England have crashed out of the World Cup after defeats to Italy, Uruguay and a draw against a Costa Rica side which had already qualified. It is England’s worst ever World Cup performance and it says everything about the campaign that in the last match they were hoping for a draw against Costa Rica, the pre-tournament whipping boys.
The first question that must be asked is where did it all go wrong? It’s a good question because you can’t solve a problem if you don’t know how it was caused. It confuses me when I listen to a lot of the English media who talk about how well England have done and they’ve just been a bit unlucky…you got 1 point out of three games and were outplayed in the two games which actually mattered. By no means are Uruguay a particularly good team nor are Italy, both teams are overly reliant on a couple of players, the difference however between these two teams and England is that they have a couple of players to be overly reliant on. England have arguably one star player (Wayne Rooney) and are then a team of ordinary players and journeyman internationalists. That isn’t an excuse for their underperformance though because Costa Rica don’t have any special players, heck they don’t even have good players, they have average players at very best and they made it through England’s group.
So where is the problem? You can only pick the players which are available to you, and I sympathise with England in that sense because they don’t have a good pool of players to choose from. Hodgson however made several selection mistakes; the major mistake was taking Frank Lampard in front of Michael Carrick. Lampard had barely played during the season and although Carrick hadn’t had a good season his style of play is more suited to the conditions and what England are missing in the middle of the pitch. Tell me honestly as an England fan that you didn’t feel anything but dread when Jordan Henderson lined up alongside Gerrard or the first two games despite the fact that he’s in no way a cultured midfielder. The second major mistake which Hodgson made with squad selection was not calling up a replacement for Oxlade-Chamberlain when he was injured. The idea I’m sure was that Ox could be back by the knockout stages and deserves to be there, but the truth of the matter is that if he wasn’t fit enough to play the final group game then he would never have been match fit for the rest of the tournament. Once again Carrick should have been called up but instead he handicapped England by only having a 22 man squad.
The second major issue which England have to deal with isn’t really to do with this World Cup but rather the Premier League in general. Firstly no English players play outside of England which means that they limit their top tier footballing opportunities to about five teams, it isn’t something which you can really fix but rather they need to change the mentality of the players. The bigger issue is epitomised perfectly by Adam Lallana. Lallana is a player who I like; he has done excellently at Southampton and deserves a step up. The problem with Lallana is that he is English and that means his price tag is ridiculously overpriced. A player of Lallana’s ability playing at the level he currently does should be valued at around £15-18 million instead Southampton are quoting teams £30 million, about double what he is actually worth. Why do you think that so many of the big clubs shy away from English talent? It is because they are so grossly overpriced, Luke Shaw is another perfect example of this, £30 million for an 18 year old left back? Silly.
The third issue England have is that they get too easily carried away with trends and fashions. This year’s trend and fashion which England got carried away with was the Liverpool effect. Liverpool last season had at best the sixth best squad in the Premier League, yet 5/11 of the starting team against Italy and Uruguay played for Liverpool. Sturridge is incredibly over rate and can only play well in space (something he wouldn’t receive in the two games), Johnson is just shit, Henderson runs about like a headless chicken, Gerrard is well past his best and can’t dictate a game like the English seem to think he can (he doesn’t have the passing ability) and Sterling was played in the position which Rooney (England’s best player) should have been holding. Just because Liverpool were a feel good story in the Premier League this season doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you can translate that into success at international level.
So those I think are the three biggest issues which England face; two of these are easily fixed, the other one is actually the fault of the FA for putting in a quota requiring English players be played without introducing one which limits non-EU players.
I’ve made it all sound doom and gloom for England and in many ways it is, people are talking like they’ll be able to compete at the 2016 Euro’s but I have my doubts, 2018 World Cup maybe but even that is a big ask.
Here is a potential team for 2016; Hart, Clyne, Jones, Cahill, Shaw, Sterling, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Barkley, Wilshere, Sturridge and Rooney. That is a very young team and in two years I imagine that some of these players will have cooled off and won’t be in the reckoning (remember when Ravel Morrison was the future of England about six months ago?). It is easy to have potential but to achieve that potential takes a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication, that is what separates the good from the great and if recent history is anything to go by then England will be lucky to get one good player out of this crop. That’s harsh but two years ago I’m sure most people would have been surprised if Tom Cleverley wouldn’t make the 2014 World Cup.
The one thing which England need desperately is competition, they lost to Italy yet everyone kept their place in the team…why? It doesn’t make sense, make some changes, freshen things up and do something different. The two worst culprits of this are Joe Hart and Glen Johnson, neither are outstanding players but neither has any competition so always retain their place in the team because there is nobody close to being better. The solution to this is easy, you drop them and put someone in who you know isn’t as good because it shows them that you won’t put up with their mediocrity any longer.
If you’re English you should get excited by the potential young talent which is coming through the ranks but you also need to take a step back and realise that nothing is guaranteed with young talent and you as a group of people and your media aren’t the best for allowing players to nurture and develop that talent.
The FA made the right choice to keep Hodgson in charge for this reason, he can develop these young players and it is important to have a long term goal in place for international management. Or the Hodgson haters out there ask yourself this, who would you realistically get at the current moment that is better? The answer is nobody unless you were willing to take a punt on an ex-international, hoping that he is the solution to all your problems.
The future may be bright for England because there is young talent there, but questions must be asked in regards to the total lack of talent which came through in this current generation. Rooney (who never reached his true potential) apart this generation of England players has been very poor, it will take a lot of work and development to make sure that the next generation doesn’t follow the same fate. Sometimes you need to fall to new depths before you can recover, will England recover or will they fall further into mediocrity with their self-entitled mantra? Who knows but it is a long road to recovery.
Leave a comment about what you thought of England’s dismal World Cup and feel free to be as brutal as you’d like.