For World Cup 2014, England supporters bought 57,000 tickets for the games in Brazil, and each spent countless thousands of British pounds to travel halfway across the world to support their team. Based on the performances in the two games England played against Italy and Uruguay, it’s a wonder that the England national team has any following at all.
Even before a ball was kicked at Brazil 2014, the writing was on the wall for England. On the eve of England’s journey to Rio, the national team played on a humid Miami afternoon against Honduras. With the score at 0-0, Honduran Brayan Beckeles was sent off in the 66th minute, giving England the opportunity to play against the 10 men of arguably the weakest team in the World Cup. But England’s performance for the remaining 24 minutes of the match, as it was in the preceding 66 minutes of the game, was absolutely pathetic. The team couldn’t finish any of their chances. They were slow, apprehensive and unimaginative in attack. And they sputtered to a final 0-0 draw.
Post-match, Hodgson brushed off the performance and said he was just satisfied that none of his players got injured in a match that was marred by physical play from the Hondurans. But it felt like an excuse. Instead. he should have been deeply concerned given how empty England’s performance was.
Life as an England supporter can be an absolutely depressing experience, which is why I’m actually glad that Costa Rica beat Italy today and knocked England out of the World Cup. Why? Costa Rica’s win means that England fans don’t have to be tortured any longer with a false hope that maybe, even with the slimmest of margins, England could have found a way to qualify for the next round of the World Cup. Costa Rica’s victory means that England’s fate has been decided. There’s no agonizing wait until the third and final England match, hoping for a miracle and an impressive England performance. Instead, it’s black and white. England failed yet again. Now, at least England fans know it’s over and they can get on with their lives.
In the coming weeks, there’ll be plenty of theories and opinions shared about where England went wrong and what they can do to change things. Personally, my opinion is that Roy Hodgson lacked the fortitude when he needed it the most. Wayne Rooney, despite scoring a tap-in goal, shouldn’t have been on the pitch for England. His performances of late, and for Manchester United, have been flat. And whether it was a result of media pressure, a sense of false belief or his own error in judgment, Hodgson decided to give Rooney the most prominent role against Uruguay, and the decision failed. His faith in Wayne Rooney instead of Ross Barkley ultimately cost England the creative spark they so desperately needed in the hole. And even when he brought Barkley on as a substitute against Uruguay, it wasn’t to remove Rooney. But instead Hodgson removed the bright spark Raheem Sterling instead, which was a grave error given the speed, dribbling and unpredictability that the Liverpool winger possessed.
Wayne Rooney isn’t the reason that England eventually slumped to defeat against Uruguay, but he’s one of a number of factors. Yet again for England, it was a combination of a lack of chemistry, skill and creativity that was ultimately their downfall, as well as stupid mistakes. We’ve been here before — Euro 2012, World Cup 2010, World Cup 2006, Euro 2004, World Cup 2002, Euro 2000, World Cup 1998 and so on and so forth. It gets old. Real fast.
By now, as England fans, we shouldn’t be surprised. England’s decline is predictable and like clockwork. And while it’s never easy to swallow defeat, at least we now know it’s over.