A plethora of column inches have been consumed by journalists offering their post mortems of England’s World Cup exit. Each one dressed as the prophet of doom, pointing the finger of blame at everything from the ball, to the timing of the announcement of the starting XI. But is this really a time of mourning? Well, yes, according to the press. But let’s take a deep breath, have a sit down, and look for reasons to be cheerful about the England football team.
One thing that has been a sticking point for many is our apparent decline in World Cup performance, from two consecutive quarter finals to being eliminated one round earlier has the nation up in arms. What could have happened?! I would like to propose that during this World Cup we’ve only been short of two things: Luck and a penalty shootout. We didn’t play well at this World Cup – I won’t try and sugar-coat that. But have we played well in the previous two (now deemed successful) World Cups? Not really, no. Cast your mind back to 2006. In the opening minutes against Paraguay, Beckham floats in a free-kick from the left, it comes off Paraguayan defender Carlos Gamarra and we’re one up. The remaining 87 minutes were drab and uninspiring, but we won, so who remembers? The next game we take 83 minutes to break down Trinidad and Tobago, then lose a lead against Sweden, then sneak past Ecuador 1-0. Finally, we lose to Portugal after another bore 120 minutes, but everything that has gone before is forgotten – the reason being that we went out on penalties. A penalty-shoot out elimination is an elimination that distributes rose-tinted glasses to everyone in England. If we’ve gone out on penalties, regardless of how we’ve played, we must have been robbed, it’s unjust, it’s a crime – a hangover from Italia 90. The reason why so much has been made of this tournament is the larger than normal amount of expectation and pressure that was put upon the team prior to the whole thing kicking off. We had the best striker in the world and all that was left to be decided was how many goals we’d win by in the final.
The old idiom says that you don’t turn into a bad team overnight, and it’s absolutely true. We went through the World Cup with more or less the same side that breezed through qualifiers, not only winning but winning comfortably, scoring goals and keeping clean sheets. The Capello regime was being applauded by players and the press alike, instilling order and discipline to the modern day footballers was surely a good thing – although perhaps it was taken a little too far come World Cup time. But players live and learn, and so do managers. So the calls for wide spread culling of coaches and players are a little hasty. Yes young players are due into the squad, but not at the rate being suggested. Some are ready, Dawson, Walcott, Milner, Lennon and Johnson to name a few, but some aren’t and let’s not forget we do have world class players already filling many positions. We have the chance to gradually blood youngsters in a relatively weak Euro 2012 qualifying group and get them ready for a major knock out tournament. The likes of Wilshire, Gibbs and Wickham can learn simply by being around the squad, these guys are not Premier League regulars and can’t be thrust into international limelight, not yet, we mustn’t forget the counter-productive nature of Walcott’s only World Cup call-up. The kids must be handled with care and their talents nurtured, not exposed before an over expectant world.
Losing on penalties is noble, losing to Brazil is acceptable, but losing to Germany is not. But credit where credit’s due, Germany are a very good team – ask Lionel or Diego. But giving Capello the chance to right his wrongs is a good move, he doesn’t become a bad manager over the space of 3 weeks and I trust him not to panic like the rest of us, make the necessary changes and get England to the Euros. So wash those England shirts and crack open a beer, because we’re guaranteed an exciting two years…
Written By Karl Sears