In the build-up to the World Cup in South Africa, many would have been excused for naively hoping that England would end years of heartache or citing that this was there year to do. But in the wake of a shameful World Cup and the failure to secure victory at home to a Montenegro side ranked below Burkina Faso surely it is time to re-assess the disparity between the stark reality that England have not earned the right to be considered amongst the elite and the inflated expectations of a football hungry nation.
Their timid strides towards redemption in their previous qualifying games against Bulgaria and Switzerland were banished into the abyss after a display which offered a guileless reminder of just how far they need to progress before being considered for a major competition.
And whilst Montenegro should be credited for coming and making things difficult, the frustration perhaps stemmed from the worrying absence of any ideas or penetration in order to break their defensive wall down. By the time Milan Jovanovic had handled in the box, the feeble nature of the performance dictated a distinct lack of compassion.
The final whistle could not have come sooner for England fans and put for the introduction of the whole-hearted Kevin Davies which elicited a cheer from the crowd undoubtedly racked with tedium by this point and it is now abundantly clear that any burgeoning prospects will have to adapt at an impractical pace for England to have any sort of success at Euro 2012. The stark reality is – England are nowhere near world class, and anybody that holds this view is tainted by the misfortune of delusion. Failure to beat a team of Montenegro’s stature signifies the need for a shift in expectation.
If England are to progress in the future, fans may be aiding them in the brutality that attaches itself with accepting that the likes of Spain, Holland, Brazil and Argentina are streaks ahead of them at the world football top table. The longevity of their re-affirmation there was again laid bare yesterday evening. Whilst England have some excellent players in their ranks, there is only a handful of top quality youngsters coming through; the likes of Adam Johnson, Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and perhaps Kieran Gibbs. Look beyond those and the “world-class” prospects are sparse.
It does not constitute a crisis and it is a little harsh that Fabio Capello’s job has again come under scrutiny as the players are as much to blame as the Italian who said:
“I am a fighter. It is one game. We have to fight again. I think we are a good team. The goalkeeper was the best player for Montenegro. This is football. You have to respect little countries. They have good players. At this moment they are psychologically at a high moment having won three games.”
Whilst some of that notion may be true, little countries like Montenegro had England worked out, just like Algeria in South Africa and unfortunately England could only manage a 0-0 draw against both.