Euro 2016: A Missed Opportunity for England 8 Years in the Making

England’s humiliating 2-1 loss at the hands of Iceland in the second round at Euro 2016 will live forever in the memories of every Englishman and football fan for as long as they live.

With the talent at Roy Hodgson’s disposal in comparison to his opposite number it really should have been a comfortable victory for the Three Lions who were heavy favourites with the bookmakers.

Hodgson showed for the fourth and final time in this tournament his tactical ineptitude as once again England barely failed to test the opposition’s goalkeeper.

England’s four efforts on target versus Iceland was as few as Hungary managed against the Nordic nation – three less than Austria and five less than Portugal.  England’s sole goal coming from the penalty spot.

NEC Nijmegen‘s Hannes Þór Halldórsson looks like a dodgy goalkeeper, particularly from crosses and set pieces, yet England failed to test him in this department.  It didn’t help that there was a lack of width versus two weak full-backs either.

Perhaps it was better than scraping through to be hammered by France.  Or perhaps it’s Euro 2008 all over again…

Euro 2008

Last night’s defeat was the biggest embarrassment since Steve McClaren failed to guide us to Euro 2008 – finishing below both Croatia and Russia, albeit those two nations did reach the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively that summer.

What should have happened that summer was the rebuild of English football – similar to Germany at the start of the millennium.

It’s well documented that Germany relaid the foundations after being eliminated in the group stage of Euro 2000 (in the same group as England, with Portugal and Romania progressing).  Two years later Die Mannschaft did reach the World Cup final in Japan/South Korea but don’t be fooled – it was a favourable draw.  Saudi Arabia (8-0), Republic of Ireland (1-1), Cameroon (2-0), Paraguay (1-0), USA (1-0) and South Korea (1-0) before losing 2-0 to Brazil.

14 years after the regeneration of German football they won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil which included humiliating the hosts 7-1.  Four years before Joachim Löw’s side handed Australia (4-0) and England (4-1) record World Cup defeats and also thrashed Argentina (4-1) before losing to eventual winners, Spain, 1-0 in the semi-final.

At Euro 2016, Germany’s squad is head and shoulders above the rest of the competition with Italy the only real hope of eliminating the world champions en route to the final.  France?  Average.  Belgium?  Underwhelming.  Portugal?  Overrated.

Missed Opportunity

Looking ahead to the 2018 World Cup it’s hard to even see who will be able to stop Germany winning the most prestigious trophy in football for the fifth time.  France have some good youngsters coming through but they have two years to establish a striker, get two replacement full-backs and perhaps another playmaker.

Spain have some good talent coming through but I don’t envisage this group being able to replicate their success of 2010.  What’s worse for them – Real Madrid and Barcelona don’t currently have a Spanish goalkeeper or forward in their regular lineups.

Argentina have just lost Lionel Messi with other players threatening to retire.  This is a great threat to the South Americans.  They don’t have a whole host of defensive talent currently either.

Brazil?  They’re the worst they’ve ever been.  The Netherlands?  They failed to qualify for Euro 2016.  Italy?  Don’t have a great deal of playmakers and strikers right now.  England?  A mess.

If plans had been put in place eight years ago when they were much-needed then perhaps England would have had a team to compete in France this summer and Russia in 2018.  Instead, England have only regressed during this period.

The fact that Raheem Sterling, an unfit Jack Wilshere and Gary Cahill all started games during Euro 2016 shows just how weak English football is right now.  Germany, Spain and France all left players back home that could have walked into Roy Hodgson’s side with a British passport.

2016 Onwards

The rebuild of English football needs to start from this morning.  No waiting around.  No hoping on a miracle.  No repeats of previous mistakes.

Starting at grassroots level.  Getting more coaches involved.  Getting former stars involved – Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Lineker, Paul Scholes, Ashley Cole etc. etc. etc.

Unfortunately, they’ve all earned too much money in their career to think about needing to work at St George’s Park National Football Centre in Burton to inspire future generations.  Even coaching at England may not be a big enough role for any of them – Beckham is setting up an MLS team in the USA, Lineker has a career in TV and Gazza is drinking himself into oblivion.

Next Manager?

The future looks very bleak for England.  Roy Hodgson’s resignation was at least two years overdue but the big question is – who’s replacing the incompetent manager?

Gareth Southgate, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew’s names have all been immediately mentioned.  God forbid England’s future with any of these in charge.  The reality however, there is no English talent out there to replace Hodgson right now.

Gary Neville would be my pick but he was part of this failed regime in the past two tournaments and wouldn’t be a popular choice given his record at Valencia.  But he took over a Valencia team mid-season, no transfers of his own, in a league he had no experience in, on a favour to his friend, the owner.  I’ll take his performance with a pinch of salt, thank you.

The former-England international has been a winner through his career and based on his analysis on Monday Night Football – he knows football inside-out.  I’d take him over any other English candidate.  Eddie Howe?  Paul Clement?  Glenn Hoddle?  Harry Redknapp?  I’ll take Gary Neville please.

Joachim Löw had little success domestically.  Same for Michael O’Neill and Chris Coleman.  But they all had a vision and all of them are getting the best out of the players they’ve been dealt.