Another Tournament. Another Disappointment.
Football is a cruel game and yet again England are leaving another major tournament early.
And as usual when the World Cup began on June 9th the English faithful were full of optimism and rightly so – this was the best squad of players we had taken to a tournament in a long while.
Steven Gerrard has been in phenomenal form, John Terry and Frank Lampard were as good as they had ever been, Ashley Cole and Michael Owen were back from long-term injury, Wayne Rooney looked like he’d make the final squad and added to that were two of the Premiership’s greatest potentials in Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott.
And so off to Germany we went…
MOTM: Frank Lampard
“England suffer in the heat…”
England started well and managed to score after only 3 minutes after David Beckham sent in one of his trademark freekicks. Paraguay defender Gamarra tried to divert the ball past away from his goal but only succeeded in deflecting the ball into his own net. In the heat England managed to hold on for the 3 points but played average in the 1st half and even worse in the 2nd – surely better performances were to come.
MOTM: David Beckham
“It’s the late, late show from England.”
England struggled to get that first goal and it wasn’t until the 83rd minute that Peter Crouch broke the deadlock with a header from a brilliant David Beckham cross. England made plenty of chances but their unability to score – Frank Lampard being the main culprit – without ever being in total control of the match. This was highlighted just before half-time when still at 0-0, T&T fullback Carlos Edwards beat Robinson to a cross and almost scored! John Terry had to clear the effort off the line. Sven, who has been criticised for his substitutions in the past made a decent change when he introducted Lennon and Rooney in the 58th minute. England had more ugency about their play and Gerrard finished off the job with a fantastic left-foot pile driver in the 90th minute.
MOTM: Joe Cole
“The poor record against Sweden continues…”
With qualification secure, England went into their final group game knowing a draw would secure top spot in Group B. Things turned sour after only 2 minutes though, when Michael Owen suffered an arkward fall in which his leg seemed to buckle underneath him. That fall signalled the end of a poor World Cup for the Newcastle forward. Joe Cole scored an absolute blinder from over 30 yards out on the 34th minute, but the second half really exposed our defensive problems from dead ball situations. England conceded two goals from corners and long throw ins and looked very nervous from and type of ball into the area. After Allback equalised on the hour mark Steven Gerrard got us out of jail again with a smartly taken header with 5 minutes to go. But then our poor record against the Swedes continued after Henrik Larsson tapped in from close range after England failed to defend a long throw in. Not the best performance but England managed to top the group.
MOTM: John Terry
“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.”
David Beckham took England into the final eight with a great freekick on the hour, and made history for being the first Englishman to score in 3 World Cups. But before that Ashley Cole made possibly the tackle of the tournament when he threw himself at Carlos Tenorio’s shot and deflected the ball into the bar. England started with Wayne Rooney as the lone striker and Michael Carrick came in as the holding midfielder, and Gerrard and Lampard were urged to push on to support Rooney. But Gerrard and Lampard did not get forward enough as Rooney seemed to get frustrated at his lack of involvement in the game. Lampard again had some great opporunities to put the game beyond reach but again failed to score or even force the keeper make a save. All that didn’t matter as Svennis had successfully guided England to the last 8 of the World Cup yet again.
MOTM: Owen Hargreaves
“Luiz Felipe Scolari out smarts Eriksson Again? Only just…”
And to the Quarter Final against Portugal. The main news before the game was the absence of Portugese players Costinha and Deco, and throughout the game the Portugese failed to really trouble England without the Brazilian-born playmaker. England started the game really well and created some decent chances. Although England had most of the possession Rooney was again isolated up on his own and you could see him getting more and more frustrated as the game ticked by. And his anger boiled over after 62 minutes as he was sent off for stamping on Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho. England played better with 10-men and until the end of extra time it seemed that it was Portugal who were a man down. But again, Frank Lampard cemented his poor tournament as he missed a couple of guilt-edged chances to give England the lead. The England fans were in full voice and acted as England’s 11th man and this gave the England players the energy they needed to fight until the end. Aaron Lennon was wreaking havoc on the right hand side and the introduction of Peter Crouch on 65 really gave England a new dimension in play. Ironically it was the unfavoured Crouch and Hargreaves who were England’s best players – funny how football turns out sometimes. But with England without that little piece of luck to snatch a goal the game ended with the dreaded penalties. And we all know what happened next…
Hard to say really because of Sven’s tactics used throughout the World Cup most of the England players ended up having very average tournaments. Beckham was mediocre, Joe Cole only showed glimpses of what he is capable of, Lampard had a dire tournament and while the defensive unit played well at times we were shoddily exposed during the Sweden game. The man that stands out for me is Steven Gerrard for his desire, commitment and sheer guts. He gave England everything and you can’t ask for more than that.
For me Frank Lampard had awful tournament. For a player who scores for fun at Chelsea to miss as many chances as he did is really unforgivable. The problem was Lampard was the more attacking midfielder and Gerrard suffered by playing in a deeper role. Sven really should have had Stevie G further up the field as he needs less chances to actually find the net – as the Trinidad & Tobago and Sweden goals show. If Gerrard had played in Lampard’s position he would have scored at least half of the opportunities that he was presented with. His poor penalty against the Portugese summed up his World Cup.
It has to be John Terry, who had a fantastic tournament. He saved England from conceding against Trinidad & Tobago and always gives 110%. One of few players who was consistent over the 5 games England played over the World Cup.
Despite missing the first game against Paraguay Rooney would return in England’s second group game against Trinidad & Tobago gave the whole country a huge lift. Unfortunately it proved to be one of very few positives for the England team during the entire tournament.
Joe Cole’s screamer against the Swedes just pipped Beckham’s freekick for me. The sheer audacity to even try it was amazing but to execute it and score like that was a special moment for England. Cole was one of the real highlights in the England team and I’m so glad he managed to such a great goal because it sums up his performances for the Three Lions.
Just when things seemed to be going right for England Michael Owen suffered a terrible injury against Sweden after his knee buckled beneath him. That really signalled the end of two upfront as Theo and Crouch weren’t seen as suitable partners for Rooney and the young forward would suffer because of this.
Sven Goran Eriksson played a system that didn’t suit the players but allowed him to play all the star names. Instead of having the bottle to drop David Beckham and Michael Owen when they were playing poorly really hampered England’s progress in the World Cup. Sometimes you have to mix things up to get the best out of the players but to field your favourite players without the threatening to drop them gets players into the comfort zone which in turn gives poor performances. England had no really consistency in the formation or system they played, and the players really suffered because of it. Because Sven only took 4 strikers, consisting of Theo Walcott who he never intended to play, a crocked Michael Owen and a just returning Wayne Rooney. With that squad he had to play one up front and Rooney on his own was a disaster waiting to happen…
England were a victim of Sven’s inadequate tactical knowledge. While having some of the World’s best talent at his disposal England performed poorly throughout the World Cup. While countries such as Germany, France and even Italy have seen gradual improvement as the tournament has progressed England (albeit a decent 20 minutes against Portugal) never looked like putting in a good performance. Of course, it is a results tournament but if you don’t perform at some stage of the tournament or even show improvement as the games get harder then you will get exposed. England have stuttered through games and that is just not good enough. I would love to say the future is bright now Sven has departed but with Steve McClaren taking the reigns expect much of the same over the coming years. Except that Stuart Downing will now be in the first eleven.