England have qualified. I suppose, that is the main thing. However, they qualified with the same typical tendencies that usually send us out of these major competitions. Firstly, Wayne Rooney, and his red card. He is under a barrage of criticism from the tabloids and rightly so. Some of the headlines include: ‘“We will Roo this moment,” “Roo Fool!” and “An Idiot Abroad”. Rooney can’t hide from what he did in his moment of madness. It was completely and utterly unnecessary and immature. He’s shown so much maturity of late. He has been on ruthless form for Manchester United, scoring nine goals from the opening seven games, not only presenting himself as a leader but showing off the raw talent that he possesses. But the tackle on Friday night showed he hasn’t quite grown up.
Rooney is blessed with an unpredictable and spontaneous nature, and it’s this that makes him the fantastic player he is, but he has to learn to control his erratic temper that often has consequences for others. In this case, it’s England. They need their finest player starting all of their games, they cannot live without him, and it will be a huge disadvantage for Fabio Capello going into the tournament next summer without their main man. We still don’t know if he’ll be suspended for more than one game but, it is not like this hasn’t happened before. Mr Rooney and major tournaments do not get on. He was sent off for kicking Portugal’s Ricardo Carvalho in a losing quarter-final in 2006. In South Africa last summer, out of form and crushed by boredom, Rooney was almost a passenger at the World Cup. Nonetheless, if Rooney can shake off his temper that occasionally tends to creeps into his game, he’ll be unstoppable.
Secondly, England were leading by two goals against Montenegro, cruising, and heading towards Euro 2012 in style. Would Spain have suddenly conceded a stupid goal and consequently ended up drawing the game? Germany? I doubt it. If we forget the idiotic sending off for a moment, just how far away are England from being able to compete against Europe’s heavyweights? England have some superb individual players in the potential starting eleven. Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Joe Hart. Those footballers are quite easily some of the best in the world. But Capello has a big job on his hands, to make sure his team stop giving away easy points and clumsy goals.
It looked great, as Capello said “for 35 minutes” in Montenegro. Then the red mist took over again, and most of it is self-inflicted. There are still some big issues for Fabio to sort out, and the friendly against Spain at Wembley on November 12th will be huge. It’ll show exactly what England still have to do. They need to treat it as a cup final, not a friendly. Yes, England do have a long way to go, but if they can pull everything together and play as a complete team, ridding themselves of mistakes that usually lead to their downfall and manage to sort out their leading striker, who knows what could happen in Ukraine and Poland. We may get a surprise.