England's dreams of lifting the World Cup in South Africa 2010 have come to an end, as they were crushed 4-1 by Germany this afternoon in the round of 16 knockout stage. In what has been a terrible tournament for Fabio Capello's men, England's "golden generation" limp out of another major international competition. And we thought it couldn't get any worse than failing to qualify for Euro 2008...
I am not blaming Capello for the mess that is the England football team, not entirely. Sure he is stuck in his ways and seems reluctant to alter anything, but you can see on his face how passionate he is about his job; the guy is a winner, as his CV will show you. I honestly don't think he could have gotten any more out of the players than he did, but I do have issues with his squad selection and substitution choices. For a manager who constantly reiterated that he would only take players who were fit and on form, what on earth was he doing selecting King, Heskey, Carragher and Upson? The prime example of Fabio's failure here is Darren Bent, who had a very good season at Sunderland and was in the form of his life in the run up to this World Cup. Bent has 25 goals in all competitions this season, in 40 appearances for the Mackems. Yet poor Darren is left out of the final 23 man squad and Emile Heskey is taken instead. Now I have to give credit where it is due, and Heskey had a fine first half against the USA in the first game - but that was it. When Emile Heskey, the striker who doesn't score, is chosen over real centre forwards like Darren Bent, then you know England have problems. Fabio's odd decision to take off Defoe this afternoon in exchange for Heskey most likely bewildered every Englishman in the world. I don't understand Capello's thought process just after Germany broke away and scored a very simple but crucial third goal, why not bring Crouch on instead, who typically plays well for England and who does his job - scores goals - unlike Heskey.
I know most of the press and many fans will focus on Lampard's goal that was but wasn't. However this view completely ignores England's fundamental problem that they simply were not good enough. Germany were technically superior in every way, and their football is actually fun to watch, and effective too. When was the last time you said you had "fun" watching England? If Lampard's goal had been given, the game would definitely have swung in England's favour. At 2-2 the Three Lions would no doubt have carried that momentum on and pushed Germany right to the edge. Even when they got over the fact the goal wouldn't stand, England still bossed the last few minutes of the first half and looked very dangerous in attack. So it is easy to blame the linesmen for England's defeat, and there is no doubt tonnes of Facebook and Twitter updates have cried out WE WUZ ROBBED! But the reality is that Germany were better, a lot better, and probably would still have won even if the score was 2-2 at the beginning of the second half. England's poor defence would have ensured that. Johnson, Terry, Upson and Cole were torn to shreds by Germany's blitzkrieg attack, as Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Podolski and co had their way with England. I know Terry is good in the air, and gets his fair share of goals from set-pieces, but to leave just Ashley Cole in defence was suicidal, and the Germans made us pay dearly, as Bayern's wonderkid Thomas Muller put the game to bed with a brace with twenty minutes to go.
I didn't want to spend too long talking about this horror show of a game, so I'll leave it there. But rest assured England have a lot of work to do and I think it all starts at the lowest foundations of the English game: we simply do not produce the technically gifted players our opponents do. We have no playmakers like Xavi, Iniesta, Forlan, Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Kaka and Messi. Don't even get me started on the enigma that is Wayne Rooney. I already wasted far too much time on him in my last post. Argentina play Mexico tonight in which is surely going to be an entertaining game, so I'll continue enjoying the World Cup and start to forget dismal England. Be honest, you knew they wouldn't go far, so there's little surprise to see them exit so early. They'll be no tears from me this year, not for England's under-performers.
Thanks for reading.