England v Germany, World Cup 2010: A catastrophe
Good God. I have never seen such an abject performance from our players in a long time. Maybe in recall to the Euro2008 qualifier with Croatia at home, losing 2-3, comes close. But today they were unbelievably poor. We started to play when a goal down and that was emphasised by the second Germany goal. The belief was there for the first 10mins of the second half and then we just fell apart.
For a national side renowned for our defending, our resilience against pressure (our two games against Portugal in Euro2004 and WC2006 refers) even with 10-men, we were weakened. We didn't play as a unit overall, and individually we came up with nothing overall. It was a disaster. It was a catastrophe. No doubt the England team will either be subjected to ridicule from waiting fans or, to imitate the reception of the France team, hardly any fans will welcome them.
So much expectation, so much emphasis on a winning start, so much hype over Wayne Rooney, to no avail. From the first game with the USA, we were found to have sparked brightly but then lacked enough combustion to piston on at that level. The Americans came at us because we allowed them to, they got a fortuitous goal via Robert Green but they were leading to it anyway. The second half we started brightly again and just did the same, just lacked enough combustion to maintain the industry of our play.
We were worse in the Algeria game. Their players were not favoured to provide much for us, particularly when we were suppose to react after the USA game and aim to win to top the group. It was meant to happen like that, as if we had the game sewn up. The reality of that game was much in contrast. We laboured to provide anything of a show of good playability and came off the field a worse team to our opponents. Much was expected of us and was not reached, little was expected of Algeria and they achieved more.
We knew we needed a big response against the Slovenians, to qualify AND for reputation. We put the 'poo' into rep-poo-tation, we started mediocre and really laboured to get any form of delivery into the box, particularly from James Milner, looking anything but the player for Aston Villa. One cross later, one goal later, all was forgiven about Milner. He was touted for MOTM, even though the second half from him brought little else.
We won 1-0 when we should have won by a higher margin, Rooney and Defoe guilty of missing sitters. We started the second half well for 15mins and then either tiredness or slackness settled in, where we found ourselves battling to come at them and ended up wasting time to get through. The game should also be remembered for the emphasis on how we sat back. A block from Terry, then Johnson, and the third effort going wide.
People celebrating us winning, the cracks were papered over, we had qualified for the knockout-round, little else to focus on. I don't know what happened in training but I find it hard to believe Fabio Capello's words after the Algeria game, that the players' response in the matches was different from that in training. Surely if he saw a difference in the first two matches, he should have addressed it? Investigated it, analysed it? He's smart enough to do that. What we had to offer the Slovenians was something a little different, but just a little.
I felt we were similar to the Germans inthe competition, conceding one goal, holding firm in defensive, forming passes to get forward. Aside from the Germans' first game against a comatose Australia side, we could match up with them and then some, provided we improved a notch or two. However, we didn't. It was said we played our worst against Algeria. Today superseded that statement. And it was just incredible to have witnessed.
Both teams started hesitantly, seeing how the other team would start, and in that instance we started to build into a good performing side, asking questions and making statements in their third. But then defensively we began to fall apart. Gareth Barry was slow and hardly looked to come forward with the ball with authority, passing it as quickly as he received it. We were being pulled about because we allowed them to manoeuvre with the ball and off the ball, and that opened us up.
I've said before how Matthew Upson had been exposed by the high long ball for West Ham, I even named the striker who scored from such a moment. And lo and behold, it happened again. Manuel Neuer kicked the ball up field, John Terry had taken up position too far up so the ball went past him, Upson had taken position too far from Miroslav Klose, hardly any marking for such a ball. The ball bounced between Terry and Upson, Klose pounced onto it, Upson played catch-up when he can't because he has little pace, Klose had already gotten into position to chase the ball and simply fended off Upson to then poke it past David James.
Germany then attacked and opened up our defence afterwards because certain players just failed to hold them off and were beaten easily. This called for Glen Johnson to come across to cover, only on this occasion I think it was Mezut Ozil who decided to shoot, rather than play in the totally unmarked Lukas Podolski on our right.
Did we learn from that moment? No. Because it happened again, our defence was pulled apart, Johnson had to come across to cover. Germany DID learn from previous, though, as Podolski was found, ONCE again unmarked on our right, and even from a tight angle he managed to squeeze his shot through James' legs and inside the far post. One goal down was bad enough, but two made it a trek up a 60% gradient. Just unbelievable defending from four of our supposedly best defenders.
We gained a goal back, and a slight reprieve for Upson, when Steven Gerrard crossed in for Upson to head in. That one ball crossed over was about the only decent cross we had made throughout the game. Another was Milner's cross in the second half, which went straight to Neuer with both Defoe and Rooney running in afterwards some seventeen years later.
Then controversy. Frank Lampard came to life to loft the ball towards goal, it came off the underside of the crossbar, with Neuer totally beaten, and bounced up then down into Neuer's arms. Replays showed the ball had gone over the line by some feet but it was not given. I won't dwell on it as we still had time in the game to score again, and we didn't. If video technology was allowed, the referee could consult it or ask for it to be consulted by the fourth official, or a fifth official, before thoroughly confirming the goal or denying it. It's one for Sepp Blatter. End of discussion on that one.
So 2-1 down, we showed some spirit at least to come back, and should have been level. But we weren't, so at half-time we gather, we discuss, we emphasise on what it was, what it should be and what it will be when we go back out there. For the first 10mins it worked, we were coming at the Germans with gusto and drive, but we lacked the final ball to finish off our chances. Shots from distance were taken briefly and were woeful, we would either overplay the ball, send it over the bar or hit a Germany player. Lampard free-kick off the crossbar aside, we offered little else.
The third Germany goal came via another Lampard freekick that came off the Germany wall, Barry got to the rebound and then lost it, the Germany counter-attack was swift through three players, one of whom played another in quick time, and the chase was on. Again we were defensively pulled apart, no one covered our left, and once Bastian Schweinsteiger had played in Thomas Mueller unmarked on our left, it was 3-1, albeit James had parried the ball into the net.
Did we learn from that? No. A Germany clearance almost three minutes later found both Barry and Ozil racing for the ball. Well, it was Ozil racing, Barry went in like a headless chicken and tried to challenge Ozil immediately, despite the Werder Bremen man easily out sprinting him. Ozil rode the challenge, it left Barry on the ground and behind, Ozil raced on to feed across for Mueller to finish us off, again unmarked on our left.
What a BBQ. We deserved to be spit-roasted and turned over if we look to play so absent-mindedly as we did. We got served because we just could not hold to order and perform as needed, as we can. I wonder if Capello is contemplating resignation, and it wouldn't surprise me, if you coach players who respond off the pitch, but nothing like on it. And I think he was compelled to defeat during the game because of that point.
When you see something simple as a high long ball, and you have two tall players who relish heading like Terry and Upson become disorientated and out of position, particularly against a predator for such moments like Klose, you should feel that their focus needs strict attention. For me, Terry cannot conduct himself as a defender who hardly needs any advice. Even the ever-reliable Ashley Cole was found wanting but you can expect that when your fellow defenders are all over the shop. As for Rooney, practically our biggest flop, enough said. Just didn't turn up in South Africa, for some reason.
I really did have big expectations of ourselves this time. We have talented players, apparently ready to go, ready to show the world, show the folks at home, and we finally appeared to have a coach behind them who seemed to have good tactics, strategy, experience, accomplishments, and the steel to let anyone in the team know when they are not performing well enough, from the captain to the bench players.
That said, why didn't he at least pull off Rooney to let Peter Crouch have a go, as one option? We hardly changed the team despite giving below-par performances, we had a squad of players to choose from. Barry, Upson, Green and Emile Heskey should never play for us again, we definitely need to bring in new blood and nurture them into form, and we definitely should be dropping players for low performances, friendly or otherwise. We should be monitoring and enhancing players for the future, and should discipline those who have been picked for a long time and STILL not providing when it is required, when necessary, when vital.
For the life of me, we cannot produce such a performance again. EVER. But until the next international, I won't be holding my breath on it. It will be interesting to see whether Capello hangs around, but if he does he has to bring out the guillotine, and take no prisoners. I would. I wouldn't care who didn't like it, there will always be someone not liking it but that's tough. Either you play or you pay.