Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England 1, Japan 1

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England 1, Japan 1

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Bradley

Frank Lampard may have little to reproach himself for, yet the ifs and Butts remain as large as ever for Sven-GUran Eriksson as he ponders England's Euro 2004 midfield.

One figure should, above all others, dominate Eriksson's mind over the next 10 days. Not Thierry Henry, not even Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira or David Trezeguet, but Zinedine Zidane.

Eriksson's impersonation of a Kevin Keegan diamond midfield at the City of Manchester stadium against Japan may have added to England's attacking options.

Indeed, Lampard himself, who was chosen ahead of Nicky Butt in the holding midfield role, performed admirably in the experimental circumstances.

However, even though England seized the lead on 23 minutes through Michael Owen, they lost control of the game thereafter.

Japan were allowed far too much time and space from which to launch their attacks and Shinji Ono duly equalised seven minutes into the second-half.

Moreover, their own creative attacking midfielder, Shumsuke Nakamura is no Zidane and the French midfield maestro will lick his lips at the prospect of exploiting the gaps in England's diamond formation midfield.

Then again, all the normal caveats must, of course, apply. This was a friendly, the players were intent on avoiding injury ( even if Gary Neville did, rather worryingly, limp off - and, come June 13, this result will matter not a jot.

Yet like it or not, Butt ( or, indeed, Owen Hargreaves, Phil Neville or Ledley King, who have all played in the holding role for their clubs this season ( would give England exactly the "balance" which Eriksson believes is so crucial.

And if Lampard is not at fault, then ( whisper it quietly ( maybe, just maybe, the time has come for the England coach to at least consider leaving out Paul Scholes instead.

Without an international goal in 26 appearances, he was patently off the pace in the City of Manchester Stadium, not just in his shooting, but also even in his normally exemplary tackling. …

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