Another dismal performance from England yesterday saw them ultimately eliminated in a penalty shoot-out against at Italian side who dominated nearly all of the previous 120 minutes.
It would have been both a travesty and injustice to football if England had have won the penalty shoot-out last night. Roy Hodgson’s side were in prime position to do so after Riccardo Montolivo had fired Italy’s second penalty wide, before Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed to convert theirs.
In a couple of previews I wrote ahead of the game, yes I predicted Italy to win it in 90 minutes. And to win it to nil. And I’m not at all disappointing in losing this bet having made significant profits on Italy to qualify at 2.06 as well as a few other bets coming in on this match, including a big lay on England.
The Italian set pieces weren’t as dangerous as I had been expecting, but Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi both missed gilt-edged chances in a game Italy should have had wrapped up before 90 minutes. John Terry’s positioning and lack of pace being tested and beaten, not for the first time in this tournament.
Looking back on the tournament, England were very lucky to have won two of their four games with the poor performances put in. They won a very weak group and I see reaching the quarter-final of this competition another stepping stone towards any hope that the English FA may get off their arses and try to fix the rut that the national team is in right now, and has been in since 2004.
England did not deserve to go out of Euro 2004 at the quarter-final stage. Wayne Rooney’s first half injury against Portugal was the difference in the game, not to mention a shocking, biased refereeing descision before losing on sudden death penalties.
Since then, England were poor at the 2006 World Cup, where we were once again handed a straightforward group that consisted of Paraguay, Sweden and Trinidad & Tobago, before beating Ecuador in the second round through a fortunate David Beckham free kick. In fact, the victory over Paraguay was a Beckham free kicked headed into his own goal by Carlos Gamarra. There was barely an inspiring performance in Germany before Portugal defeated 10-man England on penalties. Well, perhaps holding out for an hour with 10 men in that quarter-final deserves some praise.
Euro 2008 we failed to qualify for, finishing behind both Croatia and Russia, dropping 6 points to the group winners and crucially failing to beat Macedonia on home soil.
In South Africa two years ago, England failed to beat both the USA and Algeria in the group stage before narrowly holding onto a 1-0 win over Slovenia. These uninspiring performances managed to persuade the likes of Kevin Keegan and many other fellow English pundits to claim England would beat the young, talented Germans. Fat chance. Humiliated with a record 4-1 defeat in the second round, which on more than one occasion I have referenced during this tournament.
Once again, England have come against a strong footballing nation in the knockout stages of an international tournament and failed to progress. It’s the same old stuff with England and a lot needs changing to fix things if we are to ever seriously compete in a tournament again.
The likes of Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, John Terry and Ashley Cole are unlikely to be around for the World Cup in two years time. Joleon Lescott and Jermain Defoe are both 29 too. There’s a real lack of quality youngsters coming through in the Premier League on top of this.
Joe Hart, Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain and Phil Jones all look bright stars for the future. Jack Wilshere is being hyped up as a future centre midfielder, but there are question marks over the rest.
Jordan Henderson is 21 now. The same age Mesut Özil was at the 2010 World Cup when he ripped the England team to shreds in the second round. Henderson doesn’t even deserve to be in the same sentence as the Real Madrid start, let-alone trying to suggest he’s a possible world class centre midfielder. And if he’s a natural right winger, is he the player 20-year old Thomas Müller was when he top-scored in South Africa? I think not.
Mats Hummels, 23 years old has been a pivotal part of the Borussia Dortmund defence that has won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in Germany. After an impressive under-21 tournament in 2009, he is making his senior tournament debut at Euro 2012. He’s been one of the best centre backs in the tournament up to this point. Where is England’s equivalent? Manchester City’s defence is lead by a Belgian, as is Arsenal’s. Manchester United’s is lead by a Serbian and an ageing Englishman, and I don’t rate fourth-place finishing Tottenham’s centre backs.
Mario Götze and Marco Reus have broke onto the scene in the Bundesliga over the past season or two. The best England can do is give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 556 minutes of Premier League football last season. Perhaps comparing England to Germany is unfair, given that their national team I am drawing comparisons to have yet to win a trophy this millennium.
Josh McEachran, a highly-rated centre midfielder at Chelsea has barely been on the field at Stamford Bridge, even after Carlo Ancelotti said he’s give the youngsters a chance at the start of the 2010/11 season. Instead, he was loaned at the Swansea City for the second half of the 2011/12 season. He saw just 125 minutes of football under Brendan Rodgers who opted for bringing in Gylfi Sigurdsson on loan to play instead.
McEachran’s hopes of playing first team football in the 2012/13 season remain unlikely following the summer signings of Eden Hazard and Marko Marin, to add to a midfield that already contains foreign stars including Spaniard Juan Mata, Brazilian Ramires, Nigerian John Obi Mikel, Portugal’s Raul Meireles and Ghana’s Michael Essien. Where is the opportunity for England’s young hopefuls?