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Where it All Went Wrong for England

Soccer - 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa - Group C - England v Algeria - Green Point Stadium

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.

Firstly, England played their usual tactics against Algeria who, in turn, played to stifle those tactics. With 3 central defenders and 3 central midfielders with 2 wing backs, England were always outnumbered in the opposition’s half. This left Heskey trying to win the ball and keep it against two dedicated defenders, sometimes 3. It was therefore impossible to perform his primary role as a target man. Without Heskey performing England’s tactics fell apart, he was then unable to bring Gerrard and Lampard into the game as England couldn’t retain possession for long enough. The commentators on ITV kept referring to Gerrard as ‘on the left’ but in reality his role was to roam to where he was needed. The problem with this was that because of Algeria’s tactics there was no space for him to exploit so he could exert no influence on the game.

Another key element of England’s plan were the full backs, with Gerrard moving infield against any other formation this would create space for Ashley Cole and Aaron Lennon could create space for Glen Johnson. With an extra centre back at all times and two wing backs there was no space for the full backs to exploit, preventing England from having another option beyond lucky flicks from Heskey.

After the tactics failed England it fell on the shoulders of individual players to provide the spark that could create a goal from nothing. If the tactics did indeed fail the players failed much much more. It will continue to be a mystery how a team who played so well in Qualification could not play the fundamentals of football, often simple passes went astray and players who obstensibly have a good first touch failing to control the ball several times. It was an abysmal team performance with some questionable substitutions. With 60 minutes of dispiriting football played Fabio Capello replaced the ineffectual Aaron Lennon with the terrible Shaun Wright-Phillips in a change that failed to change anything. It wasn’t until the 74th minute that Heskey was finally taken off and things didn’t change by that point Algeria had become entrenched and England had become desperate.

With 180 minutes of the World Cup played the squad Capello was left with has been short on many things. One thing that hasn’t been commented on is the lack of a set-piece taker. In a game where a team is simply playing for the draw it often takes a set-piece to break the dead-lock. When England did force a free-kick or a corner in a dangerous position it was almost always wasted. In a way that never was when David Beckham was eligible. Without Beckham set-pieces have been a waste for England, neither Barry, Gerrard or Lampard (and they all tried) could provide a quality ball throughout the domestic season or qualification. So it was in Greenpoint too. Algeria, though mentioned briefly throughout here, have not been given credit much in the same way the Swiss were largely ignored in the Spanish story. Algeria played their tactics to perfection, in contrast to England their players performed above their level, played as a cohesive determined unit and caused some problems from Set Pieces.

England fans will be up in arms for the rest of the week and rightly so. However this was a perfect storm of terrible football. Algeria played the perfect tactic to negate all of England’s strenghs and England were denied through injury two players who could create a chance from a dead ball in Hargreaves and Beckham. Though it does call into question the preparation of a manager to essentially have carbon copies of players throughout his squad. Crouch is Heskey and Heskey is terrible, Lennon is Wright-Phillips and King is Carragher. Gareth Barry was a sole good point in England’s performance but that is no saving grace. It is my firm belief that Barry is simply holding Hargreaves place until his chronic injury problems result in some resolution. Hargreaves is England’s creative and destructive Maestro, his perfomance in 2006 was a highlight that has been lost due to his continued absence from Elite football since.

This World Cup has not gone well for Capello and he finds himself in the same conversation as the disgraceful French and Domenech. The players and fans are at odds and team harmony at an all time low. England have now played two draws that feel like defeats and are still a win away from qualification from the group, their fate is still in their hands. If they can rouse themselves to a good performance against Slovenia they may be able to put the Ghosts (and Greens) of the first two games behind them. In the knockout stages they will not meet a team who normally play the tactics that derailed them tonight and their Key players may be able to rise to the occasion. If you are desperately looking for positives at least England are trying, you can’t say that for the French.

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  1. Pakapala

    June 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    It was supposed to be

    … right? Well how the dillusional mighty has fallen! Capello could do no wrong up to 2 months ago. Every decision he’s made was that of a master! Announcing players before the game was fine; being a disciplinarian was welcomed with open arms by fans and media alike. But god forbid England plays to their actual capacity (not the over-hyped talent that media & fans retend they have), and all hell break loose. It can’t be the overrated players fault… NO! It must be yet again the manager’s fault. tsk tsk tsk…

  2. I have said this all along

    June 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    There seems to be a lot wrong with the team. Why do I see Rooney trying to outrun players in the WC. He is not Rommedahl and the WC players are not Huddlestone or Carragher. Most WC teams have really quick central defenders. Rooney has to bring in some creativity into his game than try to outrun every defender. Heskey has to be sacked in favor of Crouch. With Crouch in atleast England have a chance in the air. Joe Cole has to be brought in since everything else that England has tried has failed so far.

  3. dan

    June 19, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    the buck has too stop with Capello. Everyone in the pub, EVERYONE, knew that Heskey shouldn’t be on the pitch. A striker that doesn’t score goals!!??
    As for SWP. That is a sick joke. Walcott may lack guile but his pace scares the bee-jesus out of teams. SWP can barely make the City team.
    We have no natural left footed winger…. because Johnson wasn’t taken.
    Why the hell isn’t Cole playing?
    Capello needs to wake up. He’s being an arrogant t*^t. He needs to listen to people and admit that he’s got it wrong.

  4. Eious

    June 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    This typical idea that England was somehow different was the downfall

    The coaching is average, the players are tired, the overall talent is good but not great….so there is not much difference then in past teams.

    They are what they have always been….a quarterfinal team

  5. Anthony

    June 19, 2010 at 2:40 am

    I just couldn’t help thinking that, offensively, England sometimes looks like they try to be too controlled, too pure.

    They have so much talent! It’s a shame.

  6. Evertonian

    June 19, 2010 at 1:06 am

    It’s simple, England are missing David Beckham!
    Laugh at me all you want, but think about it. No one has taken his place

  7. mintox

    June 18, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    It’s not as much of a mystery as you would think.

    When Algeria attacked, England needed to counter attack quickly, they failed to do this, often slowing the attack so that the Algerians could get back in numbers.

    Plus with Gerrard cutting inside all the time, Cole was out numbered on one wing and with Lennon not attacking his full back and Johnson not trying to overlap, they never got any quality crosses in behind the Algerian defence.

  8. Nnanna

    June 18, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    I thought this group was supposed to be easy for England? The English are delusional and their team is nowhere near as good as they think. Indeed Algeria were unlucky to only get a draw from a game in which they were clearly the better side

  9. Tim

    June 18, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    This England team reminds me a lot of the 2002 USA Basketball team at the World Championships. A bunch of stars expecting victory to be given to them and an automatic ride deep into the tourney. Whoever manages England next needs to find not the 11 best players, but the best 11 players.

  10. jones

    June 18, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Capello is completely to blame. His arrogance and stubbornness has led him to make inappropriate choices ( Heskey??? – ask Villa fans about his effect on the team),ridiculous substitutions and his refusal to name his team early perpetuated the Green story for a week.and probably ruined that player and made every other player anxious
    He has created a concentration of a training camp – have you seen any player smile or laugh either in training or matches? The tension is palpable
    He also has blind spots about at least 2 players – Crouch and Cole – while Crouch may lack some pace, he has a knack of scoring in the 6 yard box – and – more importantly takes a great deal of pressure off Rooney. Teams know Heskey wont score – and his pass success rate was 54% ( much the same as the last match).
    Add to that an ineffectual captain who couldn’t motivate a paper bag and a manager who rants and raves on the touchline constantly and overanalyses every player and their mistakes, its no wonder they play with fear
    Accept that we do’t play the Italian way – why play them at their own game? Perfect the English game with all its strengths. Robson Sven and even Venables did not manage through being flat track bullies. Having a camp where people have to live 24 hours a day with each other away from friends and family who could provide some balance is just one facet of a dictatorial regime that would never get the best out of people. They need to play with fun and freedom – then the flair will come.Would Redknapp or Hodgson manage like this? Man management is a skill – one Capello doesn’t seem to understand it

    • Smokey Bacon

      June 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm

      Agree 100%. The lack of harmony in the squad really showed. Even Stuart Pearce seems to have given up. Capello is done and will resign in disgrace as soon as this farce of a campaign is over. Capello even bottled the big decisions during the game. Everyone could see Rooney wasn’t interested as early as the first 30 minutes so why did the iron man not sub him? Likewise, Lampard giving the ball away constantly. Get him out of there! Capello has to shoulder the blame for this failure, from poor squad selections (e.g. Johnson left out, Ashley Young not even considered, SWP for Walcott), poor team selections and long ball tactics that would make even Graham Taylor blush. The Kaiser is right, we are crap. And Rooney can f-off for giving it to the fans. They had every right to boo the players. That stadium was packed with bods who’d spent several grand a piece going to cheer on those muppets. Sack the lot of them, give it to Hodgson and start again with the under 21 team.

  11. Jack

    June 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    This game and the game against the United States are examples of the paralysis that at times grips the England national team. Since 1974 England has struggled during big games. Proof of just how bad this malaise has become is England failed against the US and suddenly the game against a mediocre Algeria become huge. At least in the recent past (1998, 2002 World Cups) the team has played at times heroically, only to fail against, in these cases, Argentina and Brazil. The cause? The players are among the world’s greatest and on a superficial level, one would think there would not be a problem. But I believe it is mental preparation. Most people will agree McClaren and Eriksson were not right for the national team. I thought the masterful Capello would do better; he certainly has the credentials. Too late to address this issue. Hope they get it right next time.

  12. Poker Rakeback

    June 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Just seen tomorrows papers on Sky Sports and let’s just say they are not too kind.

    • Tyson

      June 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm

      They won’t stop talking about this for months.

      Nobody critisizes the English team like the English media. The English media revolves around everything England during the World Cup.

      Fabio Capello tried to put a stop to it by getting a training ground that would be secluded but this morning there were snaps in most of the papers of the mistakes England players were making in training from missed penalties to the goals that went past the goalie.

      England players were being critisized for their training mistakes! If anything I bet they can’t wait for it to be over. The funny thing is a lot of the favourites in the World Cup have had trouble performing against teams they were expected to beat.

      England couldn’t beat Algeria, Germany lost to Serbia, Switzerland beat Spain and Brazil scraped a narrow victory over Korea. It could very well be a world cup final without England, Germany, Spain or Brazil in it.

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