England 3 - Spain 0
(Martin 46'), Phil Neville (Gary Neville 77'), Ferdinand (Ehiogu 46'),
Campbell, Powell (Ball 46'), Beckham (McCann 46'), Scholes (Heskey 46'), Butt
(Lampard 46'), Barmby, Andy Cole, Owen. 4-4-2.
Report by our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic.
Well here we are, back in Blighty to watch Camacho's boys take on the perfidious albion. Well, not the Albion really, but just down the road at Villa Park. My early childhood memories of this ground are traumatic, and I will never forget being advised to watch out for the deep end as my uncle and I entered one of the public loos before the kick off of an FA cup semi-final. Maybe for that reason I order a short in the pub before the game rather than the pint of luke warm beer you English drink, but Goran has no such hang-ups and after a few glasses gets into an animated conversation with a group of Brummies about the match. You can understand his arguments that Spain are the best team in the world right now, having seen the under 21 side take their English counter-parts apart, but then they explain that most of the England under 21 players have been called up for this match. In fact their new manager Eriksson has apparently picked a squad of 31, presumably expecting some of them to go down with foot and mouth disease which is raging through the country at the moment according to the Spanish press. The Spanish squad is aware of this and brings tons of sea food over from Spain, as everyone knows that fish don't have feet so they can't catch it.
So off to the ground for the game, and Eriksson is caught on camera humming 'god save your queen' as the teams line up. Hopefully he will be there long enough to learn the words. Thanks to a Sky TV reporter Spain are missing their captain Hierro, who wasn't going to say anything about his one match ban if nobody else did after his sending off against Holland. Hierro is forced to get off the team bus on the way to the airport as the news breaks, and Paco is called up at the last minute. But Camacho decides to give a first cap to under 21 international Unai in the middle of the defence, the only real surprise in the line up. There are doubts about Spain's fitness, especially as their kit failed to turn up in time for the first training session, but they start dominating the ball for the first 20 minutes, with an incredible 87% possession at one point. That's OK as far as it goes, but they can't get past England's back four, and apart from a Helguera dipping volley from outside of the area which James saves they hardly have a shot at goal. By now the England players are starting to get to know each other (some were only formally introduced shortly before the game), and it is no surprise when Barmby puts then ahead, bravely throwing himself at the ball to steer it past Casillas.
At half time England make six changes (they wanted to make 11 but Camacho said no), and Spain brought on Paco for the injured Abelardo and the league's top scorer Javi Moreno for his first cap in place of Urzaiz. Moreno immediately creates danger and Mendieta shoots just wide as the incoming England players ask each other politely what their first names are, but once they work that out they score again, Heskey this time the first to get to Ehiogu's header. By now Camacho has lost interest in the game, and he gradually brings on the other five subs, with Cañizares making his return in goal. In the Spanish league this season he only lets in one goal every 127 minutes, but here he only lasts four before Ehiogu beats him with a header, the defenders having gone walk about to chat to some of the pretty girls around the ground to practise their English.
The ground is a bit of a mud bath, but Javi Moreno decides it is time for a swim and trips over Ehiogu's feet in the area for the Greek referee Mr. Kyros Vassaras to give a penalty. Mendieta is already off the park and Raúl (wearing the 7 shirt for the first time for Spain) turns away and says he has an urgent matter to attend to (he missed a couple recently) so Moreno takes it himself. However nothing was going to spoil Eriksson's party and Martyn guesses right and saves low down. That's about it, and we decide to leave quietly as our new Brummie friends are looking for us to take us for a few drinks at the Bullring. The 'Bullring'? We have enough of those in Spain, but it's probably closed anyway with the foot and mouth thing, and right now we don't feel like celebrating. In any case nobody took this game seriously in Spain with Real Madrid playing Barcelona in three days time, and the only talking point in our country is whether Abelardo or McManaman will recover in time for the big game. Spain only have one competitive international before June, at home to Liechtenstein next month, so that should not be a problem, although the Spanish press are not happy with this second defeat in a row. Maybe we still are the best, but not tonight. Perhaps we should use the under 21 side for the next game?