England after the Euros

September 13, 2012 2:37 pm

You know, England weren’t actually THAT bad in the Euros. It’s no disgrace to go out in the quarters on penalties (again) against Italy. No disgrace at all. Not that Italy are that much better than England, they’re not – aside from Pirlo, de Rossi and possibly Balotelli, who gets in England’s team – it’s that Italy play in a way that is much better suited to international competition than England do. They gave the ball to their star man Pirlo and they let him do his thing. Rather simple.

In the first half, England were more than a match for the Italians. They must have drank some of Griffin’s formula in the changers, because in the second half they were invisible. Ghosts. Phantoms. Pirlo was moving past players like an apparition and England were lucky not to lose the game by 3 or 4. But, to England’s credit – or perhaps to Italy’s discredit – the game remained nought-nought and went to penalties, where England (to everyone’s surprise) were knocked out.

We could discuss tactics until the Lions come home (with a trophy, or at least a semi’s appearance, which might be a while) about tactics and personnel. Manchester United played against Milan in the Champions League not too long ago. Pirlo didn’t get a dog’s sniff. Ji Sung Park was on him the whole game. Made Pirlo quieter than Arsene Wenger in an Arsenal board meeting during the summer transfer window. Could England have put a man on him? Yup. They could have. But that would mean a formation switch. Can’t Makelele a player in a 4-4-2; you’d leave a big gap in the midfield. Roy Hodgson has 30 to 40 years of football knowledge in him, so I’m sure he has many reasons for not doing what everyone in the punditry thinks he should have done; play a 4-3-3.

Hodgson did change the formation for the friendly against Italy last month, though. I watched the match thinking, “Bit late, innit?”. Maybe he didn’t want to change the formation during the Euros because he did not have enough time to work with the players, so he adopted a ‘stick with what they know’ attitude. Trouble with that, though, is only Manchester United play anything like a 4-4-2 amongst the big teams in the league. Everyone else switched their styles up.

Anyway, all done and dusted. Another taste of bitter, bitter disappointment. Forward we look. On with the army, to Brazil in 2014. A chance to revamp, revitalise and reinvent the ridiculously rigid team that fell at the third from last hurdle at the Euros.

So, you’d think its time to cut off a few players. Players that are still top class, but surplus to requirements. Players that had their chances and didn’t take ‘em. Players like Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frankie Lamps. These guys are still quality players, no doubt, but do England really need them? England couldn’t win anything with them, so how much worse off could the team be without them? Time to throw some young’ns in the deep end and hope they can swim, I say.
Players like Leighton Baines, second only to Cole as best left back in the Premiership. Kyle Walker, who probably would have started in the Euros if he were fit. Tom Cleverley, whose short passing and movement would be a welcome change of pace. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Martin Kelly and Micah Richards. These guys need to play competitive games sooner much rather than later.

Can someone tell me why Jack Rodwell was put in the under 21s squad? Seriously? What on Earth was the point of that? He’s already a full international, made his move to City and started the two games he was available for. Even if Hodgson didn’t fancy him in the full squad, what could he learn from the under 21s?
Rather baffling. Picking Adam Johnson the game after the Euros. I thought that rather odd. He didn’t go to the Euros because he wasn’t a regular for City last year? The Ox was nowhere near a regular, and he went. A tad confusing. Even if Johnson isn’t the most tactically astute player there is, he’s got to be more effective than Theo ‘I’m Fast’ Walcott.

I think England’s biggest worry in Brazil will probably be up front. If Wayne Rooney is unavailable, who do England have to full back on? The defensive and fruitless play of Danny Welbeck? The shoot first and don’t even bother to ask the question last erraticism of Daniel Sturridge? Maybe Andy Carroll? Jermain Defoe? Who’s afraid of these guys? England need to hope that either Rooney is fit and firing for 2014 and play him up front alone, or that a new Michael Owen pops out of nowhere.

Raheem Sterling looks a real prospect. Jack Wilshere should add a little pizazz into the midfield. The Ox looks like he won’t be another bitter disappointed like his Southampton buddy, Walcott. Jake Livermore and Jack Rodwell could provide stability and a little height and strength into the middle, while Cleverley roams the pitch.

England have a top three ‘keeper in the world in Joe Hart. Good full backs. Good, young defenders. A midfield that could go on to be, dare I say it?, world class, two wide players that look like they’re going to be around for a very long time. And Wayne Rooney.

Wayne, Wayne, Wayne. Will you ever light up a tournament like you did in 2004?

By now, your average England fan has next to no optimism left in his tank. Most of us are thinking that 2014 will be another shambles. That England will get out of the group and be knocked out by a team with even the slightest pedigree.

I think though, with a little luck and a lotta work, England just might not disappoint us.

Maybe.

Daniel Best

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