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The One Thing That England Is Missing In This World Cup


Think back to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the game that England played against Portugal in the quarter-final. There were many vivid moments from that match including Cristiano Ronaldo’s wink, Wayne Rooney getting sent off for his stamp on Ricardo Carvalho and David Beckham exiting the game with an injury.

But the one player who stood out from all 22 on the pitch that evening personifies the one thing that is missing from England during this World Cup.

That one player was Owen Hargreaves and that one thing is passion.

Of course, Hargreaves is still not nearly at a level of an international call-up again right now, so I’m not advocating a return for him. But what I am seeing in England is a lack of passion and a lack of a player who can pick up the game like the way that Hargreaves did against Portugal in 2006.

If you remember from that game against Portugal, Hargreaves played a blinder. He was giving 100% during every moment of the game. And you could clearly see that he wanted nothing more than for England to win the game. The man ran everywhere, made incredible tackles, blocked shots on goal. He was the shining star on a night when the England players you would expect to show up clearly didn’t.

That’s what England is missing. A player that the fans can identify with. Someone that the supporters can get behind. A footballer who is willing to spill his guts to help England to victory.

In the past week, I’ve been very critical of this current England side. I’m not an England hater. I want them to succeed, but the team has to earn the respect and plaudits by playing a brand of football that they do week-in week-out in the Premier League. There are so many questions hanging over the head of England right now. And the big one is whether they are a good footballing nation or not. It’s time for England to put themselves to the test on Wednesday against Slovenia and show the world what they’re made of.

With Hargreaves not in the squad, the concern I have is who is able to rise up for England and to play a similar role to what Hargreaves did in 2006. It could be Wayne Rooney, but I believe there’s too much pressure riding on his shoulders already and it seems unlikely that he can step into those shoes. So who else can do it? Perhaps Joe Cole if Capello gives him a chance, but Cole hasn’t been that type of player for a very long time. He can score goals but he’s not a firestarter who can get the England team pumped up. Gerrard did it for Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League Final, but that was a very long time ago and was under different circumstances.

The beauty of the inspirational game from Owen Hargreaves in 2006 was that he was the player we least expected to step into the role. So, maybe it’s better that on Wednesday afternoon that an England player we least expected to step up does it for us. Or not.

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  1. jrad

    June 21, 2010 at 9:29 am

    great insight. and spot on!

  2. Jonathan Price

    June 21, 2010 at 5:40 am

    What England is missing and has always lacked is technical ability on the ball. In this day and age run and gun football is rarely successful. England’s players are never comfortable with the ball at their feet. The English Premier League is played at a fast and furious pace and most British-born players are comfortable playing that style of football.

  3. Machojesus

    June 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    The one thing that England is missing in this World Cup is the back of the net.

  4. Annamaria

    June 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    The one thing that England is missing in this World Cup is talent.

  5. Lyle

    June 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    The Guardian podcast guy got it right… England needs more Americans like Owen Hargreaves in their side, to bring that North American passion thing into the mix.

    • Bishopville Red

      June 20, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      FWIW, Hargreaves is Not American. He’s Canadian.

  6. Simon Burke

    June 20, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I always hate the term passion in football. Its something in England that we typically reserve for describing Scottish football. THe Scots always have and play with passion, they can overcome insurmountable odds if they show passion…
    It usually means if you require the passion that you are a very poor side.
    So far we have been, I’d hope technique and formation sorting is the answer because if we are down to passion already we are in real trouble…

  7. Eious

    June 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    A true leader that can settle the team down

    Everyone is tense, slow, and just unsure of what to do

  8. Will

    June 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I don’t think the Gaffer was suggesting the selection of Hargreaves for this world cup, just that the team needs a player like him with passion, leadership and ability. To get passion and quality I’d look to Michael Dawson at the back with Terry, Crouch up front with Defoe/Rooney and Cole out on the left. Make Lamps drop back, let Gerrard boss the midfield and then you’ve got a winning side.

  9. patrick

    June 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Owen Hargraves is injured, and like selecting Ledley King would have been a waste of a roster slot. end of.

    England are not winning because of lack of will and poor selection.

    Expect to see the following line up Wednesday after all the comments from players and the FA itself.
    A Cole Terry Upson Johnson
    J Cole Lampard Lennon
    Rooney Crouch

    Last thing England need for the Slovenia match is a holding player. They need to exploit the wings, with the two Coles and Johnson and Lennon. Let Gerrard attach, and let Lampard sit on top of the 18 yard box and lash in a few, and let Crouch poach a few while Rooney has a free role to attack.

    England will have to play a very positive game to rip then apart.

    • Bishopville Red

      June 20, 2010 at 10:59 am

      Agree about Hargreaves, disagree about holding midfielders. Upson won’t get in, and Carragher / Terry will get scorched for pace if they are left unguarded by a holding midfielder.

      • patrick

        June 21, 2010 at 8:38 am

        Maybe if they get to the knock out stage they will need a holding midfielder, but they have to come out bright and positive against Slovenia. Just look at the US match. once they attacked Slovenia was ripped up and lost its shape.

        Carragher is suspended for the Slovenia match, why Upson with his experience will play.

  10. JC

    June 20, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I agree with the Gaffer. Think back to when we played Greece at Old Trafford in Qualifying for 2002. Beckham gave everything in that game running his arse off making tackles and ultimately stepping up to score that goal. He was the only player to show some desire and it helped lift the team as a whole. When i watched on Friday i didn’t see an England player that looked like they really cared. I am sure they do but it seems they expect to win against weaker teams without effort. Sometimes the desire to win a game can be everything. I don’t know how many of you play ( i assume most of you) but i know with my teams in the past we tend to play down to the level of weaker teams and step up to the level of better teams. I think that’s what is effecting the England team but being professionals and not a pub team that shouldn’t. I watched Gerrard on Friday lose the ball in midfield several times and just stop and watch or simply jog back in to defence. Where was the urge to get the ball back? I think all the comments that we have read about England’s crap displays are probably all touching on the right areas. The bottom line is that is time for the players to put on that shirt and play for the country with pride and passion regardless of what formation and fight for every ball and play attacking aggressive football. If we do that and still lose i don’t have a problem but if we go out like a sunday pub team again then they deserve every bit of slagging off they will get for the next 6 months.

    • Bishopville Red

      June 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

      JC, on top of the passion, Beckham is pretty useful making a pass. The only other player who knocks the ball with aplomb is Michael Carrick. The rest of these selfish wanks (Re: Barry, Lampard, Gerrard) either can’t make a pass or want to be on the end of the passes, not starting them. If this team wants to keep possession, put the man in who will pass to the right coloured shirts.

      • Oliver

        June 20, 2010 at 6:19 pm

        and yet Lampard, according to the Opta stats on the England team, has made the most successful passes in the opposition half and has created the most chances

        • Bishopville Red

          June 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm

          …Which explains why managers put little faith in OPTA stats!

  11. Brother Man

    June 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Rubbish. You think players there dont want to play? I hate hearing arguments such as passion, and lack of heart and all that to defend abject play. These guys are professionals. The problem is the formation. Drop Lampard and Gerrard (I said it), play Barry and Carrick as CM’s and have proper wingers on such as Joe Cole and Lennon. Stick Crouch on as the attacks will come from the wings and hopefully one of them can deliver a decent cross. Bobs your uncle. Also, Rooney can drop back to his heart’s content since Barry and Carrick don’t rampage forward as much

  12. Richard the Red (Devil)

    June 20, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Being a United supporter, I love the contribution that Hargo gave to United during our CL winning season. He was one of the key pieces in the puzzle for that successful season. I’m resigned to the belief that he is never going to be fully fit again. But I am having a hard time dealing with all of the excuses for this England team. Every time they put in a shit performance out comes another excuse. “When Barry is fit, it’ll change the shape of the team. Wait and see!” was the cry after the match against the US. “If only Joe Cole would have been playing, England would have more width!” and “Apart from Rooney, Joe Cole is the only player that can really open up a defence!” was heard by fans and pundits after the Algeria match. For f**k’s sake, he can’t even get a game for Chelsea!! I’m not slagging him off but let’s not go nuts and say he’s our Zidane. You are right about us missing passion. The England players looked terrified when they stepped out onto the pitch this past Friday. It’s been hinted that they were all behind Robert Green and once he got the axe they felt their places were all in jeopardy with one bad play/movement. It makes me sick. I’ve been an England supporter since Spain ’82 and every tournament I drink the kool-aid and believe we can do it. They end up going tits up and I’m disappointed again. Regardless, I’ll be at the pub early to get a good seat on Wednesday and they better kick the piss out of Slovenia. Something has to change!!
    That being said, I think we’re in for a shout in Euro ’12!!! (see what I’m talking about)

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