subsequent loss of form and injury problems, proved ruinous.

It has hardly helped, however, that he has been at Anfield during the most turbulent managerial spell in the club's history, with Rodgers becoming the third man in three years to take the reins after Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish.

'It's not traditional for the club to change managers but we need stability now,' said Cole, who played the second half of Liverpool's 1-1 draw with FC Toronto on Saturday. 'Everyone needs to be settled and I am 100 per cent sure that the right man is in the job. He is the best out there.

'The fans are intelligent. They know (finishing) sixth, seventh and eighth in the last three seasons isn't good enough. But we are a work in progress now and we have got the right man in charge. The lads have all been impressed with everything that he has done. He is so on the ball.

'There is no point looking back to how everything started here for me. That has been and gone. I am just looking forward to the season. When I came here, I wanted to be part of the revival of this great club. Nothing has changed. I want to be part of this team and so we can all do it together.'

Harmony, then, will be crucial if Liverpool are going to reclaim a place back in the top six and Rodgers has been working on building team spirit in Boston; there have been a couple of trips to see the Red Sox baseball team, while the squad have also been given time to explore the city.

'It just feels so much more settled,' said Cole. 'The fans are well educated with their football; they have seen so many great players. They also know the not good players.

'They also know a good manager and you speak to anyone out here or back home and they know we have got a good manager. Brendan's style looks off the cuff but it isn't. It is very, very tactical. You are concentrating hard and thinking constantly. Every training session is brilliant.

'I can only see us going in one direction but we have got to work hard to make sure that happens.'

England made bad start against South Africa – Ben Kay

Dreadful start cost England dear against Springboks

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 17 June 2012

Stuart Lancaster should force his players to watch a re-run of the dreadful opening to the game in an effort to put this tour back on track.

The root cause of England’s defeat came in the opening minutes when they fell off too many tackles by using their arms rather than shoulders in tackling the Springboks.

England had clearly not learned lessons from the first Test in Durban which had seen the Springboks build an unstoppable momentum in the early stages of the second half.

Post-mortem: England gather after their second defeat to South Africa

Post-mortem: England gather after their second defeat to South Africa

It was no surprise that South Africa used the same tactics at the start of Saturday’s match and it looked as though England’s mindset was wrong.

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Crocked: Ben Youngs (centre) will miss the final Test through injury

It might work in England’s favour, despite Youngs’ role in leading the revival on Saturday.

His over-use of ‘crabbing’ across the gain line, looking for a hole to open up for either himself or another runner, can hamper England’s attacking opportunities.

This tactic allows the opposition to close up the midfield, leaving Flood and his outside backs little time.

Care, who had a very good midweek match last week, is one option, while Dickson, a substitute on Saturday, gives Lancaster strength in that position.

Option: Danny Care could come into the England side for the third Test

Option: Danny Care could come into the England side for the third Test

Another player under the spotlight is line-out organiser Geoff Parling. He had his poorest game in an international shirt as the Springboks disrupted England’s flow of possession from the set-piece.

The line-out has been an area of great strength and it has to improve next Saturday. Dylan Hartley must look at his throwing because he seemed to be hitting his men too low.

Parling should hang on to his place — ahead of substitute Tom Palmer — but one change in the pack could well be at No 8, where Ben Morgan has yet to produce the form of the Six Nations. Thomas Waldrom backed up his good game in midweek as a substitute and deserves his chance.

Euro 2012: England can beat France – Martin Samuel

Forget the doom and gloom… France aren't that good

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 3 June 2012

It was September 3, 2010, when France last lost a game. Substitute Sergei Kislyak scored for Belarus in the first match of the current European Championship campaign.

There were four minutes to go in the Stade de France and Laurent Blanc’s team were booed off. It has been quite a revival since then.

On Tuesday, France will play their final match before departing for Donetsk. Avoid defeat by Estonia, as is widely anticipated, and they will face England next week on the back of 21 games unbeaten. Of the 20 played in this streak so far, 14 have been won.

Warming up: France train ahead of their Euro 2012 campaign in Ukraine

Warming up: France train ahead of their Euro 2012 campaign in Ukraine

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‘When you’ve gone 20 games unbeaten you’ve obviously got something,’ said England manager Roy Hodgson. ‘That’s a lot of matches with players believing in each other, so the team takes care of itself. We can’t suggest we are in that position.’

Nobody is. Indeed, many are suggesting that England are so spectacularly inferior to France that the meeting in the Donbass Arena a week on Monday is merely the first of three reddening slaps in the face Hodgson’s side will receive at Euro 2012, before scuttling home.

‘Whether we can beat them, I don’t know,’ Hodgson added, sounding every inch the former manager of West Bromwich Albion.

Yet England versus France is not West Brom versus Manchester United, and rarely has been.

The advantage has been with France in recent years but never by much. Of the last seven encounters, dating back to June 1992, all but one have been settled by the odd goal or drawn.

Main man: Laurent Blanc has turned France's fortunes around

Main man: Laurent Blanc has turned France's fortunes around

England are one of the teams defeated in Blanc’s run of 20 but the final score on November 17, 2010, was 2-1 and England’s starting line-up that night included Kieran Gibbs and Jordan Henderson, while Jay Bothroyd came on as a substitute. Fabio Capello had, at most, four first-team starters available.

So all is not lost. Despite the latest setback for England with Gary Cahill joining Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry on the list of the significant fallen, there is not as much between the teams as first impressions suggest.

On the back of another 9/10 result inspired by a 6/10 performance it is possible to look at Monday, June 11 as a fateful day of reckoning for the new manager. And, yes, France are good but not that good. And, yes, they have a better recent record than England but not by so much.

Since departing the 2010 World Cup in similar states of disarray, France and England have lost the same number of matches — two.

Indeed, until the Football Association chose to go into a game against Holland with a caretaker boss in Stuart Pearce, England’s revival had been markedly similar.

Momentum: France beat Serbia in their latest friendly ahead of Euro 2012

Momentum: France beat Serbia in their latest friendly ahead of Euro 2012

Post South Africa, France’s record reads: Played 22 Won 14 Drawn 6 Lost 2 Goals For 33 Goals Against 12. England’s record is: Played 17 Won 11 Drawn 4 Lost 2 Goals For 29 Goals Against 13.

France have the edge but there really isn’t such a divide. Certainly not a gulf worthy of the depression that still envelops English football now the business end of the international season approaches.

Patrice Evra identified the biggest problem for England: the absence of Wayne Rooney (and his lukewarm performance against Belgium as a second-half substitute hardly inspired confidence for his much vaunted return in the final group game against Ukraine, 37 days after he last started a match). Looking at Saturday’s performance, England cannot afford to lose one of the few players who, having worked hard to get the ball, is not in an urgent hurry to relinquish it to the nearest opponent.

Asked to single out an individual performer for England on Saturday, Belgium interim coach Marc Wilmots picked Ashley Young.

‘Tres rapide, tres, tres rapide,’ he purred, with no translation required. So how many passes did this stellar performer in the England ranks make in his 67 minutes on the field Seven.

Tough to beat: France are undefeated in their last 20 matches

Tough to beat: France are undefeated in their last 20 matches

And how many for his opposite number, Eden Hazard 71. Even allowing for Hazard’s additional 23 minutes of play, that is some discrepancy.

Of course, fresh from Chelsea’s triumph against the odds in Europe, the English are getting very cocky about the national propensity for reducing the normal barometers of success in football to gibberish.

Young may have made just seven passes, but one of those set up the only goal of the game. Ha ha! Suck on that Opta. Prozone bods, your boys took one hell of a beating.

Yet, good fortune runs out eventually. If Chelsea had played Bayern Munich over 10 matches, the superior possession of the Germans would have told eventually. So, too, Chelsea and Barcelona. England cannot hope to go through the tournament making one 10th of the passes of the opposition’s most creative player without getting hurt eventually.

As France are presumed the best team in Group D, that blow is expected to come sooner rather than later. Hodgson will need all of his skills as a coach and organiser to rise to the challenge posed by France.

‘I’ve got a team in my head that can do well against them,’ said Hodgson (left). ‘I am happier that we are moving towards giving them a good game and with a little bit of luck on our side, who knows, perhaps win it. But I’m not suggesting we’ll do that, or even go into the game as favourites, looking at what France have done compared to us.’

Previous: Karim Benzema helped France beat England at Wembley

Previous: Karim Benzema helped France beat England at Wembley

The most unsettling aspect of England’s recent performance, however, is Hodgson’s insistence that dogged resistance is not his aim. He bristles at the suggestion he is intent on making England hard to beat and little more.

‘You’re suggesting I’ve gone in with some major principle, got the players around and said, ‘‘Right, lads, we’re going to be hard to beat’’,’ he told one questioner.

‘That’s not the case at all.

‘When we talk to the players about what we want, we talk about all aspects of the game, attack and defence. Of course, we do have good, experienced defenders and maybe that’s what is shining through.

‘James Milner and Steven Gerrard have worked very hard to get into good defensive positions these last two games but there is lots of work for us to do. There are good signs in the shape of the team defensively, but work required offensively.

‘We’ve got quick players but we’re not getting into those attacking areas as much as we would like.’

Send off: England beat Belgium at Wembley in their final friendly

Send off: England beat Belgium at Wembley in their final friendly

He has one week to change this, which is a comical timescale in the circumstances, and if he has really sought to attack in his matches so far, the workload is tremendous.

The sole consolation, however, is that he does not start from such a position of extreme disadvantage.

Since the last tournament, much about the national team has changed. Capello learned from his mistakes in South Africa and the deficiencies in his squad.

It would have helped Hodgson if one of the Italian’s proteges, Jack Wilshere, had not missed the season, helped him even more had Rooney kept his head against Montenegro but there will not be a coach at the tournament who does not have at least one regret.

As Hodgson surveys what is left of his best-laid plan, if he requires cheering up, he should think of Chile, Romania, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Belgium, Croatia and Belarus — the six nations that battled France to a draw in their last 20 games.

If England can get to the 86th minute level, the lions’ share of the job will be done. Points shared would be a very useful start indeed but from that moment, anything can happen — as Sergei Kislyak will testify.