Date: 29th June 2010 at 7:18am
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England have crashed out at the World Cup, with startling similarities to Newcastle United`s relegation season. TOTT explores what went wrong.

The game that saw England`s exit was against the old foes, Germany. The early response it to wonder what might have been, had the referee spotted that the ball had crossed the line. Refereeing mistakes are, however, part and parcel of the game. Nobody knows that better than England`s whistler in South Africa, Howard Webb, who disallowed a perfectly good goal for a non-existant foul by Nolan against Hull City, which would have ultimately ensured survival.

Credit goes to the German coach, who set up a counter attacking team, which his imported players executed with legendary German/Polish/Turkish/Ghanaian discipline. Possession statistics showed that England dominated with 55% possession. That does not tell the story of the German defensive formation of 6 at the back with 4 ahead of them, poised to advance in a wave of 3 with 1 in support. The Championship saw the same from Forest during their form run of the season.

To give too much credit to Germany disguises the paucity of the performance. Remember that this was a German team humbled by a disciplined by Serbia, population 7 million. Embarrassment in England`s performance comes from the lack of passion and the inability to perform the basics all over the field.

David James twice left his post to conceded goals. His first save was made precisely because he did hug the near post. Defenders failed to stay goal side of their opponents. Too often, the side lacked width, the wide players being more central for their clubs. Strikers failed to attack near post and far post. Gerrard had 3 goals attempts, all of which were aimed towards the near post rather than across goal.

Technically, England were inept, as they had been in the group stages. Despite the euphoria at the time, it should be remembered that England scored when Defoe met a Milner cross to edge past Slovenia, population 2 million. It is the campaign that went wrong, not just the performance against Germany.

Fingers are pointing at the manager. Capello has succeeded in the game at club level. His successes came with Milan, Roma and Juventus in his domestic league, as well as twice gaining glory with Real Madrid. There is no doubt that he can be a success with well funded Mediterranean clubs.

Tactically, he was undone, not least by Joachim Low, Bob Bradley and Rabaah Saadane. In the Germany game, England were restricted to one goal, and long range efforts. Did Capello pick the right squad to start with?

TOTT ran a feature on goalkeepers in December last year. It was highlighted that James and Green were involved in a relegation battle, both teams ultimately conceding 66 league goals at a rate of 1.7 per game, compared with Joe Hart`s 1.2 and Steve Harper`s 0.75, albeit in the Championship.

Defensive selections included Ledley King, whose career has been interrupted by injury, as was his World Cup. Having selected 2 right wingers, in Lennon and Wright-Phillips, the leading wide right player became Milner, who can fill the wide left role, but found that place occupied by central midfielder Gerrard.

Up front, neither Crouch nor Heskey achieved double figures for their clubs last season, with Darren Bent, able to score prolifically for the lower mid-table mackems. Crouch does have a good scoring record for England, but was unused. Heskey`s contribution is measured by England`s scores when he is on the pitch. An impact sub he is not, and without width, was never going to be a threat.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the threat posed by Rooney. In all games, he appeared to many to be disinterested, often failing to challenge opponents within a couple of yards of him. Although nobody would deny him his place in the squad, whether he should have retained it in South Africa is open to debate.

The manager did, however, stick with the “big names”. Yes, Lampard could have scored twice on Sunday, but did not track back, not needing to at his club for who Ballack provides the platform. Gerrard did not get into finishing positions, created at his club by latin flair. Despite an almost heroic moment against Slovenia, Terry failed to do the basics without his Portuguese partners.

Some will therefore point the finger at the English game and domestic season. Despite popular beliefs, the German squad averaged 50 games last season at club level, the English squad 47. British based players, such as Carlos Tevez have still managed to shine.

A clue to the performance might be in the fates of other European teams, France and Italy, humbled by some of the poorer nations. Like the England stars, many earn more in a week that the British Prime Minister does in a year. Left at home is a life of luxury mansions, fast cars and nubile women.

These players are not used to slumming it in a room in a 5 star hotel, surrounded by just their team mates. With activities restricted to swimming and table tennis, an extravagant night life was off limits.

The teams who have over-performed are those from poorer countries, South America and Ghana. Players are playing for pride, and an opportunity to escape the poverty which surrounds them. The England team can now look forward to exotic holidays, and the half a million pounds or so that have accumulated in their bank accounts.

Newcastle supporters saw the same attitude from well paid players, notably up front in the relegation season. Money is guaranteed, players are set up for life. Perhaps there is no need for World Cup glory when they want for nothing else.

So the “golden generation” has failed, only to become the brat pack, with Rooney sent off against Portugal and Beckham against Brazil. Capello has trusted the names that always failed to deliver on the biggest stage of all. His reputation has been savaged by toothless lions. So where next?

Perhaps we shall see a new manager. That may be the third foreigner, plucked from Italian football or elsewhere. It could be an Englishman in his 60s, Hodgson or Redknapp. It might be a younger man like Steve McLaren who has achieved little, maybe Bruce or Pearce, but who understand the passion of the English game.

It is hard to see the Premier League, awash with money and foreign imports, produce the players to challenge the world. Perhaps what is needed is a resolute manager, prepared to ignore reputations built on the backs of others, but keen to select hungry players who enjoy the game, and play with pride.

For England, it is winning, not attractive football that is needed. Nobody will criticize effort. The World Cup is awash with players from the Championship and Premier League reserves, who have worked hard and denied the likes of France, Italy and Spain. Perhaps there is a future for England after all.

Article by RexN