The damning truth of England’s abysmal World Cup campaign…

It’s five minutes prior to England’s match with Uruguay, a game England must inherit at least a point from to ignite any faint hopes of qualifying from the group stages of the World Cup.

It’s five minutes prior to England’s match with Uruguay, a game England must inherit at least a point from to ignite any faint hopes of qualifying from the group stages of the World Cup. ITV run a motivational feature involving the England players stating reasons why they love football and why playing for England means so much to them. The content was fine, albeit on the “cringey” side, but the delivery was robotic and forced. One wonders whether some ITV drama scriptwriter concocted their “emotional” statements, as it is near impossible to trust “our” set of lads and their uninspiring football and unlikeable traits.

True to history, England have let us down again. Only this time we have an excuse, or at least the FA have attempted to make us believe we have an excuse. The excuse being that our team is young and needs nurturing before becoming the formidable international force it will be in “four years’ time”. Ten years ago the same drivel was exclaimed about a young Aaron Lennon and Sean Wright Phillips needing to flourish – it’s not going to change.

The way FA representatives and like-minded supporters have gone on about the nation’s difficult group you would think we were in-group with Argentina, France and Brazil. Taking zero points from the opening two games is an embarrassment and the Costa Rica match further emphasised the inept nature of some of England’s roster. Nobody expected us to win the world cup but with the capabilities within the squad, England and their multi-million valued squad were not underdogs. In fact the bookies couldn’t call it from the outset with Italy marginal favourites and Costa Rica down and out at 33-1. Prior to the world cup Italy had failed to stop Ireland in a friendly and their early exit has been met by the resignation of their manager such is the feeling of disappointment within the country. The irony of the real under-dogs Costa Rica finishing top of this group of pretenders is fabulous.

Didn’t stand a chance

For a set of Premier League regulars to be unable to defend on a basic level is dreadful. To have a situation at half time in the Italy match where it was evident to every armchair supporter that Baines was getting tortured down his wing, and for the management team to refuse to act is absurd. Rooney, who had been shifted onto the wing in the hope of instigating a positive performance, was gallivanting in zones of the field that his position did not permit. Baines stood no chance as Italy’s right hand side controlled and then crushed our lonely and exposed left back.

Balotelli’s goal – a goal scored typically from Leighton Baines’ exposed left side.

A lack of cutting edge you can overlook in some respects but the defensive frailties that were exposed were something best found on a Sunday League pitch. As a full back your primary function isn’t to take people on (Glen Johnson) it is to stop footballers that are essentially more gifted than you from getting past you. You wouldn’t ask any full back if he was a “good footballer” you would simply need to ask “can you stop someone who claims to be a good footballer”. Marauding full backs are fantastic when you’re in a team that consistently enjoys possession but this is something England rarely enjoys.

This World Cup has seen a footballing revolution of change, with England failing to take part. Fresh attacking formations coupled with bold and energised tactics have seen Hodgson’s, Capello’s and Del Bosque’s set ups crippled in the groups stages. Early exits for the three conservative managers highlights the sign of the ever-changing times.

Another trend that has discerned at the World Cup is the South American positive aggression with Costa Rica and Chile proving that the world is now a lot more equal, so long as you are hard to beat and can put a foot in where it matters. This is by no means a suggestion world cup success has been built on nihilism, for it has oozed beauty from the starting point. It has however given birth to a new era of Brazilian discipline and style with the Columbia game an indication that the home nation is not afraid to “win dirty”.

For England it would have been nice to see a bit of retaliation to the onslaught of dirty tackling they suffered at the hands of Uruguay, who played the referee superbly. The referee for the said match has rightly taken a lot of criticism for being lenient but at that point surely England should realise that they could commit a bit of manslaughter and “have a go” back. It’s a winner takes all game and you’re a professional footballer, show some grit.

Where to now though? Greg Dyke has spent fortunes on administering a report that would enlighten the nation as to why our football team is faltering. The best he could come up with was the suggestion of a B league that would inevitably destroy the history of the football league and many teams with it. Anyone who supports this idea is probably a supporter of a football team half way across the country from their hometown because “they’re good”.

Don’t want to play for their country

At grass roots level is the problem with our academies loaded with foreign youngsters and coaches that are instructed by the FA to play “this way, that way” meaning route one and heavy tackling. Technique and flair is coached out of the youngsters and this is why footballing nations like Spain eclipse us both as a unit and as individuals. It was evident this would have a knock on effect hence why we have looked so ordinary for the duration of our short stint in this exceptional world cup. Stuart Pearce has alerted England supporters to the issue of non-attendees at the youth level of International football. For seventeen youngsters to refuse representing the Under 21s last year, the attitudes of our youngsters must be called into question. Representing your country should be a condition at all levels from schoolboy upward, not a case of “when I can be bothered to turn up”. If you don’t want to gain tournament experience in the under 21’s, forget the seniors.

Granted, Roy has had to pick with what he has had in front of him and pretty much adhered to whatever the media/fans wanted in terms of the squad for this world cup. He hasn’t been cautious either with four strikers in a starting eleven it was clear he wanted to alteast try to entertain. Blatantly there was no plan B and so why we found it impossible to break down two teams that “parked the bus” once in front. England lacked the exuberance of Columbia or the quick-witted counter attacks of Chile to alter the destiny of matches. Deluded England fans will probably argue that we deserved more against Uruguay because we had lots of the ball and a few half chances. Isn’t it funny however that once we did equalise the intensity of our play dropped as Uruguay altered their system and attacked us before the predictable final blow? You could speculate that Italy, who played in first gear for long periods of the game, planned to do just the same job on England had we equalised against them.

The entire team is paid millions (supposedly the lowest earner is on 50k a week) to play in what is dubbed as one of the best leagues in the world and they were embarrassed by Uruguay, a country with a population of 3 million. We had one unfit player to mark out of the game and we failed miserably. The first goal was six versus two and Suarez still received a free header. The second goal was of the schoolboy ilk and far too reminiscent of the goal that was gifted to Klose in the 2006 World Cup. Do we ever learn our lesson?

Within the first five minutes of the second half against Uruguay we could have conceded three or four and that wasn’t because our team was “going for it” as we never left our own half for the duration of the persistent Uruguay attacks.

Maybe the issue is the over priced wage packets our players receive at their club teams. According to the BBC “Wayne Rooney’s annual wage eclipses the reported salary of Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi”. This was reported in 2013. Since then Messi has signed a fresh contract and you can imagine how that conversation with the chairman could have gone as Lionel read the newpspaer informing him that Wayne Rooney’s mercurial talents were being rewarded with a larger fee than his own.

If Wayne Rooney wasn’t hyped to the rafters you would struggle to pick him out from the crowd. Judging by this world cup, you wouldn’t have had him in your top 50 players so far.

The issue of over-hyping in England cannot be underestimated. In fact certain senior members of the squad such as Stephen Gerrard have become temporary pariahs for the nation to offload their frustrations onto. Gerrard looked pedestrian in all three matches and his final forage into international football has fallen short of average; it has ended in a damp squib that became laughable when he backward headed the ball to Luis Suarez against Uruguay for the second goal. Funnily enough, like Wayne Rooney, Gerrard would have played right back if Hodgson had deployed him there. Both players share the same unquenchable thirst for a “big game moments” despite their depreciating skills being unmatched by an improved intelligence of the game (i.e Pirlo).

Ultimately this disappointing world cup campaign for England had to happen. If only it served as a stark reminder that the world’s football is being revolutionised and we need to follow suit, then that is a minor positive. Had we faced opposition such as Germany, Netherlands or Columbia the outlook could have been significantly worse.

The England squad were booed into their stadiums by Brazilian fans while the Germans were given rapturous applause after a 7-1 drubbing. In a country famed for its fast flowing and beautiful footballing roots it is no wonder that England snuck out of this tournament with little more than a whisper, the only real highlight being Raheem Sterling’s performances. The question remains whether the country can change its future fate. Under the economically demanding restraints of having the Premier League circus and all it’s TV rights glory in full flow, you would expect not.

It’s alright though the FA will still be dancing around at Wembley, rich from the £90 white t-shirts they sold prior to the tournament. Try justifying that value for money now.

Image: Wikipedia