BASEL FAULTY
By PeteLCFC
Thursday 09 Sep 2010 15:11:00
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By PeteLCFC

Switzerland Away – 7th September 2010

Before I start waffling on about what we got up to in Switzerland, I’d like to say that the reason I started writing these trip reports is because I used to really enjoy reading the reports that Stevo would post on the old Fox Fanzine website years ago before I started watching England away.  Hearing the news two days before I travelled out to Switzerland that Stevo was in intensive care due to an aneurysm saddened me greatly.  I don’t know him very well, mainly through other people, but we’d always say hello when our paths crossed at Leicester games or in various corners of Europe following England.  So get well soon mate.

On to Switzerland then.  Basel was the chosen venue for this European Championship qualifier.  Situated on the river Rhine in northern Switzerland where the French, German and Swiss borders all meet, Basel is the 2nd largest city in Switzerland.  As a country I’m a big fan of Switzerland, I like the cleanliness and efficiency and the fact that everything runs like clockwork.  Being the home of the Cuckoo clock and Rolex I would expect nothing less.  On Monday morning, us England fans at Geneva train station stand and stare with an envious awe as train after train arrives and departs bang on time.  What a novelty.  Swiss efficiency doesn’t come cheap though but I don’t mind paying a bit more for a 3 hour train ride that will be on time, clean, comfortable, not anywhere near overcrowded and will get you to your destination without having to rely on a rickety old bus to do part of the journey because there’s wet leaves on the track.

Basel prides itself on being the cultural capital of Switzerland with over 40 museums, plenty of churches and lots of notable architecture.  There’s a thriving city centre with plenty of restaurants and bars plus all the designer fashion shops you could ever need!  The lads who’ve brought their wives and girlfriends on this trip may well be regretting it now as they try to remortgage their house!  There’s also a large zoo in the city centre!

Our qualification campaign got off to a perfect start on Friday night.  Beating Bulgaria 4-0 at Wembley with a much improved performance was a big confidence boost ahead of what supposedly is our toughest game of the group.  St Jakobs Park, home to FC Basel, is the biggest stadium in Switzerland, holding around 40,000 spectators.  It was completely rebuilt for some tournament called Euro 2008.  No I’ve never heard of it either but it’s a nice ground none the less.  England had just under 4,000 fans here crammed into one corner of the stadium.  The stands are quite steep so it gives the stadium a really tight feel to it and there’s a good atmosphere in there as well despite the heavy rain.

Personally I think the moment England’s season really got going was the moment Capello substituted John Terry and Frank Lampard during the 2nd half at home to Hungary in August.  At that point we were losing 1-0 and looked absolutely hopeless then suddenly we looked a lot better at the back and Gerrard suddenly had all this space that wasn’t being taken up by an arrogant, useless, (I’m really not jealous that he’s shagging Christine Bleakley, honest!) cockney wanker and he scores 2 goals and we look quite good again.  Whether Capello would’ve picked Terry and Lampard for these two qualifiers had they not been injured I don’t know.  He probably would have and we’d have been shite.  As it happens he’s got lucky and been forced to pick a team without them and long may it continue.

England start brightly and take a deserved lead on 10 minutes, Glen Johnson putting in a perfect cross for an un-marked Rooney to tap home.  Celebrations were cut short when it became apparent that Theo Walcott had suffered a nasty looking injury.  Adam Johnson came on as Theo was stretchered off and almost scored with a 25 yard effort.  England really should have had the game wrapped up by half time but for a couple of poor finishes from Defoe after more good work from Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole. 

In the 2nd half England started slowly and it looked like the Swiss were going to get back into the game.  The England fans were getting frustrated and the home fans were getting louder and urging their team on.  In the 64th minute Switzerland had Lichtsteiner sent off for a second yellow card after a tackle on James Milner.  5 minutes later a superb pass from Gerrard sent Adam Johnson racing towards goal before taking the ball round the keeper and slaming it into the empty net.  2-0 all over now surely?  But no, 2 minutes later Shaqiri ran unchallenged towards the England area before firing a 25 yarder into the top corner past Joe Hart. 2-1.  Joe Hart had another solid performance between the sticks for England, despite a 5 minute wobble in the 2nd half but I’ll put that down to the heavy rain.  As long as he stays first choice for Manchester City or any other team, at 23, he has the potential to be England’s number 1 for the next 10 years.

Darren Bent came on to replace Friday nights hat-trick hero Jermain Defoe who had picked up an injury and promptly wrapped the game up with 2 minutes to go.  The England fans piled out of the ground in good spirits and filled all the trams back to the city centre to lap up more of the locals fine hospitality.

Two games, two wins which is the same as our next opponents Montengro, who we play at Wembley next month. The press have these down as the group minnows but I disagree, the only reason they’re so low on the FIFA rankings (which are a load of shite anyway) is because they’re a new country.  Like most of the former Yugoslav countries they’ll be well organised and not short of a bit of skill or aggression.

Anyway, after our embarrassing no-show in South Africa, England are back to winning ways and on the train back to Geneva on Wednesday afternoon I can’t help but wonder whether Capello threatened the under-performing “super stars” that they’d be dropped off at Dignitas in Zurich after the game if they failed to deliver again.  Maybe it’s a shame that Frank Lampard didn’t make the trip after all...

 Pete – England and Leicester 9th September 2010

 



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