Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

England short on quality as Germany's second string expose Roy Hodgson's men

Flying high: Arsenal's Per Mertesacker gets above the England defence to score Germany's winner at Wembley
Flying high: Arsenal's Per Mertesacker gets above the England defence to score Germany's winner at Wembley

England manager Roy Hodgson admitted more quality is needed if his side are to compete at the World Cup finals in Brazil after a second successive home defeat for the first time in 36 years.

Joachim Low's men won 1-0 at Wembley thanks to Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker's towering header, adding to England's 2-0 setback against Chile on Friday.

Hodgson said: "I thought it was a harsh defeat but we needed better quality.

"The effort, the work rate and desire, I can't fault at all.

"But in the time we had the ball in the German half, we weren't as efficient as the Germans were when they had the ball in our half.

"The quality of our passing and shooting was not as good as the Germans and we paid the price for set-pieces.

"We knew set-pieces would be a danger, they had some big players and we were a small team tonight."

Reflecting on the two games, though, he added: "We've used a lot of players and I think it's been a positive exercise.

"We've learnt a lot, positively on some occasions and on others negatively, but I'm rather disappointed that people have come to watch us in these two games and we've not been able to send them home with a good result."

Boos rang out at Wembley for the second time in four days as Mertesacker's header condemned England to back-to-back home defeats.

England held their own for the majority of the first half, but Germany goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller was nothing but a spectator until Andros Townsend struck a post during the hosts' first real threatening effort just before the hour.

Despite the lack of attempts on Germany's goal, defensive weakness will be Hodgson's big concern during the four-month break from international football.

Just like on Friday, a visiting player was allowed to beat his marker to the ball and head into the England goal with relative ease.

Mertesacker lost his marker and nodded home Mario Gotze's cross towards the end of the first half, just as Alexis Sanchez had done on Friday for Chile.

Had it not been for goalkeeper Joe Hart, who performed superbly on his return to action, Low's side could have had four.

The fact that this was a German team shorn of the likes of Philipp Lahm, Mesut Ozil and Manuel Neuer says much about how much work Hodgson has to do to make top sides fear drawing England in Brazil.

England were not as bad as they were against Chile, but other than an odd flash of brilliance from Townsend and Wayne Rooney, there never looked to be any danger of the home side coming away with anything.

Hodgson and his team were mocked by the Germany fans towards the end of the match as they sang "Football's coming home", and the England boss now has the unwanted tag of being the first man since Don Revie in 1977 to lead the nation to successive home defeats.

Hodgson, as expected made changes, with Kieran Gibbs replacing Ashley Cole and Jordan Henderson coming on for captain and Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard to freshen up England's performance.

Hodgson introduced Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley and Rickie Lambert as England chased an equaliser but Germany survived comfortably and England were defeated once more.

England have one game left, the Wembley friendly with Denmark in March, before Hodgson names his squad for Brazil.

The all-important World Cup draw takes place on December 6.

On this form, few nations will fear being grouped with England.

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