With the rest of the World Cup throwing up surprises ranging from Spain losing to lowly Switzerland, to Brazil struggling to beat politically torn North Korea, England fans were expectantly waiting for a victory full of consummate ease over Algeria. However, as recent performances have dictated, that expectancy should have been lined with a large amount of doubt and suspicion of Fabio Capello’s sides ability to beat the Algerians.
Indeed, as the British press has shown, there was scepticism about England’s chances over winning their second group game. The majority was borne out of criticism over Capello’s tactics in announcing the squad as late as he has, the indecision about where to play captain Steven Gerrard, the poor form of Wayne Rooney and the tumultuous nature of England’s defence (although it has yet to penetrated often this campaign, it does not leave much to be desired.) Unfortunately, the game against Algeria that would supposedly put all of those problems to bed, only led to more problems.
Steven Gerrard looked anonymous and seemed to lack the nous to inspire those around him, poignantly, David Beckham. Arguably England’s greatest captain in recent years, he was seen to vent his frustrations often in a way that seemed far more passionate than Gerrard. Gerrard’s fellow Liverpudlian Wayne Rooney looked like a man that was suffering from increasing annoyance with himself, his team mates and upsettingly, the fans. The oft shown comment at the end of the game: “It
His remark, although rash and almost certainly immediately regretted, was untimely and on the whole unfair. England fans that have made the journey to South Africa have largely spent upwards of £1,000. As we all saw, the performance, effort, initiative and tactics on display last night were not worthy of such a price and those in attendance were completely within their rights to boo. Essentially, football is a sport that is played to entertain. England fans were not entertained last night and although booing is very rarely constructive, it was the only way to express the evident annoyance at a poor performance. What appears to have riled England fans so much were the tactics that seemed completely devoid of the necessary approach. For the second consecutive game, England failed to create ample chances to win the match comfortably and quite frankly will not see them progress through the tournament. Questions over whether England deserve to get to the knock out stage playing so averagely have begun and as expected, Capello will take much of the blame.
The reason for this blame lies with his squad selection for the World Cup. The squad contains, as we now know, very little that can change a game. Peter Crouch and Shaun Wright-Phillips have failed to make any sufficient inroads to the opposition defence and with hindsight in mind is a mistake by Capello. Throughout the build up to the World Cup, Capello insistently told of his intentions to have the form players in his squad and put simply, Wright-Phillips was not a form player and nor was Jermain Defoe (who failed to inspire last night.) Adam Johnson, Darren Bent and Ashley Young were all experiencing a fine spell of form and Capello’s failure to acknowledge that, and his ignorance of his previous mantra that reputation counts for nothing and that form counts for everything, is a flaw the manager is liable for.
Most worryingly are the obvious comparisons that can be made to the squad from the 2006 World Cup. The much fabled squad formed by Sven Goren Eriksson, has been often pointed to as a time that England need to forget about and move on from. Up to this point, Capello was seen as the man to do that but these two games have shown that England have not developed as much as needed, the core players remain the same with a worrying lack of improvement from the players on the periphery. The Theo Walcott’s, Jermaine Jenas’ of last campaign have not been sufficiently replaced and that may be the reason why England have struggled so far.
Still, the tournament is not yet over and a win against Slovenia would guarantee England a place in the knock out stage. For that, hope should still be retained but whether hope is foolish or not is now thoroughly questionable.