Early Doors

Plain in Spain

Early Doors

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So, what did we learn from England's 2-0 defeat in Spain last night?

Following an encouraging opening 10 matches in charge of the national team, Fabio Capello's side were comfortably second best to the European champions throughout the encounter in Seville.

Well, ED says throughout, but it can't say for sure, as the 9pm kick-off time (which was more like 9:15 thanks to some trademark Spanish timekeeping) and lack of second-half thrills made for plenty of opportunity to nod off.

We'll soon find out if the excellent club form of Phil Jagielka and Carlton Cole will be affected by their respective error and hesitation in front of goal, while it's clear that David James simply can't be trusted to catch a ball these days.

It's true that across a season he saves more points than he costs, but that logic just doesn't hold water in a tournament, as his costly blunders in this season's UEFA Cup and previous FA Cup finals prove. Just look at the picture for goodness sake. Robert Green will enjoy seeing that so much, he should get it framed.

For all of the improvement of the performances under eyewear model Capello, England are still playing 4-4-2 and retain all the drawbacks that come with that.

From on-high in the Sanchez Pizjuan it was easy to see the predictability of the visitors compared with the host of options available to any of Spain's midfielders at any one time.

There is of course no shame in losing to the world's top-ranked side in their own back yard, but if the man heralded as world football's foremost tactical mind can't get England to play in a different style that will beat the top sides, he better have them practising a lot of penalties between now and kick-off in South Africa.

The match was proof that, like David Beckham on the evening of his 108th cap, England are like Hovis - as good today as they've always been.

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ED is operating a little bit out of its comfort zone as it writes about Chelsea's appointment of Guus Hiddink because the Dutchman is someone it quite likes.

He has a calm yet authoritative manner and for a 62-year-old is in admirably good nick, though Doors is still waiting for the day that he grows that moustache back.

Like Claude le Roy or Leo Beenhakker, he's never been afraid to travel far in order to further the cause of the game in some of its historical backwaters. The key difference, however, is that Guus is shrewd enough to go to countries on the verge of high achievement and, more importantly, pay well.

Hiddink said: "Abramovich does so much for Russian football that I wanted to do something back."

Translation: "Abramovich pays me so much for Russia that I wanted to see how much more I could get out of him."

Early Doors once tried to hold down two jobs. As well as the panicked scrawlings on a napkin that pass for a not-so-early football blog, it also tried its hand as a rollerskating waitress in a 1950s America-themed diner. However, the ratio of tips from satisfied customers to scalded lap-induced lawsuits made for a short tenure at Big Willy's Bar 'n' Grill.  

The Russian Federation have insisted that their national team remains the priority, but how realistic is that? The Russian season kicks off in March and if Hiddink does keep Chelsea in the hunt for trophies that will be a key time. Can he really be expected to spend his evening studying videos of Krylya Sovetov's trip to Shinnik Yaroslavl when Everton will be arriving at the weekend?

A lot has been made of the fact that Hiddink got Australia to the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup, but the form of PSV - who had made the Champions League semi-finals the previous season - suffered.

Almost inevitably on a management job-share there will be a point where one role wins over the other. Kevin Keegan promised with all his heart that he would see out the season as Fulham's chief operating officer before quitting the Cottage in February, while Lazio's mid-season dip in form prompted them to give Sven-Goran Eriksson the early boot after signing a pre-contract with the FA.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "There are two scenarios: It goes bad and they say "Go back east", or it goes well. But I'm not thinking that far ahead." Of course, Guus. We believe you.

FOREIGN VIEW: "This is our Invincible Armada" - Spanish rag Marca proves that the British tabloid press aren't the only who love a bit a good-natured jingoism.

COMING UP: You must have had your fill of football for the week by now, which is just as well because there ain't none. However, if it's scoring of LIVE tennis or Euroleague basketball you're after, then stick around.

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