Slow, lethargic, one paced and heavy-touched… and that was just Emile Heskey. Yes, England let their fans down yet again in a major tournament. At least Sven Goran Erikkson won his group games against inferior opposition fairly comfortably, whereas Capello has managed to build a team that is more one-paced and clueless than his predecessor.
Not a single clear-cut chance was made in Cape Town, by either side, as the likes of Lennon, Lampard, Heskey and most notably Wayne Rooney didn’t turn up.
Lets look at each player individually: Aaron Lennon’s best attribute is his pace, which sees him bomb down the wing week in week out for Spurs, what the 23 year old former Leeds winger actually did is come inside every time and give the ball away.
Ok, he’s a player without much tournament pedigree, making only fleeting appearances in Germany 2006, so what about the big boys? The ones who have played at over 5 major tournaments between them. Surely they would bring their A game?
Frank Lampard essentially relegated England to ten men. The Chelsea midfielder having no effect on the game whatsoever and fluffing his lines when a half chance came his way. Capello clearly fears leaving out such a big hitter, but when you play like the former West Ham man did last night you deserve to be dropped.
Don’t worry though, our saviour is here. Over 20 goals for his club last season, top England Goal-scorer in qualifying. Of course Wayne Rooney is here, our saviour and Knight in shining armour.
However all he did was fade into the KNIGHT as his inability to stop the ball at his feet meant he had to run about 6 metres every time he touched the ball.
Again Capello doesn’t have the guts to drop such a mainstay. This player is clearly feeling the effects of playing over 40 games this season. Added to him playing the latter part of the season with an injury and you wonder whether he is mentally or physically in the zone.
His outburst when leaving the field summed up a dissapointing evening for the former Everton star. The 24 year old remarked to a camera as he vacated the field: “nice to hear your own fans booing you”. Clearly born out of aggression, but still unacceptable, the Manchester United forward will have to look at his own performance rather than his treatment from the fans. Many of whom are spending thousands of pounds to be in the Rainbow Nation.
For many last night Emile Heskey’s performance was the final straw for the aeging striker. The Aston Villa front man produced all the composure and skill of an Elephant. It would not have been less dissapointing to see one on the pitch last night as well.
Positives? well… erm … erm … Ah yes, I’ve got it! Gareth Barry brought composure and balance to England last night and was probably the only player on the pitch to earn any credit. The Manchester City midfielder was a bridge between the back-line and midfield, playing the simple passes to more creative players like Steven Gerrard. It is clear the 29 year old surpasses the importance of anyone in the squad. His calm and cool demeanor relaxes the players behind him and gives the players in front of him more freedom to create.
So what about the manager then? Cool, calm and collected throughout qualifying. Loud and uninspiring when it really matters. His attitude is one that seems to suggest that it is nothing to do with him and is simply down to his players, which to a certain extent is true, but really it is a mixture of poor performances and poor tactics.
An inflexible 4-4-2 was seemingly thrown out in the qualifiers. A more fashionable 4-2-3-1 was put in place which gave Rooney freedom in the final third. However, A rigid and typically English formation has put the star man in a position where continual frustration leads to him coming deep to receive the ball.
Also, Capello’s obsession with the “big man” means that England can not play what would surely be their more affective leading line of Gerrard in behind Rooney. This wish has not come true however. Gerrard is given a presumably undefined left wing role, allowing him to come inside.
Really though all this means is that England lack a potent threat on both wings, meaning Ashley Cole is pulled forward and leaves gaps in the Three Lions defence.
In addition, the former Roma manager also seems to believe that you should sacrifice flair for power and speed. Players like Gerrard burst games into life and tricky wingers like Shaun Wright-Phillips use searing pace to go beyond their full-backs but you need more than that.
The majority of the country cannot believe that Joe Cole has been left on the bench this whole tournament. The London born man can play in most positions, inspires confidence in his team with his fancy flicks and most of all is the only man in the 23 who can make something out of nothing.
Look at 2006. The winger, recently released by Chelsea, flicked the ball up in the air and volleyed home a sensational goal from 35 yards. This time around he sits on the bench for 180 minutes wondering what he has to do to get on the pitch.
Also the exclusion of Adam Johnson must also be analysed. He, like Cole, can find some kind of inspiration for his team and yet was left out for functional, dogmatic utility men like James Milner.
Look at other countries. Mesut Ozil has been the shining light so far for the Germans, whilst Eljero Elia has impressed from the bench for Holland. Capello has taken the oldest squad out of all countries to the world cup, the average age 28 years old, and it’s showing.
England now have to beat the surprise package of the group, Slovenia, to progress. Failure to win means almost certain elimination and the first time England will have vacated the tournament without progressing through the group since 1958.
Fabio beware. You might still get us through to the second round but the manner in which your team does it is just as important. The British Media is not one for sympathy, or balance for that matter. A press conference after a defeat to Slovenia would be akin to going on a South African safari in a convertible, and no one wants that.