Will Tidey - Joyless campaign leaves England without hope
Published: 28 Jun 2010 - 06:41:04
The morning after the humiliation before, and a weary-eyed nation has three mindsets to choose from - anger, resignation or the blind hope that, surely, things can only get better.
Anger that this proud footballing island, home to supposedly the greatest domestic competition in the world, has been exposed as hopelessly inept on the international stage.
Anger that a crop of proven players, with no shortage of big-game experience and egos to match their salaries, have let a zeitgeist moment in their careers pass them by, yet again. Of course they care, but the marriage between fans and this England team demands they paint their passion in technicolour.
- Germany 4-1 England
Finally, anger that this England team have chosen the greatest sporting stage on earth to deliver an entirely joyless campaign, bereft of flair, imagination or even a semblance of infectious enthusiasm for the task at hand. Whether we like it or not, the World Cup as entertainment fare is a good deal better off without us.
Questions will rightly be asked of the manager, but should Fabio Capello's stubbornness really be the primary focus of England's World Cup obituary? After all, I don't see Jose Mourinho or Sir Alex Ferguson bowing to public opinion, or the behest of their star players on a regular basis.
Capello did make some curious decisions, not least in his substitutions, but I don't subscribe to the notion that England's best players withered on the grounds of their tactical deployment. Nor do I think Capello has become a bad manager overnight.
Wayne Rooney might not revel in a 4-4-2, but since when has a player's position on the pitch been responsible for their inability to control the football and pass it to a team-mate. As Alex Chick pointed out in his excellent blog at Eurosport-Yahoo!, Rooney is the most tackled player at the World Cup - and that says it all.
Defensively, England were beyond naive in Bloemfontein. Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson sent out invitations to attack in their absence, while John Terry and Matthew Upson looked like strangers thrown together in the playground. In midfield, England pressed in patches, but came nowhere near the Premier League intensity Capello has been screaming for on the touchline.
Perhaps England would avoided such a resounding defeat if Capello had opted for the 4-5-1 (or even 4-3-3) most of us had been crying out for, but if England's players are so mentally fragile and inflexible they fall apart outside of the narrow tactical framework they believe in, they're nowhere near good enough to win a World Cup.
What happens next will be subject to enormous speculation. There will be calls for Capello to go whatever the cost, and endless talk of this so-called 'golden generation' being sent out to pasture. The number of foreign players in the Premier League will be debated ad naseum and stories will doubtless emerge of disharmony within the England camp during the tournament.
But whatever the road forward for England, and whoever their manager is going into Euro 2012 qualifying, be sure that blind hope with emerge once more as we approach the tournament proper.
If only England's players shared the belief of their fans.
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- Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey
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