Monday, 28 June 2010
Last word on England
My last, anyway. Having been invited out to lunch that extended to the beginning of the second half, I saw the match back to front when, unable to sleep, I caught the first half about 1am.
The statistics show England had more shots and more possession than the Germans and, in the first half, despite losing two goals they looked fine. There were some nice passages of play from them. Imagining that the Germans were England I thought how I would curse overhit German passes.
Nevertheless England went two down. The team as a whole did not deserve it but the defence did. No team can work with a faulty defence. Upson was pretty terrible and Terry had little judgment. Johnson had a bad world cup generally. Gareth Barry had been injured and had only just recovered but had no speed. Cole was not disastrous but a little under par. It would have been better with Ferdinand, if Ferdinand were fit. It was the defence that let in two goals, not brilliance from the Germans, who were not all that impressive until the leaky defence had been breached twice more, although by that time the defence was spending more time upfield trying to get an equaliser.
The disallowed goal was, as everyone could see, a goal, and the score then would have been 2-2. (No use the Germans saying that was payback for 1966 - it is still not clear from the film then available that the ball hadn't crossed the line. This was clear as daylight.) From that point on the England team looked troubled. Football, like all games, is partly in the mind, and I suspect the English team went into the game fearing the history of the fixture. They lost two more goals when committed to attack.
The problem is not that English players can't play - Gerrard, Roooney, Lampard, Ferdinand and Terry have all been rated - by foreign journalists - to be among the best five players in the world one or other time. The problem was that they are not good under pressure. It was a poor campaign on the whole and everyone, bar James and, in my view, Lampard, played below par.
The psychological factor is important. So is exhaustion and injury. Rooney was clearly not fit, but his spirits were low too. United had lost both the Premier League and were knocked out in the Champion' League, right at the end of the season after he got injured. That's a triple blow for someone like him. Ashley Cole had only just recovered from injury, as had Joe Cole. Gerrard had been poor all season and might have been playing out of position. Ledley King was a gamble that failed - a gamble that had to be taken, nonetheless.
There are the predictable calls for an English manager, just as there were after Eriksson. Well, they got Steve McClaren that time. Where are the English managers in the Premier League? Roy Hodgson is mentioned and he is the only one I see possibly able to do the job.
As has often been pointed out England has a longer season than most countries so injuries and exhaustion tend to set in. That was the problem in the last few World Cups. The reason it is so long is the need to raise revenue - and that will not get easier.
The number of foreign players in England has raised standards but only among those players who play regularly in the first team. It hasn't helped the young players very much. There is no great wave of discernible talent coming through - not English talent anyway.
The very same people who bemoan the lack of skill quickly cry 'selfish' when a player actually tries something ambitious. I mean pundits and crowds. That was the attitude towards Ronaldo. There would always be more reasons to hate him here than admire him. Part of that was xenophobia, part inborn truculence, part his own fault.
The inquest that follows now will be contemptible and not worth having because it will not change anything. It will be simply people admiring the drama of their own voices at coloratura pitch. I remember Eriksson saying of Rooney in a press interview: 'He is your golden boy. Do not kill him.' But they will, they will. Much more fun and self-justifying than patience. Any old rubbish will do providing you sound 'passionate' about it.
I think Capello must have got some things wrong, and I have suggested that something was seriously wrong in the camp. Some bad blood. I imagine John Terry had a little to do with that: the resentful demoted captain not taking to be overlooked twice in a row in favour, this time of a moody rival. I don't see those two as friends - not that I like either of them.
But then France had already gone, as had Italy. I rather suspect Argentina will beat Germany. At least I hope so. It hasn't in fact been a very exciting or skilful world cup so far, apart from Slovakia beating the Italians. I'll watch some matches and might keep awake.