By now the dust is beginning to settle over England’s disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign as well as the unsuccessful 2018 bid, but a disappointing end to 2010 for England may once again have the critics debating whether this England team is actually capable of anything noteworthy on the pitch. England will not play again until 2011 and the final games of 2010 were a goalless home draw with Montenegro and a home defeat to France, Capello’s first.
One lesson learned from the World Cup is that performance in qualification is not indicative of how England will perform in the actual tournament. The 4-1 and 5-1 victories over Croatia seem distant when you consider that England lacked the competency to break down Algeria or pick up a second goal over the USA or Slovenia. Either of which would have seen England top the group and avoid the dangerous Germany for the first knockout round. The poor results against Montenegro and France are excusable to an extent, Montenegro came into the game in highly surprising form having like England won all their previous games and left with a point they were highly fortunate to pick up. Cynics may look at how Montenegro almost stole victory with a late chance after Milan Jovanovic hit the bar but it’s fairer to England to focus on how the off-form Rooney missed two chances he’d usually easy put away or how Crouch should have done far better with a free header in the first half. England were also denied a clear penalty late on. Against France England were missing many players and France were able to field a significantly stronger team. Despite those slip ups it seems that England are in for another rampant qualification campaign which may or may not carry over lead to further good performances in the actual competition. The 4-0 over Bulgaria and 3-1 over Switzerland were highly impressive results and since the away game to Switzerland was probably the toughest fixture for England in the group it would be fair to expect smooth sailing when qualification results in 2011.
So can a country of supposed superstars and promising young talent backed up by a foreign manager with an impressive trophy haul really pick themselves up and go on to be a force in Euro 2012? I believe that under the right circumstances that winning the competition should not be out of England’s reach but England also face the danger of Euro 2012 being just another World Cup 2010. That is, filled with elevated expectations due impressive performances in qualification and the usual expectation that England are faced with simply due to being England, only for England to once again reach a quarter final at the very best. This is Capello’s last chance, he claims that this is his last ever job as a manager but even if he goes back on his decision it’s unlikely that he’d be allowed to continue as England manager following another failure. Capello is a manager accustomed to success and despite not being English, despite the great money he is earning from being England manager, win or lose I believe that failure in Poland/Ukraine would hurt Capello personally and that he will be determined to do a lot better next time round. A manager like Capello will surely not consider Euro 2012 as a success unless England can reach the final at least as was his affirmation before the World Cup that getting to the final was his idea of success and that anything else was failure.