England Camp Focus: World Cup exit exposes deficiencies in the English game

For an England at the last-16 there is little to offer in way of an excuse. Many will point to Frank Lampard’s “ghost goal” as a decisive factor in losing to Germany and if given it may have played a part, but in truth England were desperately poor, continually exposed by a team with vastly superior movement.

What must be remembered is this is an England team which spectacularly failed to qualify for the last major tournament. Although much of the blame was placed firmly on the shoulders of Steve McClaren it is largely the same group of players which have again come up short. Fabio Capello may have blown away the cobwebs of that campaign by firing England triumphantly through a qualifying group lacking much in the way of quality, but ever since the side arrived in South Africa there had been nothing to suggest these players were good enough to make a serious challenge.

There has been a distinct lack of pace when attacking the opposition in all four matches. It is difficult to comprehend how a team boasting the explosive talents of both Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney can be so labored and ponderous in attack. Prior to Sunday’s match both teams were highlighted as having shortcomings at centre-back with a lack of pace in both camps. However, it was only Joachim Loew’s side which used this to their advantage, playing their much heralded “Premier League” style pulling John Terry and Matthew Upson apart at will. A much criticised German side appears to have beaten England at their own game. Emphatically so.

This brings in a serious question not just in relation to the way Capello operates but the way in which England have always operated. England has no defined style of playing. There is no recent history of England success in major tournaments playing a certain way meaning there is a continual search for a foreign manager to create a system and way of winning. Germany is arguably the best example of a country which knows exactly what winning is about. This current German team has been much criticised in their home country and is playing without their inspirational captain but they still carry the tag of the tournament team. This means when going into the tournament they carry feelings of invincibility that they know they have the capabilities for a progression to the latter stages. When England make the finals of a major tournament there is nothing to indicate how a route to the business end will be achieved. It is always a situation of more questions than answers. This being highlighted emphatically this time around by Capello’s squad selection and the two opening games.

There is the argument England have the players who are good enough to do something in a major tournament and looking at the club achievements of many of the players it is difficult to disagree with this. However, following another disappointment it seems the burden of carrying the nation’s hopes is becoming all consuming. This is shown by the start contrasts in fortune between the attacking linchpins of the sides in Sunday’s game. Miroslav Klose has come into the tournament on the back of a poor season for Bayern Munich which saw him relegated to the bench for much of it. Playing for his national side, however, he looks sharp and like he knows exactly what positions to take up and where his teammates are. Rooney on the other hand having had such a successful season for Manchester United looks clueless and a shadow of himself. Much of the blame for Rooney’s performance has to be placed on his own shoulders but when anyalysing his World Cup against Klose’s we can see a huge difference in mentality. Klose knows his job. He knows the German success and he knows how to win World Cup matches. Rooney doesn’t have this luxury. As a nation England seems to be craving success without actually knowing how to achieve it, simply pinning the hopes on one man. This could not be further from the mentality of Germany. The successful English club sides do have this mentality. Of course there is expectation but this is backed up by a winning mindset ingrained in the history of the club. When Rooney goes into a vital Champions League match for United he has the confidence of past experience and knows exactly how to go about the performance to gain the win. This is missing when the club players pull on the Three Lions shirt.

Following Lampard’s strike some may view England’s exit from this World Cup as cruel but it must be seen as one which was fully deserved. The only highlight was a win against the smallest nation in the competition putting the nature of the campaign in context. It is clear there is a vast amount of work and rebuilding to be done not only in relation to replacing those players coming to the twilight of their career, but also in instilling the winning mentality into the players and the camp. How this will be done following another dismal finals performance is a question that remains to be answered and a huge task for Capello if he remains in his post following his meeting with the FA.

 

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