Tuesday, July 04, 2006

England - the aftermath.

Personally I was pretty gutted at the England loss, although their exit did not surprise me. I did feel they didn't really deserve to go out, but nor did I feel they really deserved to go through. Overall they came out of the Portugal match with more credit, except for the hopeless display of lack of nerves in the penalties.

After that game I sat quietly, flat, after going out like that. During the penalties I did shout quite a bit, and I had a couple of tears glistening in the corner of my eye. It was England's first game in the tournament I'd felt really passionate about.

I have since been listening to this CD of England songs Mum burnt me, that my family had sent as a gift over from the UK. "Football's coming home" is naturally the most emotional song as I remember it well from England's Euro 96 campaign.

But the feeling was no way near as intense as my distress about Leeds has been (on a number of occasions).

So let us summarise some aspects of England's campaign

Sven:

Picked a squad with only 4 strikers, 2 of whom were under a big fitness cloud. Didn't bring along a Defoe, Bent or Ashton instead of a midfielder like Jenas who is a) not up to it and b) as likely to start a game as the Pope is to renounce catholicism. And include a 17 yr old gamble in Theo Walcott, and then refuse to play him (although admittedly I imagine the experience of just going was good for him).

At Germany itself, started off with a reasonable line-up. 4-4-2 was the way to go. This was with Owen and Crouch up front. When Owen came off injured against Sweden after he and Rooney started, Crouch was the replacement. And as a pair they looked good, Rooney doing his usual great job of linking midfield and attack, and looking dangerouse in his first competitive action since breaking a metatarsal. They played a good game plan of playing to feet and looked good (first half at least). So why did Sven fiddle with his formation, make a 4-5-1 (4-1-4-1)? He left Rooney isolated up front, not the role he relishes, and possibly part of the reason he became frustrated against Portugal and behaved rashly (not to excuse the little blighter one jot!)

He persisted with Beckham, with no appetite to change him at all, regardless of performance. In fact against Ecuador he was so obviously physically sick - it took Sven an extra 17 minutes (approx) to see what the rest of the world already knew. yes Beckham did a couple of useful things in the dead ball situation, setting up a couple of goals, and scoring one himself. So perhaps he deserved a start? Perhaps, but there was no need to keep him on so long. Lennon was gagging for a start. I was gagging for Lennon. Most of England was gagging for the protege born and bred in Leeds and taught his footballing trade there - Aaron Lennon. When he made the forced sub against Portugal Lennon looked exciting, fresh and good in the last 15 mins of normal time plus extra time.

And Lampard had a bit of a shocker at the world cup. Nigh on 30 shots and nothing to show for it. Never seeming to be able to replicate his Chelsea form, perhaps frozen on the biggest stage. Did Sven even contemplate dropping one of his big names, thus allowing a 4-4-2 that included a defensive midfielder in Hargreaves? Did he hell as like. Boy would I have liked to see the following team and formation at some stage:

Robbo
Neville Rio Terry Cole
Lennon Gerrard Hargreaves Cole
Rooney Crouch

(with the midfield as a bit of a diamond, Hargreaves breaking up the attacks and distributing, Gerrard supporting the strikers - even if this only happened for half an hour at the opportune time!)

Instead Gerrard was often wasted going forward too much and neglecting the midfield where he excels. Crouch was not given enough a run. Sven needed to have confidence in his abilities that saw him score 6 goals in 10 (I believe) in the run up to the world cup.

And what kind of a coach constantly changes formation. The teams who have done best tend to have had a formation and a first choice team sheet and stuck with it barring injury or suspension in which case different players would fit in the formation. Sven seemed to like his formation because it could accommodate all his star men - not the basis on which to build a football team.

On 4 Million pounds a year surely he could have done better. And how much influence did McClaren have? Do we think things will improve under him - I'm sceptical.

After the world cup Sven's press conference included 9 separate instances of him saying sorry.

THE PLAYERS

Rooney - so much emphasis by the media on one man. He recovered from his injury quicker than expected, didn't score (at times this was due to the formation), and acted rather hotheadedly. Was passionate to do well and worked his bollocks off, one indiscretion we may forgive him for...in a few years time!

Hargreaves - Awesome! My England player of the tournament. Under so much criticism for even being in the squad he proved his doubters wrong. Most of us have only ever seen Hargreaves given a token last 15 minutes, maybe in a random position like left wing. In his favoured midfield role (and also at right back) he really showed his stuff. Good stuff my man.

Others did good stuff now and again. Joe Cole looked sensational in the first half against Sweden scoring the wonder goal, Gerrard hit a blinder against T & T. Beckham was at times on the money, at others his passing was just woeful. Terry gave a mixed bag. Rio did well. Robbo did OK but he's not the man for penalties. Neville did OK. Lennon was exciting. Crouch did OK when asked.

But overall the players were a let down.

The Argentinian Ref in the Portugal game.

I think made a couple of boo boos. And also with regard to the Rooney sending off I have found out he was absolutely adamant it was for the stamp. If that was the case I think the stamp warranted no more than the yellow card. Combined with the push though it was maybe worth a red, but the ref seemed to think the push didn't require punishment.

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