England’s first match, against the USA, ended in a tie, 1-1. The England team got off to a great start when captain Steven Gerrard scored a well-placed effort off an Emile Heskey pass in the space of only 4 minutes, beating the stretching Tim Howard in the US goal.
For most of the half, England controlled the game, yet, one has to mention, they played far below the dizzling heights that saw them qualify to South Africa with such consummate ease. However, a devastating Goalkeeping error by Robert Green allowed the USA back in the game. Green watched Clint Dempsey’s rather weak effort trickle out of his reach and cross the line: whilst unfortunate; this is a save that most schoolboy goalkeepers have no trouble with.
The second match, against Algeria, was simply an awful showing from England. The play lacked fluidity, and there weren’t too many chances for either side. Neither team looked like scoring, with both teams packing 10 men behind the ball and playing the long-ball game. A scoreless draw in the end.
The final group game, against Slovenia, was an improvement by England, but only a slight one. The team seemed to have a greater desire to get forward and test the keeper, and in the end a James Milner cross was met well by striker Jermaine Defoe whose touch allowed the ball to beat the Slovenian Goalkeeper. Nonetheless, a 1-0 scoreline dissapointed many England fans who were expecting a much heavier margin of victory against an average Slovenian side.
Then came the Round of 16, and England faced Germany. In my opinion, one of the many problems in the Enlglish game is the Over-anticipation of results without any evidence. For instance, many English pundits (and I won’t single anyone out here) claimed that the German team was young, inexperienced and couldn’t make the England squad if they were English. This sort of arrogance is the downfall of English football.
This point is proven by the final scoreline, Germany 4 – 1 England. While England had a goal wrongly disallowed and were denied on several occasions by Manuel Neuer (German Goalkeeper) and the woodwork, there is no denying that Germany were a class apart on the day. The German passing game was in full effect and on show in all but one of the goals.
The first goal was simply hideous defending by England; route one football which found the stretching Klose who had a simple tap-in. The second goal was a brilliantly crafted German move, allowing Podolski to fire in one of his trademark rifles from a tight angle.
The other two goals were fantastic break-away goals.
So the question is, what must change?
I disagree with all the people who suggest that the manager should be axed. When done before with Sven Goran Eriksson being replaced, the results didn’t improve, and those results seem to have stayed stagnant in Capello’s reign as England again fail to make an impact in the world cup.
The players must change. For starters, the team shouldn’t be picked on reputations, and many players were left behind controversially being replaced by injured/unfit players who were doubtful before the games, such as Ledley King, as well as others clearly NOT on the top of their games, Wayne Rooney. More money has to be invested in the youth, and for me only three clubs come close to foreign clubs when it comes to producing young talent. Arsenal, who, although considered anti-English by many, seem to be building a strong English youth system, with the likes of Eastmond, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere coming through. Aston Villa also produce good talents, James Milner, who played in this World Cup, was one of the players who impressed; Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor are two talents that were left behind. Everton is another team that produces good yound talent, the likes of Rodwell catching the eyes of top managers in the country. Obviously bigger clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham also produce good talent, and I will be particularly looking forward to seeing the likes of Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon progressing in the next two years.
The formations must change. For some unknown reason, managers keep playing Gerrard and Lampard in the same team, where, clearly, they don’t seem to do the job. Not to mention, the previous was played on the left-wing this World Cup, hardly his best position. The English players must also start deviating from the classic 4-4-2 formation and adapting to more modern adaptations, 4-5-1, 4-3-3, and 4-2-3-1. In the modern game, it is estimated that a player doesn’t touch the ball for more than 2 seconds at a time. With Only 1 striker, the emphasis should be on possession play in midfield and narrow defenses, rather than rigid 4-4-2 systems relying on the long-ball. In simpler terms, English players must start attacking with fluency (like Arsenal/Aston Villa’s 4-3-3) and defending as a team (much like Bolton/Everton).
The ideology must change. The idea of kicking the ball upfield and then running after it should be eradicated, it just doesn’t work against taller teams (like Germany) on the international stage. The new focus should be on technical ability, first touch, short, accurate passing, and working hard for each other, then retaining possession after it has been won. Not rough tackling, winning the ball, kicking it away, hoping Rooney on his own can create some magic. But fair tackling, winning the ball, building WITH PACE from the back, and trying to hit teams on the counter.
I wish England the best of luck in the 2012 Euros.