Where it all Went Wrong for England: The Sequel

Dejecte England players at full-time following the Round of 16 match at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa on June 27, 2010. UPI/Chris Brunskill Photo via Newscom

In short: Everywhere. Though that won’t do. England’s problems were numerous and solutions are not easy to come by. It’s best to look at the team and the manager as a whole.

Hang on, that sounds awfully familiar, oh well the point still stands. England’s elimination was in hindsight predictable but before the game started only Boris Becker laughed at the notion of a close game in a, presumably, comedic piece to camera. Boris though turned out to be more prescient than most, myself included. Much has been written about England’s demise on this site and many others, I’ve allowed the storm to settle before setting my point out.

In the article after the Algeria game I highlighted Algeria’s system as a major factor in England’s poor performance, the same holds true for the Germany game also. England’s “4-4-2” is probably best written as 4-3-Gerrard-2, that is not to say Gerrard play’s behind the strikers but more that he holds a free role and is encouraged to find space even if it is nowhere near his ‘starting point’ of the left flank. Germany played with 4 in midfield as well but with a very strange shape with Mesut Ozil playing in the same sort of role as Gerrard but with only one out-and-out striker in Klose and Podolski joining in from their left. This left an interesting midfield battle on paper, in reality it was a an annihilation, Ozil got completely free from an semblance of marking by Gareth Barry simply because he moved so much, however on the German side the hugely under-rated Sami Khedira kept Gerrard quiet whilst allowing the back 4, who sat so deep to prevent any space behind them, to comfortably deal with Defoe and an obviously unfit Wayne Rooney. Speaking of back 4’s England’s line was pushed so high up the pitch it turned out to be suicidal. Klose may not be Defoe or Rooney quick but if he was the wrong side of Upson and Terry he was never going to be caught.

The German’s tactics, whilst successful, were not the main reason behind such a crushing defeat. That particular fault is without doubt on the shoulders of England’s defence, shocking and unprofessional errors led to all of Germany’s goals. The first goal was partly due to their high line and either a lack of understanding between defensive partners as 3 players started to play left back or failing to understand that at the altitude in Bloemfontein the ball was going to travel further from Goal-kicks. This cannot be held up as a defence, England have been playing at altitude for weeks, failing to know the flight of the ball and also that you cannot be offside from a Goal-kick allowed Klose to score a simple, but well taken, goal is indefensible. Upson and Terry played like strangers throughout and a shambolic display in the first half was not corrected in the second.

Germany’s final 2 goals were fine displays of counter attacking football. However the question must be raised over the defensive awareness of England’s management and players. From a central free-kick some 30 yards from goal, Frank Lampard was always going to shoot why then was every England player in the box. In Football Management sims I always leave my left and right back on the half-way line in these situations so they can deal with a pacey counter attack. When the ball broke to Schweinstagger he was able to coast forwards and pick out the onrushing Thomas Muller. For Germany’s fourth Gareth Barry was left back with Ozil on his own. Ozil easily outpaced him and the rest was formulaic. This was suicidal football and not what you’d expect from professionals, as a friend put it to me in a text, Why did England change to an 0-8-2 formation at set pieces?

By then the game was dead and Heskey, Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole were put on as place fillers, England’s defence, or lack thereof had killed the game as a contest. All of the above is what did happen, what didn’t happen did is equally important. Commentators and Pundits were outraged by the injustice of Lampard’s ‘Goal’ (what a fine ‘Goal’ it was) but said that it didn’t matter given the display that unfolded in the second half. I contend that it did matter, a hell of a lot.

England didn’t deserve to equalise, they were impotent in attack and a mess in defence. Though when that ball crossed the line Germany were in a similar state, had the goal been given the Germans would have been clinging on to see half-time with the English in ascendancy. The game would’ve changed at 2-2. Germany would have to press further up the pitch rather than just absorbing English pressure and counter attacking. The English could’ve started afresh at half-time, developed a deeper defensive line to prevent Podolski, Klose and Ozil from waltzing in to David James and the German’s final 2 goals would in all likelyhood not have happened. Don’t get me wrong, Germany were the far superior team but with half-time looming Capello could’ve flexed his managerial muscle and fixed England. As it stood they had to attack and they were so inept that the German’s were never truly troubled.

As I said before Hindsight is 20:20 and everyone would’ve been up-in-arms had the team sheet read this as the game started, but what England truly needed against a deep-lying back line was not pace, but a player who can hold the ball up. Yes, I mean…. Peter Crouch, Crouch had the tools necessary to bring Milner, Gerrard and Rooney into the game to pass around the German defence, something Jermain Defoe cannot do.

England’s demise will be pored over time and again. For this I will leave a few bullet points

  • Fabio Capello surely cannot continue after this, whilst not entirely his fault he must accept responsibility as the manager for nothing short of a fiasco
  • John Terry is not the player he once was, sorry, strike that, he is exactly the player he once was until Jose Mourinho turned him into a world-beater and as he left so did  John Terry the great
  • England were truly hampered by Injuries. Beckhams world-class set-pieces could’ve unlocked Algeria’s defence, that was not the Wayne Rooney of before the Bayern Munich champions league game and Rio Ferdinand probably would not have made the mistakes that led to Germany’s goals.
  • Robert Green’s mistake cost England the chance to play Ghana, who are not as good as Germany, but given that England performance and the fact Ghana don’t play a simple 4-4-2 they may have beaten England anyway.


  1. nas June 30, 2010
  2. Devils Advocate June 30, 2010
  3. Annamaria June 30, 2010
  4. Peter July 4, 2010

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