The Half-Time Whistle

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The “Wright” Stuff

Good evening and welcome to our special coverage of the European Championship Qualifiers. We’re in Sofia where England are playing Bulgaria. This is an important game as England have already dropped points against Montenegro and Switzerland. Montenegro, themselves, are in action in Cardiff against Wales. England will be hoping Wales can do them a favour by taking points off them.

With me in the studio are Alan and Mark. Alan, this is a big game tonight for England isn’t it?

AH: Aye, it is. I mean, England really have to win here. You hope Wales could get something against Montenegro, but England can-nay rely on that.

Mark, are you expecting many changes tonight from the Dutch game?

ML: Erm, well obviously Terry is out, Ferdinand’s out and Scott Parker’s not here either, so there’ll be 3 changes at least.

Is Billy Wright able to step up to replace Ferdinand, do you think?

AH: Absolutely. When you talk about strength, character and nouse, this guy’s got it all. I think he’s the real deal, looks very calm and good on the ball. Doesn’t look like anything phases him.

And to partner him at the back, Mark, who would you go for.

ML: Erm, I think Lescott will get the nod. He’s put in some good performances already for Man City, so you feel he’s ideal to come in. For me, it’s just about whether he plays 1 up front again, or goes for 2. Then he needs to decide whether it will be Jimmy Greaves or Gary Lineker who partners Rooney.

Ok, then. Well we’ll get the teams in a minute, but some news on the England Under-20’s who have been in action in the U20’s World Cup Final against Spain, and I’m pleased to say that England are World Champions!

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A fantastic win there and that really is a great result that bodes well for the future.

Some good youngsters on show here too, and here are the two teams for tonights game

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AH: It’s as we thought, Wright and Lescott at the back and it looks like he’ll go for 2 wide players and Lampard playing just off the front two. They’ll need to be careful that Barry doesn’t get overrun in the middle, but it’s quite an attacking line-up

ML: Yeah, Greaves up alongside Rooney and it’ll be interesting to see how he does. I like the width that Young and Matthews should give and Lampard’s got an important role in behind the front two. England should have enough to win this.

Ok chaps, and it’s Frank Lampard who gets the captain’s armband, which will be a proud moment for him.

Let’s see what happened.

England struggled to gain control of the game and it was Bulgaria who put together most of the attacks although they rarely Joe Hart under any real pressure. Then in the 33rd minute, Lampard was in the area and was brought down and the ref pointed to the spot

AH: He put that away quite easily. Great responsibility on his shoulders and he gave England a vital lead, which was against the run of play a bit.

ML: Yeah, that was important as England, as you said, hadn’t struggled to look as cohesive as they had last month.

Well, as half-time approached, England had a free-kick on the left, which Frank Lampard took and Billy Wright found some space at the back post and headed his first goal for his country.

AH: Desperate defending. You cannah leave a player like that. I mean he had a free header and that just is poor play from the man who’s marking him

ML: Took his goal well, though. Just like Bobby Moore against Holland, Wright has popped up with a goal and I thought he played very well. Lampard involved again and the captaincy seemed to galvanise him.

So England went in at half-time 2-0 up and things were going according to plan. In Cardiff, Wales and Montenegro were goalless, so England would’ve been 2pts up on the Montenegrans at that point.

England then had control of the game and there really wasn’t much from the Bulgarians. 70 minutes in and it was all over

AH: Great header from Wright, but what was the defender doing? How can you let someone get above you like that? Disgraceful.

ML: Matthews took the corner and it was a good one, he picked out Wright and although he got above the defender, it was still a really good header to beat the keeper from there.

So, all in all a good win for England.

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3-0 is a good win in any game, but away from home in an important game, that was impressive.

But, Montenegro eased past Wales with a crucial 4-1 win. So both sides are locked on 14pts. England meet Wales at Wembley on Tuesday, while Montenegro don’t play. It’s another game England must win.

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Impressive performance, Alan, or is there work still to do?

AH: Oh, there’s still work to do. I mean they cannah think they’ve got the group won yet and the final game against Montenegro could prove the decider. It’s away, so that won’t be easy, but some really good points tonight and that’s what Clough will be pleased about.

ML: Yes, I mean England took their time to gain control of the game, but when they did, they kept Bulgaria at arms length. Wright and Lescott were really strong at the back and I thought they all worked really hard. Lampard certainly seemed to grow with the responsibility of captaincy. Good result and they did what was required. Need to do the same on Tuesday now.

Ok, well in other results tonight, a fantastic performance from Northern Ireland. They were at home to Serbia, went a goal down and then a young man called George Best scored a hat-trick and they won 4-2. They have a really good chance of a play-off place now, just 2pts behind Slovenia with a game in hand.

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Elsewhere, Holland bounced back from their defeat at Wembley last month with a 3-0 win over San Marino, when Johann Cruyff scored 2 goals. In the same group, Hungary beat Sweden 3-1 and Ferenc Puskas scored a hat-trick. In Group H, Portugal won 6-1 away to Cyprus as Eusebio scored a hat-trick.

So, we’ll see you again on Tuesday at Wembley as England take on Wales. But for tonight, Clough looks as if he’s found a defender who’s made of the ‘Wright’ stuff. Goodnight

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